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Back Training
by Anthony Millar of

These muscle groups have the unfortunate bad habit of causing so many people problems. This is no doubt a result of the muscles in question being predominantly out of sight. This leads us to believe that the success of this type of workout, like any depends heavily on your ability to direct the blood into the working muscles. However as a result of the positioning of these muscles, most exercises are uncomfortable and require complicated techniques. It is the learning of these techniques that are so important when considering the development of these muscles. This is not to say that these muscles are not worth the additional effort regarding technique. On the contrary a well developed back gifts the body with that aesthetically pleasing ‘V’ taper, which is much sought after by all bodybuilding athletes. This ‘V’ taper not only creates the elusion of a thinner, tighter waist but also improves the appearance of the upper body as an entirety.

1 Warm-up Set. 4 Working Sets.
20 repetitions of 10% of 1 rep max. (lat pull-downs).
Or alternatively 50% of the total repetitions of chin-ups.
10 repetitions of 50% of 1 rep max.
8 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.
6-8 repetitions of 80% of 1 rep max.
3-4 repetitions of 90% of 1 rep max.

Description: This exercise is arguably the most natural exercise for developing width in the back (see article that immediately follows). Note that we have included an option for this exercise between the orthodox ‘chins’ and the cable orientated pull-downs. This is for more practical reasons more than anything. Both are great exercises which only differ very slightly as the same muscles are worked in very much the same way. However you may not have access to a chinning bar or at this early stage be able lift your own bodyweight for the desired reps. Do not worry all this will come as your weight will gradually be reduced and your strength will definitely increase.

Technique: As ever technique is absolutely crucial, especially regarding back movements. Firstly always bring the bar to the front of the face, this is essential as the rotator cuff, which makes up part of the shoulder, is put under much more stress if the bar is brought to the back of the neck. This can cause very common injuries among trainees. At best you will need a lengthy lay-off, at worst you may require surgery. It is also of importance that the back is kept straight and slightly arched as this will avoid any assistance from the abdominals. Approach this exercise with a wide grip as this will encourage wider development in the latimus dorsi (the back). However every 4rth session try a narrow grip to avoid any tolerance that the muscles may have created.

Intensity: As this is a compound movement demanding large amounts of energy, it is not generally advisable to make use of the variety of recommended intensity techniques, especially at this early stage. You must remember that this is also your first exercise so getting the blood in the working muscles as safely as possible is your main priority. As previously stated concentrate on lowering your rest intervals to 2 minutes from 3 over the stated 3 week period. Although as you progress a couple of extra forced repetitions by way of rest-pause technique should guarantee adequate intensity.

2. The Bent-Over Row. 4 Working Sets.
1. 8 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.
2. 8 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.
3. 6-8 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.
4. 4-6 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.

Description: This is the main fundamental exercise for the back. This exercise greatly helps in adding mass and thickness to the back. Do not avoid this basic movement, although it may be slightly uncomfortable the benefits that can be achieved from this exercise alone far over-shadow any possible disadvantages. This really is such a great exercise which will go a long way to creating that powerful look.

Technique: As previously stated this exercise can be slightly uncomfortable and if done incorrectly can be very dangerous for the lower back, it is for this reason that it is best to wear a weight lifting belt for all working sets. To start with this exercise can only be conducted with a barbell. Start the movement stood upright with the bar being held at roughly shoulder width apart. This will help keep the elbows in encouraging stricter form. Secondly, bend over so that your upper body is roughly parallel with the floor. At this point the weight should be hanging by your feet. For a better stretch try this exercise stood on two breeze blocks or simply on an elevated level. This will help you lower the weight further down. It is absolutely crucial to perform this exercise with a neutral spine, which in this case is a straight back, slightly arched, with the head up and eyes looking straight ahead. Then exhale as you pull the weight up to the bottom of your mid-section keeping your position motionless with only the arms, that are acting as levers moving. Be sure to squeeze in the shoulder blades at the peak of the contraction before breathing in as the weight is slowly lowered back to the original position. Obviously this is a tricky technique so practice this carefully with very little weight until you are sure and confident of going heavier.

Intensity: As this is also a compound movement demanding large amounts of energy, it is not generally advisable to make use of the variety of recommended intensity techniques. Concentrate solely on mastering this difficult technique. Forget the range of intensity techniques for this exercise because if done correctly will create an adequate amount on its own. However there is absolutely no reason why you should not slowly reduce your resting times on all these sets from 3 minutes to 2 minutes over the initial 3 week period.

3. The Dumbbell Rows. 4 Working Sets.
1. 10 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.
2. 8 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.
3. 8 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.
4. 6 repetitions of 70% of 1 rep max.

Description: To conclude your back workout it is advisable to include another thickening exercise, unless the emphasis of the workout is on the width aspect (see article on back training that immediately follows). This is also a compound movement which is simply a dumbbell alternative to the barbell row. This exercise is slightly more isolating as it is uni-lateral (only one limb is trained at a time). This makes it a perfect exercise to finish off the back.

Technique: This exercise is slightly less complicated and slightly more comfortable to perform. For this exercise you will need the assistance of a bench. The technique differs with regard of which side of the back you are training. For example if you choose to train the left side of the back, simply kneel on the bench with your right knee. Place your right hand roughly where your head would be for a bench press. With your left hand hold the dumbbell at the side of the bench and bend over in much the same fashion as the barbell rows (remember to wear a belt). From there on in exhale keeping the upper body motionless and the elbow in toward the mid-section as the weight is raised so that the upper arm is parallel with the floor. In a controlled fashion breathe in as the weight is slowly lowered, again with the back maintaining its shape. To work the right hand side of the back, all you need to do is repeat the exact process, switching the knees and respective hands, so that the exercise is performed on the opposing side of the bench.

Intensity: Once again, concentrate on this technique, you will find that the better the technique the intenser the pump (the blood that enters the muscle). These are heavy, basic movements that are designed to breakdown a large muscle group. So for the first 3 weeks though try to reduce your resting times from 3 minutes to only 2. If this strategy doesn’t work, i.e. the muscles are not sore in the morning, it is better to increase the weight in this instance than to apply any intensity techniques.

In conclusion then this workout is aimed at anyone wishing to add size and shape to the back arm. Please note that over time these muscles will adapt to the various stimuli so therefore it is essential that both the weights and movements are constantly changed. The weights for example should be slightly increased when the final set can be performed with perfect technique for more than the designated number of repetitions. Remember to make each workout slightly different to the previous one ensuring constant stimulation to the working muscles.

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