A well-balanced upper body isn’t complete without a developed back.
Many beginners neglect training their back muscles because they aren’t “show muscles” (chest, abs, shoulders) that can be seen when looking in the mirror. This often leads to infrequent back training or limiting exercises to working only a few of the many muscle groups in your back.
People also tend to have trouble with proper form during back training because a full contraction of the back can only occur if you are not pulling with your arms. This is the reason many people claim they can’t “feel” their back muscles while training.
The good news is, i’m here to help you out. Here’s a basic guide to training your back– where the muscles are, what they do, and some exercises to train the many different muscle groups you’ve got back there.
Back Training by Muscle Group
- Location – inserts at the top of the neck, runs down the spine and in to the upper buttocks
- Function – elevation, adduction, and depression of the scapula
- Exercises – upright rows, barbell and dumbbell shrugs
Middle Back (rhomboids)
- Location – connects to the spinal column and scapula in the middle back
- Function – retraction and downward rotation of the scapula
- Exercises – bent over rows, seated cable row, inverted row (pretty much any row)
Latissimus Dorsi (lats)
- Location – inserts in the middle armpit (humerous) and the lower thoracic and lumber vertebrae.
- Function – extension, adduction, medial rotation
- Exercises – pull-ups, wide grip lat pull-down, high row (many more)
Lower Trapezius (lower back)
- Location – lower portion of the spine from the scapula to the upper buttocks
- Function – depression of the scapula
- Exercises – hyperextensions (back extensions), deadlifts, good-mornings
Back Training Tips
- Stick to a moderate rep-range (8 – 12) and keep the weigh light enough not to compromise form or lose “feeling” of the contraction.
- Start with compound lifts (deadlifts, bent over rows, etc.) and then move on to accessory and cable work.
- While holding the weights or bar think about squeezing your shoulder blades together and driving your elbows back and down.
- Don’t squeeze the bar too tight engaging your biceps and forearms too much.
- Make sure to check out perfect form for each exercise on youtube or in Bodybuilding.com’s exercise database to avoid stalled progress or injury.
A well developed back will make your waist look tinier, improve your strength in compound lifts, and complete a well-rounded physique. Incorporate 1-3 exercises from each muscle group into your back day routine and you’re on your way to wings of muscle.
*Cover photo credit to David Zhou
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