Who doesn’t love a sexy strong back? Training back is so very important to your posture and entire body. It would be hard to do a proper squat if you had a weak backside. I love switching up my training and doing one heavy week with less reps and another week with more reps and lighter weight. They’re both great for building size, strength and making your waist appear thinner.
I’ve got asked a lot if I did Youtube videos for my workouts and I thought since I work on my blog 24/7 why not show little snippets of workouts with a description of what I’m doing. My objective is to always help you reach your goals so I thought this blog post would be perfect to show you my main exercises when it comes to growing my back.
The most important goal is to always work on your muscle mind connection. It’s simple to grab a weight and bang out some rows like it’s no big deal, but in order to grow and not get hurt, you need to make sure you’re feeling the workout in the right spots. Form is always key! It’s better to leave your ego at the door and make sure you’re getting the best workout possible.
As for weights, you always want to challenge yourself, hence why I love switching up my heavy and light week. Heavy week, I make sure I use a weight I can push through at least 5-7 reps with good form. Lighter week doesn’t mean you’re going crazy light, it just means you need to find a weight that’s still challenging but you’re able to do 12-20 reps! Yes, hypertrophy is my favourite kind of training. Hypertrophy is when your muscles are being pushed to their limits. The goal is to burn out your muscles so they can grow, get lean and burn fat. That’s why your rep range should be around 15-20 for 4-5 sets! Burn, baby burn is the goal! If you’re on your 15th rep and you feel like you can’t go on anymore, ask your training partner to spot you when she/he knows you’re getting tired. Those extra reps is when it counts the most.
Working out hard and wanting to see results comes with having well balanced nutrition. Here are some other posts to check out while you’re at it!
Enjoy these posts:
15 Tips To Losing Weight Without Giving Up Your Favourite Foods
15 Best Foods For Gaining Muscle Mass
How To Properly Understand Food Labels
10 Post-Workout Blunders That Are Killing Your Progress
21 Smart Food Swaps
You will see that there are SO many different variations of doing the same exercise, which is great for changing up your workout routine.
Alright, let’s get into the workout with my favourite go-to exercises.
Always, always, always warm up. I need to kick my own ass sometimes because it can easily get forgotten. When you warm up, you will notice a huge difference in your workout. You’ll be able to move better, have better posture, and lift heavier without feeling stiff.
For back, I like to start with arm swings back and forth, up and down. I enjoy using any machine or cables to warm up with light weight just to get the blood flowing in the right areas. One arm lat pull downs on the cables are great for your lats and it’s usually what I start with or I’ll use my first workout with an extra 2 sets for the warm up. Slow and controlled. Feel the muscle working.
Exercise #1 Kneeling Single Arm Lat Pull Down
These are amazing to start with. They really help you focus on that muscle-mind connection since you’re working one arm at a time. They help me get the blood flowing and my lats warmed up.
Start with a kneeling position with the cable grip in your hand. Pull down so that your elbow is tucked into the side of your chest. Return to a full stretch and repeat. Squeeze when you get to the bottom of the motion. Your lats should be on fire!
Exercise #2 Wide Grip Lat Pull Down
These are my favourite and there are so many different grip positions you can perform with this exercise. This workout is killer! It works your outer lats, which means the burn is intense, but you really notice a huge change in your back when adding this into your workout routine.
Choose your weight and grab the bar with an overhand position. You should be a holding the bar a bit more than shoulder width apart. Pull the bar down and go until it’s around your chest area. Don’t pull it down further, it should stop at your chest, not your belly button! Make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly return to starting position. Don’t slouch, make sure your chest is up high.
Make sure you’re not just going through the motion and going really fast to the point you’re just trying to get the workout done. Go up slowly and you will feel a crazy burn, so keep that tension.
Exercise #3 Alternating Lat Pull Down
If you want to kill your back; no really, these are so much fun, but they will have you dreading each rep because your back will be on fire! There are so many same same, but different workouts with the lat pull down machine that keeps your body and muscles guessing and keeps you happy. We never want our workouts to be boring, so make sure you switch it up!
Starting with your chest upright, pull harder with one arm and make sure you contract your lat for the full burn. Bring it back to the starting position and then switch arms, bring it back to the full position and use both arms to pull down. That’s one rep. Try to get your lats to do all the work and not use your torso to help you. Sometimes it can be hard not to get other muscle groups or body parts to want to jump in and help, so just make sure you’re picking the right weights. Not too light, but not too heavy either. In order to grow we need good form!
Exercise #4 Single Arm Dumbbell Rows
Working one muscle at a time is great to keep things balanced with your body. If your left arm is stronger, it’s great to work on single arm workouts to help you strengthen your other arm and keep you looking balanced and equal with the size you have.
Pick a weight and find a bench or a place you can bend over. Keep your core tight and don’t round your spine. When you pull back with the weight make sure you’re keeping the weight low and pull your elbow as far back as you can to get the mid back and lats working. Make sure to pull with the lats, not your biceps. This is a lat row, not a bicep row.
Exercise #5 Seated Low Row
The seated low row is another great exercise to target the lower part of the lats. Load up a free weight on each side of the machine, and adjust the seat so that you are sitting straight up, with your chest touching the pad. We don’t want to be too low or too high with this, so if your chest is touching the pad and your back is straight, you are in good position. Just like with the bent over row, squeeze your back, and stick out your chest, pulling each weight with the lat muscle (not your bicep), and return it back to the starting position. You can do these one arm at a time, both arms at once, or a combination of both for a crazy burn out.
Exercise # 6 Incline Row
The gym is a place where you need to have fun when you go; so trying new things is a great way to keep the mind and body happy!
Find a bench that can go into an incline, grab some weights and start rowing! Keep the motion nice and tucked in and pull your elbows back. Try to keep it slow and steady so you can feel the pain. 😉
Exercise #7 Close Grip Lat Pull Down
There should never be an excuse that the gyms are too busy, so you can’t do your work out, because there are so many different ways of doing the same exercise. All the lat pull downs are fun to do but also very effective.
Start with finding a good weight and make sure your back and chest are upright. Grab the bar with an underhand grip (shoulder width), depress you shoulders (pull your shoulder blades down before pulling down) and pull down bringing that bar to your chest. Do not go further than that! I see so many people bringing it close to their hips… That’a big no no. Once you have reached your chest, slowly let the weight up with control! Don’t just let it fly back to the starting position; you want to feel the burn on that eccentric movement.
Exercise #8 Bent Over Barbell Row
This is a classic exercise that works wonders for growing your back.
Hinge at the hip, keeping your back straight, core tight and neck neutral. I like to use an underhand grip (palms up) but it’s your workout so it’s based on your preference. I just feel like I can bring my elbows in better and focus more on the squeeze with this position. You will know if the weight is too heavy when you’re using your body to bounce that weight up. Make sure you have control over the weight and not the opposite. Squeeze up the weight and keep the momentum to a minimum. Keep that bent position throughout the entire workout with your core engaged.
Exercise #9 Underhand Row
This is a great machine to use, if your gym has it. This machine has a bunch of different grip positions, so feel free to change it up and have fun! Load up a challenging weight, and bend your body over between a 45-80 degree angle. You don’t want to be really straight, but you also don’t want to be bent over like you are trying to touch your toes. It’s really important with this exercise to squeeze and activate your abs, as this will support your lower back and stabilize you as you are bent over.
Take the weight in whatever grip you prefer, and bring it to your chest in a controlled manner, don’t heave it! Then slowly bring it down, ensuring that you are activating your back the whole time.
Exercise #10 Seated Plate Row
This is a great exercise to target different parts of the back, as it has 3-4 different handles that all work on different areas of the back! Pick a challenging weight, and just like with the dumbbells or cables, ensure that your back is straight, your lats are engaged, your chest is out, and pull that weight towards you. Make sure to go slow and controlled! I know you are hearing that a lot in this blog, but slow and controlled is how you build muscle in a safe manner. If you are slamming the weights around, you won’t have a good muscle mind connection, you run the risk of injuring yourself and you look like a gym bro…and no one wants that.
Exercise #11 Rear Delt Fly
Working your rear delts you can add them into your shoulder and back day. Rear delts is targeting the head of the shoulder and upper back.
Adjust the seat and make sure your chest is against the padding. Make sure the handles are at shoulder level. Make sure your core is tight. Hold onto the handles and engage your delt muscles and pull back the weight. Don’t go all the way back, keep that tension in your shoulders and backside. Bring it back to starting position but try not to let the weight touch the weight stack, which will keep the tension on the muscle.
Exercise #12 Seated Cable Row
Row Row Row your boat! Cable rows are a great back exercise as they force you to keep the tension, and they have so many grips to choose from. For this exercise, I chose a close grip, but you can pick whatever grip you like. First ensure that your legs are slightly bent, grab the cable, and pull the weight towards the centre of your body. Make sure that when you are pulling, your back stays straight, and you aren’t trying to lie down when you pull.
If you see yourself doing this, the weight is too heavy! Work those shoulder blades together, stick that chest out and squeeze your back as you pull in. As you slowly release the weight back to its starting position, you can very slightly bend forward to get a good stretch in the lat, but only do this once you have a firm grasp on the form.
Exercise #13 Single Arm Rear Delt Fly
Ah, the delt, the muscle everyone tends to forget when they work out shoulders or back. This is a really important muscle that when worked, will make your back and shoulders look fuller and wider. This exercise is one that shouldn’t be done with crazy heavy weight, as we want to only work on the rear delt, we don’t want any other muscles helping.
First, move the cable machine, so the cable is in line with your shoulder. With a slight bend in your arm pull the cable across your chest until your arm is straight and in line with your shoulder. Slowly bring the weight back until you feel a great stretch and then continue with the reps.
Exercise #14 Straight Arm Pull Down
This is another variation of the lat pull down exercise.It stretches and contracts the lats and adds additional activation to the upper back muscles.
Use a wide grip handle, which will engage your lats throughout this movement. Lean forward by hinging at the hips. Pull the bar close to your thigh until lats are fully contracted and slowly bring the bar back to the starting position.
Exercise #15 Chin Ups
Chin ups are an amazing back exercise that you need to have in your routine! They are an amazing body only exercise, that really increases your strength and the size of your back! When I first started working out, I couldn’t do one, and now I can do 10 in a row. The biggest thing with this exercise is to avoid kipping, where you jump like a fish out of water to get your chin to go over the bar. Please don’t do this. Go slow and controlled and do as many as you can. If you aren’t able to lift your body weight, there are assisted chin up machines to make it easier, or you can use a band, or even your partner to help!
Exercise #16 Pull Up
Pull ups are another amazing work out to have in your tool of tricks. First, make sure that you use an overhand grip and that you are a bit farther than shoulder width apart. Otherwise the premise is the exact same as a chin up. Pull your body up, using your lats and arms to get your chin to touch the bar, and then slowly go back down. If you use an assisted machine, like I am in my video, keep in mind with the assisted machines, is the higher the weight the more help you get. So if you put it to 100lbs, it will give you 100lbs of help.
Chin ups and pull ups are amazing exercises to start and finish your work out with, they target all areas of your back, and are a great way to burn out your lats before you leave the gym.
Exercise #17 Behind the Head Lat Pull Down
Behind the head lat pull downs are very awkward to do, but they are very rewarding! This is another great way of changing up the lat pull down machine. When doing this, take your standard wide grip, but instead of bringing the bar to your chest, bring it behind your head, until the bar touches your back, but don’t bounce it. Just listen to your body and you will know when you have gone far enough. Bring the bar up slowly, and make sure to not bonk yourself in the head.
Workout Example #1:
You will do 5 different workouts for 12-15 reps and 4 -5 sets. (warm up doesn’t count) Yes, I’m trying to kill you. 😉 muhaha! A superset is when you go back to back with 2 exercises and rest after you finish both workouts for the same amount of reps.
If you would like to know more different training technique you can use to challenge yourself and most importantly switch things up check out this blog directed to different ways you can train!
“Level Up Your Workouts”
Warm up: Single arm lat pull downs on the cables (3-4 sets & 12-15 rep range) Slow and controlled.
- Wide grip pull down superset with close grip
- Bent over barbell row
- Single arm dumbbell row
- Seated cable rows
- Rear delt fly
Workout Example #2
Warm up: Move your arms freely from side to side, up and down. Start with pull ups on the assisted machine. Slow and controlled with the motion. (3-4 sets & 12-15 reps).
4 sets with 12-15 rep range.
- Alternating lat pull down
- Underhand row
- Straight arm pull down
- seated low row
- Rear delt fly superset with bent over dumbbell row
I hope you guys enjoyed this blog post! I loved making it for you and will continue to make other muscle group videos. If you have any questions contact me and I’d love to help to the best of my ability.
Always take your workouts seriously, once you do, you will see astonishing results! Change up your grips, positions, rep ranges, set etc to keep it fun and challenging. Your body and muscles need that shock!
Don’t forget: Consistency, dedication, and patience. 🙂