5 Exercises That Will Give You a More Muscular Back

Ready to build your back muscles? | iStock.com

We all want to be able to squat and deadlift like cro-mags while also showing off a chiseled chest, arms, and abs. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you want to be somewhat impressed — you want to see validation that all the hard work you’ve been putting in on the racks and treadmill, and in keeping your diet clean and focused, is paying off.

Well, diet and exercise is the way to get there, but you need to remember that there are parts that often go neglected — parts that you may not be able to see directly, but that others can see. It’s like skipping leg day — if you want to be muscular but you ignore certain muscle groups, you’re going to look asymmetrical. And nobody wants that.

We’re talking about your back, of course. Often lost in the mix as we focus on our arms, legs, and core, the back houses important muscles that are imperative to functionality, and ensures that our other muscle groups can work as a cohesive unit. You’re not going to do much power cleaning or deadlifting with a weak back, after all.

But since most of us don’t give our back much thought, it can be difficult to know where to start when putting together a workout. There are numerous exercises — many that you’re probably already doing — that target the muscle groups in your back, so you’re likely halfway there. Just consider adding a day per week dedicated to training those muscles, and you can start with these five exercises.

1. Bent-over rows

Bent-over rows are great for the back. | iStock.com

Chances are, if you’re a serious gym rat, you’re probably already doing rows of some sort. Rows can be done in a number of ways. You can use barbells, dumbbells, or machines, with any number of attachments. According to StrongLifts, you should choose one and get your form down. You’ll want to make sure you’re not doing them incorrectly, as you can easily injure yourself. Rows will work your lats and traps and are an excellent lift to build a back-centric workout around, says Muscle & Fitness.

2. Shrugs

Shrugs will work your traps and rhomboids. | iStock.com

Shrugs are literally just that — shrugs. Pick up something heavy, be it a barbell, some dumbbells (these typically work better), or even kettlebells, and use your shoulders and back to shrug the weight up. It may not sound like much, but you’ll feel it after a couple of reps. Shrugs will activate your traps and rhomboids, and you may feel sore in places the next day that you’ve never felt before.

3. Deadlifts

Deadlifts aren’t just great for your legs — they’re great for your back, too.| Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yes — one of your main compound lifts, one that you should have employed already as one of your fitness cornerstones, is also fantastic for strengthening and toning your back. The deadlift, like the squat, requires your entire body to work in unison to get the weight off the ground, and the muscle groups in the back are absolutely essential to making that happen. Of course, this is also one of those lifts that requires perfect form so that you don’t hurt yourself. So keep that in mind.

But if you haven’t already, get the deadlift into your routine. There are a number of ways that you can do it, and if you don’t have the necessary equipment, try an alternative.

4. Lat pulldowns

Lat pulldowns are tough, but worth it. | iStock.com

The lat pulldown requires access to a machine, so hopefully you can jump on one at your gym or fitness center. The exercise itself is similar, physiologically speaking, to a pull-up; you’re essentially pulling weight down to your chest from above your head, but you’re not using gravity and your own body weight in this instance. When doing this exercise, it’s easy to lose your form, so stick to it and lessen the resistance if need be. You can do it either sitting or standing, and with variations in grip as well. Try a few different methods, and make note of what gets you results.

5. Pull-ups and chin-ups

Pull-ups are serious business. | iStock.com/dolgachov

Here it is — the most difficult back exercise of them all. While some people make them look easy, there’s no doubt that a workout incorporating pull-ups is guaranteed to be strenuous. This is because you’re lifting your entire body weight with just your lats, shoulders, arms, and core, and you need a decent amount of grip strength to even get you hanging on the bar as well.

Can’t do a full pull-up yet? No worries — you can try an iso-eccentric pull-up first. You start this by jumping up to the bar so it’s at chest height, and then slowly lowering yourself down.

Additional reporting by Lauren Weiler.

When you think of a big, V-taper physique you probably think big barn-door back in the same train of thought. Building a great back is tricky business, mainly due to it not being a mirror muscle worked. This can make for lack of mind-muscle connection and overall lack of muscular development.

These 5 killer back exercises can dramatically change the shape of your back – and create some mile-wide lats!

Exercise #1 The Classic Pull-up

Probably the most essential back-building exercise, the pull-up incorporates using the lats to pull through the movement as well as incorporating the stabilizing muscles.

Rhomboids, traps and supporting muscle within the spine help stabilize the movement- allowing the lats to move freely in a singular plane for maximum muscle growth. Definitely a good one!

a) Begin the movement by positioning arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the pull-up bar, palms facing forward.
b) Keeping the shoulder and scapula down and tight, slowly pull chin to furthest possible.
c) Hold at the top for 1 second and squeeze the movement.
d) Slowly return down to bottom, keeping constant tension on the lats.

Sets and Reps: 4 x 10-12

TOP TIP: Can’t do this many pull-ups on your own? Grab a partner to support your feet to free some weight off the movement or use a pull-up assist machine.

Exercise #2 Muscle-Building Deadlift

Not for the faint of heart, but definitely for those looking for a big back!

This can be considered a leg movement or even a full body movement, but the benefits you will get from deadlifts will be leaving you wanting to do them more often. Improved posture, stronger lumbar and increased power and explosiveness are just a few things that will be in your immediate future.

Belt up, go heavy with perfect form and reap the rewards.

a) Begin the movement by positioning hands shoulder-width apart on bar starting from the floor – one palm under, one over.
b) Keeping your back flat and lifting with your legs, exhale whilst pulling the bar into top position situated right at waistline.
c) Squeeze shoulder blades together for 1-second hold.
d) Slowly exhale and bend knees to lower the weight back to starting position.

Sets and Reps: 4 x 10

DEADLIFT FORM: – Very Important

✓ Your feet should be spaced hip-width apart with your grip just outside your legs.
✓ Your back should be flat—neutral spine—from start to finish.
✓ The bar should remain in contact with your legs for the entire range of motion.
✓ Your hips and knees should move in concert to transfer the bar from the ground to an upper-thigh, locked position.

TOP TIP: Keep your lats flexed throughout the movement. This will not only keep your form tight and reduce injury but also increase mind-muscle connection for other isolation exercises.

Exercise #3 Barbell Rows

The barbell row is a great exercise for an overall mass building as well as tying in all the loose ends of the back. Being bent over and holding the weight out in front of you is working the spinal erectors as well as the lower back.

The actual rowing motion works the traps and lats. This exercise will help you achieve your mile-wide back!

a) Start exercise with hands on top of the bar about shoulder-width apart.
b) Bend over to where the back is near parallel with the ground.
c) Pull the weight to your midsection by retracting the shoulder blades and squeezing at the top of the movement.
d) Slowly lower the weight back down, but keeping tension on the traps/lats.

Sets and Reps: 4 x 8-12

TOP TIP: Flip your grip to change which muscles are being worked. Having your hands on the bar will target your middle and upper traps. Using an underhand grip will mainly target the length of the lats!

Exercise #4 Lat Pulldowns

The pull-up is a great move to hammer out but want one that’s even more isolated? Try some pulldowns on a cable pulley machine. Placing the hands out wide will ultimately work the width of the lats and moving the hands closer together will work the middle/upper traps.

This can be a highly effective movement but can be completely ruined if not perform strictly and correctly.

a) Take up a wide grip on the pull-down machine, ensuring scapula is retracted and shoulders are back – palms forward (thumb over bar also.)
b) Tighten your core tight and lean slightly backwards.
c) Slowly begin to pull the bar down to top of chest just under the collarbone and squeeze the shoulder blades together at bottom of the movement.
d) Return to the starting position while still retaining control on the way back up.

Sets and Reps: 3 x 8-12

TOP TIP: Only pull the bar down in front of the chest. Pulling behind the neck has been attributed to rotator cuff injuries to the tremendous amount of stress it places on the shoulder capsule. Keep your elbows at about a 30-degree angle in the plane of motion from your upright torso.

Exercise #5 DB One-Arm Rows

The one-arm row is a classic movement in bodybuilding because of its isolation properties. You can really target the traps or target the lats- whatever you are aiming for.

Also, doing this one arm at a time, you will be able to get a little better contraction and mind-muscle connection be solely focusing on the one side being worked. To perform these, grab a flat or incline bench for the opposite hand and knee for stabilization.

a) Grab a dumbbell of preferred weight – setup on a bench with opposite hand and knee on the bench (like above.)
b) Keeping your back straight and neck in line, pull the weight just underneath the chest by retracting the shoulder blade to start the movement.
c) Pull the weight with just the muscles of the back with as little biceps involvement as possible.
d) Slowly lower the weight back to starting position.

Sets and Reps: 4 x 10-12

TOP TIP: Sometimes lowering the weight will mean leaving your ego at the door but will lead to better contractions. Choose a weight that you can control throughout the movement.

Take Home Message

✓ Don’t be afraid to consume carbs for strength and energy to lift.

✓ A pre-workout supplement 30 minutes before training will increase energy and focus.

✓ Eat protein and carbs post-workout

✓ Keep getting 8 hours of sleep!

Any time is the perfect time to kick your workout routines into high gear—and actually make some significant progress toward reaching your ultimate get-lean goals.

We know you want to get rid of that last bit of fat and finally uncover the cut body you’ve got hiding underneath. We know because we asked readers: If you could transform your body overnight, would you pump up your shoulders, get a huge chest, or a go for a serious six-pack?

The answer? None of the above: 43% of you said you’d want an “overall fat-free physique,” rather than a single bigger or better body part. So we want to help you achieve that.

We asked some of the most respected trainers and experts about the best ways to jumpstart fat loss via training, diet, and lifestyle tweaks. You’ll have to work hard for every ounce, of course, but we can promise you—the results will be worth it.

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10 Best Muscle-Building Back Exercises!

When you crack your exercise toolkit open each week on back day, you’ve got a seemingly endless array of movements available. Knowing which tools are best suited for building a wide, thick back will help you get the job done faster, which is why we’ve assembled our list of top 10 mass-building back exercises.

While head-to-head exercise comparison research is a bit limited in this area, we selected the following 10 exercises based on factors such as available literature, how difficult each movement is, how much muscle each stimulates, and how unique each exercise is compared to others. This list will also help you figure out where to place each exercise in your workout.

If you get bowled over by the sheer number of rows you can do on back day, or even draw a total blank when thinking of new exercises to try, consider this list your new back blueprint.

But don’t forget that picking great movements is only one part of building a huge back. Your overall program matters just as much! To see these moves put into action, check out the Bodybuilding.com BodyFit Elite Muscle-Building Workout Plans, where there are killer back workouts from Kris Gethin, Jim Stoppani, and dozens of other elite lifters and coaches.

1. Barbell Deadlift

Why it’s on the list: This is technically more than a back exercise—it hits the entire posterior chain from your calves to your upper traps—but it’s the absolute best for overall backside development. Technique is uber-important with the deadlift, but once you nail it, you can progress to lifting monster weights that will recruit maximum muscle, release muscle-building hormones, and help you get big.

There are also numerous deadlift progression programs you can follow to help you reach new personal bests. Physiologists love to prescribe the deadlift when programming for strength and conditioning because the exercise hammers your musculature and is one of the best choices to strengthen your bone structure.

There are also numerous deadlift progression programs you can follow to help you reach new personal bests.

Stick with the conventional deadlift on back day; other variations, like the popular sumo-style, increase the activity of muscle groups other than the back.

In your workout: If you’re going heavy (sets of fewer than about 6 reps), do deadlifts first so you’re fresh. If you’re doing deads for repetitions, you can do them later in your workout.

2. Bent-Over Barbell Row

Why it’s on the list: This is probably the second-best back movement in terms of sheer weight you can lift. EMG research has suggested that hitting bent-over barbell rows will work the larger muscle groups of the upper and lower back equally, making this a great overall back builder. Like the deadlift, this is another technical move that requires excellent form but rewards you with a ton of muscle.

Bent-Over Barbell Row

In your workout: Do bent-over rows toward the start of your back workout for heavy sets in lower rep ranges, about 6-8 or 8-10. The Smith version is a suitable substitute; it locks you in the vertical plane, but your body has to be in just the right position relative to the bar. The bent-over barbell row has a significantly greater lumbar load than many other back exercises, so it’s best done early in your workout in order to save your lower back. If you’re wrecked from deadlifts, it may behoove you to skip this movement.

3. Wide-Grip Pull-Up

Why it’s on the list: It’s always a good idea to have an overhead pulling movement in your back routine, and the pull-up is one of the best. Wide-grip pull-ups are excellent for putting emphasis on the upper lats. A closer grip may allow for a longer range of motion, but it may be possible to load the wide-grip pull-up to a greater degree because of an optimized starting joint position. The biggest challenge here for most trainers is training to failure in the right rep range for growth, which is 8-12.

If you do pull-ups early in your workout, you might have to add a weighted belt. Of course, if you find them difficult, you can always use an assisted pull-up machine or a good spotter, or switch to the wide-grip pull-down, which is a solid substitute. If your shoulders are healthy, pulling behind the head is okay.

Good form is extremely important here. In the starting position, the scapula should be retracted—pull your shoulder blades down and toward each other—prior to initiating the pull.

Wide-Grip Pull-Up

In your workout: Because the pull-up range of motion is so long, several light reps make great warm-up moves for the shoulder joints. Since form is so important with these, it may be best to push pull-ups toward the front of your workout to ensure proper shoulder-joint positioning.

4. Standing T-Bar Row

Why it’s on the list: We selected the T-bar row over a chest-supported version because you can pile on much more weight here, even though that typically translates into a bit of cheating through the knees and hips. For some, maintaining a flat back can be challenging, in which case the supported version is a better choice.

These aren’t squats, so keep your legs locked in a bent angle throughout. You also typically have a choice of hand positions and width. A wider grip will put more emphasis on the lats, while a neutral grip will better target the middle back (rhomboids, teres, and traps). This exercise is probably one of the easier rows to spot.

These aren’t squats, so keep your legs locked in a bent angle throughout.

In your workout: Do this toward the front half of your workout. Rather than slinging weight around with this movement, really focus on the stretch and contraction of the back. If you’re an experienced lifter, load up with 25s instead of the 45s, and further increase range of motion by allowing a slight protraction of the scapula at the bottom of every rep. If you do this, be sure to “reset” with a flat back before initiating the next pull!

5. Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row

Why it’s on the list: Just about everyone defaults to the close-grip bar on rows. If that sounds like you, you’ll find using a wide grip on a lat bar a nice change of pace because it shifts some of the emphasis to the upper lats. Wide rows mimic some back machines, so don’t do both in your workout unless you make some other kinds of changes, like grip or target rep range. You might even try flipping your grip—and going about shoulder-width apart—which better targets the lower lats as the elbows stay tighter to your sides.

Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row

In your workout: Like machines, cables are best done toward the end of your workout. Choose a weight that enables you to complete no more than about 12 reps.

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6. Reverse-Grip Smith Machine Row

Why it’s on the list: Reverse-grip movements mean two things: The biceps play a greater role, and with the elbows now pulling back close to your sides, the target becomes the lower portion of the lats. The Smith machine allows you to concentrate only on pulling as much weight as possible, since you don’t have to worry about balancing it.

Bend over about 45 degrees, staying close to the bar, and expect a little contribution from the hips and knees when you’re pounding out the heavy sets. While some gym rats consider the Smith machine taboo, the fixed plane of the movement and ability to really control a weight (think tempo of four seconds up and four down) can be both a novel and humbling exercise.

In your workout: You don’t need more than a single reverse-grip movement in your routine. Do it about midway through your workout, after your heavy overhand pulls. At any point in your back workout, don’t be afraid to throw on some wrist straps. Your goal is to hammer your back and put it through the wringer, not be constantly limited by your grip strength.

7. Close-Grip Pull-Down

Why it’s on the list: Since we’ve already covered the wide-grip pull-up, the wide-grip pull-down is too similar, so we opted for the close-grip handle for our pull-down selection. EMG research suggests that use of a close neutral grip activates the lats similarly to a regular grip, so you’re not missing out on any muscle fibers. As mentioned earlier with pull-ups, a closer grip does allow for a longer range of motion and increased time under tension for the lats, which is great for building muscle.

A closer grip does allow for a longer range of motion and increased time under tension for the lats, which is great for building muscle.

In your workout: This exercise can make a good warm-up move for your shoulders, but when used as a mass-building exercise, it’s best placed toward the end of your workout for sets of 8-12 reps.

Slow down the rep tempo on these, squeeze hard at the bottom of each rep, and allow a good stretch at the top.

8. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

Why it’s on the list: This is a great unilateral exercise—each side works independently—that allows you to move a lot of weight. You’ll get greater range of motion when training unilaterally, and you won’t be restrained if your weaker side fails first. You may also be better able to support your lower back—which may have taken plenty of punishment by now—when placing one hand on a bench. Allowing a slight degree of rotation of the trunk may engage a greater degree of “core” musculature, as well.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

In your workout: Unless you intentionally flare your elbow out wide, this exercise focuses more on your lower lats. Do it anywhere from the middle to the end of your workout for sets of 10-12.

9. Decline Bench Dumbbell Pull-Over

Why it’s on the list: Pull-overs for back? Absolutely! This one mimics the straight-arm cable pull-down you’re probably familiar with. Yes, this is a single-joint move, but it allows you to really target and torch your lats. The decline version puts your lats under tension for a longer range of motion than when using a flat bench. Just make sure the dumbbell clears your head, and drop it on the floor behind you when you’re done.

Decline-Bench Dumbbell Pull-Over

In your workout: In almost all cases, single-joint movements should be done last in your body-part routine. Keep the reps on the higher end for a nice finishing pump, around 12-15 per set.

10. Single-Arm Smith Machine Row

Why it’s on the list: This bad boy is basically a single-arm dumbbell row performed on a Smith machine. It’s a great and novel choice for your lower lats. Stand sideways to the machine, grasping the bar toward the middle, and keep your body close to the apparatus using a split stance and bent knees for balance. As you pull the bar up as high as you can, your body may sway a bit to keep the movement natural, which is OK.

In your workout: Do this exercise toward the end of your back routine for sets of 8-10 or 10-12. Do it in place of the single-arm dumbbell row—not both—since the exercises are similar.

Getty Images

The plan: Do these four moves three times a week, and you’ll see more definition in a month or less. For faster results, add 20 minutes of cardio.

You need: Hand weights

  • 1. Superwoman
    Lie down on stomach with arms and legs extended. Contract upper and lower back muscles as you lift arms and legs off ground. Hold for 3 counts, then return to start, making sure to engage abs. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

    Perfect your form: Keep your head in line with your spine.
    Dial it down: Lift one arm and opposite leg into a half superwoman. Alternate sides.
    Amp it up: Hold each rep for 5 counts.
    1. Superwoman

  • 2. Side plank
    Start in tabletop, holding weights, with shoulders stacked above wrists. Place right hand on floor and rise up onto toes. Raise left arm to the side. Hold for 3 counts. Alternate sides. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

    Perfect your form: Keep hip in line with the shoulder of your raised arm.
    Dial it down: Ditch the weights.
    Amp it up: Do a push-up before lifting weight.
    2. Side plank

  • 3. Airplane lunge
    Lower into a deep runner’s lunge, keeping front knee in line with ankle. Hold for 2 counts. With torso glued to thigh, raise hands to sides. Hold for 3 counts. Alternate sides. Do 10 reps.

    Perfect your form: Keep back flat as you bring your upper body forward.
    Dial it down: Perform the move from a modified lunge, with back knee on ground.
    Amp it up: Do 10 mini pulses with arms between reps.
    3. Airplane lunge

  • 4. Lawn mower
    Begin in a squat, holding one weight at hip and the other by your opposite foot. Pull bottom weight up (as if starting a mower) as you stand up. Repeat on opposite side. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

    Perfect your form: Move slowly with control to tone hard-to-reach muscles.
    Dial it down: Do fewer reps.
    Amp it up: Lower butt toward ground or widen stance into sumo squat. Hold for 2 counts before standing.
    4. Lawn mower

Click here for more 10-minute workouts.

Training The Lower Back Correctly

by Trevor Hiltbrand | Reviewed by Advisory Board

Many gym goers are reluctant to train their lower back as they are afraid that it will cause injury, others aren’t so much scared as they are indifferent. What benefit can they get out of it? Sure they’ll have a stronger less injury-prone back, but it’s not like anyone has ever exclaimed “Wow, nice lower back bro”. Sadly the lower-back is not a vanity muscle group like the biceps or pectorals so it doesn’t receive the same level of treatment.

However, training the lower back has many benefits in terms of both health and in terms of improving performance. Want to stay injury free whilst training for the marathon? Train your lower back. Want to improve your squat 1rm? Train your lower back. Want to be able to pick stuff off the floor when you’re 90? Train your lower back.

This article will teach you about the muscles of the lower back, the benefits to training them, and it will also teach you how to do so effectively.

The muscles of the lower back

It would be pointless to name every one of the many muscles that cover the lower back, you wouldn’t remember half of them – and it would serve no real function. Instead we are going to look at two groups of muscles, and some other muscles that are involved in lower back movements but aren’t technically part of the lower back (for example the latissimus dorsi).

The first group of muscles is known as the Transversospinalis muscles.

There are three layers of muscles that make up this group, starting with the Rotatores, the Mulitfudus, and the Semispinalis muscles. These muscles go all the way up the spine and their purpose it to rotate and extend the vertebral column.

The second group of muscles that originate in the lower back are the Erector Spinae.

Again, there are three types of muscle that make up this group. They are: The Iliocostalis, Longissimus, and Spinalis. The Erector Spinae work as an antagonist to your abdominals – basically stopping them from overworking. The Erector Spinae are responsible for straightening the vertebrae.

For example: if you bowed down and then raised yourself back up, the Erector Spinae would be the muscles responsible for raising you back up.

Other muscles that can affect the lower back are the abdominals, the gluteals, and the latissimus dorsi. You can also add in your hamstrings and the muscles of the hip.

Benefits of having a strong back

The Lumbar region is situated around the lower half of the torso, it contains the abdominal muscles and the muscles of the lower back mentioned previously. This region is responsible for carrying the majority of your bodyweight. It is for this reason that lower back pain is so common, and why strengthening the muscles of the lower back is such an important thing to do.

The most obvious benefit for strengthening the lower back is the prevention of injuries. Lower back pain is one of the most common afflictions there is (alongside knee pain). This can come from bad posture, a sedentary lifestyle, but also an active lifestyle. Sports and gym work can cause lower back pain, if these muscles are under-developed.

Even simple exercises such as running, hiking, or a basic ab routine can cause lower back pain (overdeveloping the abs whilst ignoring the lower back can cause injury). Having a strong lower back can also help you improve your performance in the gym and in sport.

Obviously deadlifts, squats, and similar lower body exercises would benefit from it, but so would exercises such as the bench press – where being able to arch your back can help increase your 1rm. Sports such as Rugby or American Football would become less of an injury risk, and sports like hockey where you are constantly in an uncomfortable, crouched position could also see a benefit.

Top 5 exercises for a stronger lower back

The following 5 exercises are a nice mixture of multi-muscle compound exercises, and more specific lower back exercises, plus a nice stretch.

Exercise #1. The Cat Stretch

This stretch is fantastic if you’re suffering from a stiff back, or as an exercise in its own right. Place your hands and knees on the floor and start out with a flat back. What you are going to do now is to push your upper back up into the air so that you have a proper hunch-back. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then you are going to drop down so that your stomach reaches towards the floor and your chest is pushed out. This will hyperextend your spine. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat.

Exercise #2. The Deadlift

You can perform the deadlift with dumbbells or kettlebells, but the barbell version is the most common – and best. There are a few variations that you can try, the regular deadlift, Sumo deadlift, and Romanian deadlift. Keep the reps low as this is a very difficult and intense exercise, and ensure that you are getting adequate rest in between sets.

Exercise #3. Good Mornings

Grab a light barbell and place it on your traps as if you were going to squat it. Then you are going to bow forward whilst keeping your legs stiff, there can be a slight bend in them to prevent your lower back from rounding. Pause just before you reach a depth that you can’t keep your back flat during, and don’t go lower than parallel (if that’s even an option for you mobility wise).

Exercise #4. The Squat

Performing squats with great form is an excellent way to strengthen your lower back, as there are so many other benefits to squatting this exercise should already be in your program! Front squats, back squats, sumo squats, and box squats, pick one that suits you and make sure your form is perfect.

Exercise #5. Hyperextensions

If you have a Hyperextension bench at your gym then this exercise is fantastic for strengthening the Erector Spinae. Just make sure you don’t use too much weight, or overdo it. If you don’t have a Hyperextension bench available to you, then there is an exercise known as the Cobra stretch which involves lying on a mat and then raising your upper body up in the air. This is an excellent substitute.

5 Common Mistakes When Training Lower Back

Here are some common mistakes that are made when training the lower back, or when training in general.

#1 Ignoring the Upper Back

Obviously this doesn’t mean that people are ignoring bent over rows, pull ups, or lat pulldowns. It means that a lot of people have bad posture that stems from the upper back, and this is rarely addressed. If your upper back posture is poor, it will make it much more difficult to perform certain exercises without injuring your lower back.

Adding in exercises such as Face Pulls, Scapular Retractions, and even Dumbbell Shrugs can help to improve your posture and remove some of the stress on your lower back.

#2 Lifting too heavy a weight

The “Go Hard or Go Home” mentality that all of your exercises should be performed at max intensity is injuring more people in the gym than anything else. If you perform a deadlift that is too heavy, your posture will fail, your back will round, and you will injure your lower back. Same thing will happen with squats, bent over rows, and even bicep curls. Keep the weight to a level that allows you to perform it properly (with difficulty) and you will see muscle strength and size improve – without destroying your back!

#3 Not Warming Up

If you are going to deadlift or squat, you are going to want to warm up first. Add some deep squats into this warm up, then perform a few practice squats. If you jump straight in to an exercise like either of these you could be walking into an avoidable injury.

#4 Not Resting Enough

With deadlifts and squats you should be looking at 2-3 minutes between sets to give yourself enough time to recover. But when we talk about rest, we’re mostly concerned with time between workouts. If you train deadlifts on Monday and your body feels exhausted on Tuesday, it is not the right time to start squatting, or performing Good Mornings. Either take an extra day rest, or focus on the upper body.

#5 Too much volume

As mentioned earlier, deadlifts work best when the sets and reps are low. Performing 10 sets of 10 reps on deadlift is going to cause injury. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do this with other exercises, it just means that if you are overtraining a muscle it will eventually break down. Listen to your body, if your back hurts for 3 days after performing 5 sets of squats then maybe you should lower the number of sets.

Now you are ready to train your lower back more effectively. But, are you eating the correct amount of food to meet your goals? Use our free macro calculator here to see how much you should eat a day.

Trevor Hiltbrand

Author

Trevor Hiltbrand is one of the owners/co-founders of Transparent Labs and head of content creation. He got his start with supplement research back in 2013 when he began researching cognitive enhancement. With the help of the Transparent Labs Expert Panel and Advisory Board, we aim to bring our evidence based nutrition and exercise research to the world.

4 Exercises to Sculpt Your Back

These moves will turn your flip side into the sexy center of attention, plus they’ll banish pain and improve your posture.

A toned back isn’t just a must-have accessory when you’re rocking a backless dress—it can be one of your body’s most valuable assets. “Your back is involved in everything you do, from running to lugging groceries, so strengthening it is crucial to improving fitness and preventing injury,” says Lacey Stone, owner of Lacey Stone Fitness in New York City. “It’s also the key to better posture, which gives you a confident look no matter what you’re wearing.” What’s more, working the muscles from your shoulders to hips can help ease (or stave off) back pain: A study found that adults with chronic backaches felt significantly less pain after a 16-week strength-training program.

Get in top shape with this fat-blasting workout from Biggest Loser personal trainer Bob Harper.

Stone’s workout targets your entire upper and lower back, core, hips, and glutes. Do it two or three times a week (three sets of each exercise, working up to 12 reps per set) to improve your posture, prevent aches and pains, and achieve a strong, defined rear view.

Four Rear-View Moves

1. Pullup

Grab the pullup bar of an assisted pullup machine, palms facing forward, and hang at arm’s length, knees bent and feet crossed behind you (a). Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your chest to the bar (b), then slowly lower back to start. That’s one rep.

2. Pushup-Position Row

Get into a pushup position with your hands resting on dumbbells and your feet slightly more than hip-width apart (a). Brace your abs as you pull one dumbbell toward the side of your rib cage (b). Pause, lower the weight, then repeat with the other arm. That’s one rep.

The perfect pushup: Few exercises are more effective than this old-school exercise.

5 Top Ways To Get A Sculpted Back

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Looking for a way to make the most out of your back workouts? Want to train, tone, and define your back muscles, but aren’t sure how? Then check out these 5 top ways to get a sculpted back! These are our best tricks for strengthening the back and obtaining that smooth, defined tank top look.

1. Don’t be afraid of heavy weights.

It’s hard to build a sculpted back using cardio and light dumbbells. In order to really create definition, you have to challenge your back muscles by slowly making them stronger. To do this, incorporate weight training into your regular gym routine and perform back-targeted workouts once or twice per week. While you can separate days just to target your back, you can also combine back workouts with arm or chest workouts.

If you’re looking for potential back routines, check out this HIIT Your Back Workout. It uses five effective exercises and 30 second intervals to target all the important back muscles.

2. Include moves for different areas of your back.

You wouldn’t target just your upper abs when doing a core workout, so it’s important to remember all the areas of your back as well. Moves such as rows are great for your upper back, while straight-legged deadlifts target your lower back. Building strength evenly throughout your body will help you maintain better posture and avoid injuries. Check out 7 Workouts to Get Rid of Back Fat.

3. Target lower and upper laterals by varying your grip.

The lateral muscles are large muscles that run along the sides of your back. Where you place your hands when doing barbell rows, pull-downs, or pull-ups will change the muscles that you target.

Use a wide grip to target your upper laterals. This means you’ll place your hands wider than shoulder distance apart. In order to target your lower lateral muscles, use a close grip when performing pull-ups or cable pull-downs. This means you bring your hands closer to each other. Get a Beautiful Back with this workout for all Fitness Levels.

4. Row with proper form to target your middle back.

Rows are the best way to target your middle back. You can perform all kinds of rows using dumbbells, barbells, or even cables. In order to properly target your middle back, use a close to medium grip and pull the weight toward your middle without splaying your elbows.

5. Incorporate bodyweight moves.

Not all back workouts have to be weight training workouts. You can easily target your back during bodyweight interval workouts by including key moves. Push-ups, superman, planks, and up-down planks are great for working your back muscles.

Have some back sculpting tips to share with the SkinnyMs. community? Let us know! Leave a comment in the section below.

Total-body training is a hot trend that strips body fat, increases endurance and saves time. But what if you want to add some muscle to your frame, bring up a lagging bodypart or create some slammin’ curves? Gotta go old-school and break it down, one muscle group at a time.

“The benefit of training individual muscle groups is that you can work areas that might need a little more attention, creating balance and symmetry in the body,” explains Abbie Appel, former IFBB Fitness competitor and current international fitness presenter and speaker. With straight-set training, you can focus on creating hypertrophy in muscles that need more attention and can even specifically train areas that are weak or overstretched, such as the shoulders and midback from sitting in front of a computer, according to Appel.

This program is designed to help you develop a beautiful back from top to bottom. Choose one of these workouts and perform the moves in the order suggested; next week, do the second workout to keep things fresh. Devote the first set of each move to higher reps and lower weight to etch the biomechanics into your body and brain.

For the next two sets, go heavy to encourage muscle breakdown, then for your last set do either drop sets or negatives to completely fatigue the muscle and cause it to fail. This strategy will constantly challenge your body and keep it guessing, encouraging progress. Do this program for four to six weeks and you’ll have a fit and fabulous flip side.

How to do…

Before you start this workout, there are a few terms you need to know.

Drop sets: Choose a weight and do as many reps as you can. When you can’t do any more, choose a lesser weight and do as many reps as you can with that one. When you can’t do any more, swap out the weight once more and rep it out to failure.

Negatives: Choose a heavy weight and do a quick and powerful positive contraction. Then as slowly as you can, lower the weight back to the start position. Repeat this pattern for reps. Shoot for up to 10 seconds per negative if you can manage it.

Barbell Deadlift

Action: Keeping your back straight, extend your legs and stand up, dragging the bar up along the fronts of your legs as you press through your heels and come to a standing position. Pause a beat and then reverse the motion, flexing your knees and hips to lower the bar just short of touching the floor.

Tip: The barbell should move in a vertical line; if it is wavering in and out, adjust your body mechanics so it moves straight up and down.

Wide-Grip Pulldown

Setup: Attach a long bar to a high cable pulley and adjust the seat so you’re able to sit with your feet firmly on the floor. Take an overhand grip on the bar, hands just outside shoulder width, arms extended, and sit down. Lift your chest and contract your shoulder blades.

Action: Drive your elbows down to pull the bar toward your clavicle, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pause at the peak contraction before slowly returning to the start.

Tip: Avoid leaning back and using momentum to pull the bar because it could cause injury to your shoulders and lower back.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

Setup: Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place your left hand and left knee on a flat bench, back flat and shoulders square. Allow your right arm to hang straight toward the floor with your head neutral.

Action: Keeping your arm in close to your side, drive your elbow toward the ceiling to pull the dumbbell up to your rib cage. Squeeze your shoulder blade at the top of the motion, then lower to the start with control.

Tip: Maintain the vertical movement of the dumbbell (straight up and down) while keeping your shoulders square.

Seated Cable Row

Setup: Attach a V-handle to the cable pulley and hold it with your arms straight. Sit up tall with your knees slightly bent, back slightly arched and chest lifted.

Action: Pull the handle in toward your abdomen by driving your elbows rearward and pulling your shoulder blades together. Keep your arms in close to your sides and your chest lifted. Pause a moment at the peak contraction, then slowly reverse the move to return to the start.

Tip: Don’t allow your body to be pulled forward as you lower the weight. Stay sitting tall throughout.

Pull-Up

Setup: Take a wide overhand grip on a pull-up bar and allow your body to hang straight down. Cross your feet behind you, lift your chest and your chin, and tighten your abs.

Action: Drive your elbows down and pull yourself up toward the bar, coming as high as you can and aiming to bring your chin over the bar if possible. Slowly lower to the start, coming to a full extension of your arms.

Tip: If you can’t yet do free-hanging pull-ups, try using a large rubber band for assistance or look for an assisted pull-up machine at your gym.

Reverse-Grip Barbell Row

Setup: Take a shoulder-width, underhand grip on a barbell. Unrack the bar and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge forward 45 degrees, with your back and arms straight and knees slightly bent.

Action: Bend your elbows and pull the bar up toward your bellybutton, keeping your arms in close to your sides and squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Slowly lower to the start and repeat right away.

Tip: Imagine pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades at the top of the move to make the most of the contraction.

T-Bar Row

Setup: Secure the end of a barbell in the corner of the room. Load the opposite end and secure a V-handle underneath the bar, sliding it up so it rests against the end of the barbell. Straddle the bar with your knees bent and your back straight and grasp the V-handle with both hands. Straighten your knees until they are only slightly bent to lift the weighted end off the floor, holding it with your arms straight, back flat and torso angled about 45 degrees.

Action: Drive your elbows up and back, squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling the V-handle toward your abdomen. Pause at the peak contraction, then slowly lower to the start under control.

Tip: Keep your abs and glutes engaged to stabilize your spine and pelvis as you perform your reps.

Barbell Pullover

Setup: Lie back on a flat bench with the top of your head just at the end. Have a partner hand you a light barbell and grip it overhand with your hands shoulder-width apart. Hold it straight up over your chest, arms perpendicular to the floor.

Action: Keeping your arms straight, slowly lower the barbell back and over your head until your arms come next to your ears, nearly parallel to the floor. Hold the stretch for a second, then pull your arms back up smoothly in an arc to return to the start position.

Tip: If you find your back is arching as you lower the weight, bring your feet up onto the bench.

Stretch For Success

Lifting heavy makes your muscles tight and stiff. Download this short stretching routine to do postworkout.

Download here (.PDF format)

How to sculpt your back?

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