A bigger and stronger back is key to your overall fitness and one of the hardest places to build muscle. Most concentrate on chest training, but a strong back is more important for overall strength and performance.
A wider, stronger back makes you look better on the beach, sure, but it also shows you’ve taken your training to the next level. Adding vascularity to the back is harder than any other part of the body, but we’ve put together 21 awesome tips to help you achieve the best results.
Building a stronger back starts now!
The most important tip is to avoid doing the wrong exercises. Spend your workout time working less on the lats and more on the back. Oftentimes too much lat work doesn’t result in a strong looking back – it may give you that V-taper but that’s all. You don’t want back width that still shows ribs!
The upper traps – trapezius muscles – are the muscles coming from the sides of the neck. In order for your back to look bigger and be stronger, you need large upper traps. You can get these with regular or overhead shrugs, power cleans and snatches, and Olympic lifts like high pulls. Impressive traps makes for an imposing posture and proclaim strength. If you can do shrugs holding a heavy weight, you’ll see some quick results.
The lats – latissmus dorsi – are the muscles responsible for giving you that wider back and the sexy V-taper. The V-taper is what makes the waist look smaller. The best way to build up your lats? Chin-ups and Pull-ups. To make it harder, hold onto a dumbbell with your feet, or wear a weighted belt. These two exercises are the fastest way to build up the all-important lats.
Not so much. Your ideal workout consists of sets in the 4-6 or 5-7 range. Frequency is important and volume is important, but high rep counts are not. Do your reps at between 80-85% of your one-rep max. Bigger, stronger backs do not happen with super setting or many sets of high reps.
The Middle Traps are important for the overall strength of your back. Work on your rotator cuff muscles in conjunction with an exercise that works the traps and lats. Try rowing – it pulls weight toward you and can be combined with cardio training. Set the rowing machine to 7 and work your heart at the same time.
You’re anxious to get that wider, stronger back, but don’t rush it! Do a full back workout 1-2 days a week and no more. You know muscles need rest in between workouts in order to grow. So, for the best results, don’t overwork – go slower for true muscle development.
The goal is not to add strength quickly, but to add it slowly. By taking the slow road, you’ll avoid injury. Start logging your workouts. Add minimal amounts of weight and reps every week. Rushing, with the idea of a ‘quick fix’, is sure to set you back. Be patient.
Foods that are high in protein are excellent for building muscle. If you’re serious about wanting a wider and stronger back, you should be eating between 2000-3000 calories a day. The higher end is only if you keep up the cardio workouts. Don’t worry about your calories in the protein group, as you need those to build that muscle. By eating 100 grams of protein every day you’ll be doing your body good. Drink plenty of water – one ounce for each pound – every day. Don’t forget your fruits and vegetables.
What Should I be Doing in the Gym?
The most important thing to remember when working out is form. Work on your form. Form is important in order to avoid injury and to reach your goal. Next, we look at some of the best exercises for the back and how to do them – properly.
Standing with a barbell on the floor, with the bar placed over the toes, bend with the knees, placing your hands outside your knees and use an alternating grip to hold the bar. Back and head straight, now stand up. Keep the bar close to your body as you lift. Then, slowly bring it down. Do 3 sets of 3 reps with the heaviest weight. Be sure to rest for 60 seconds between sets.
On a chin-up bar, use an overhand grip. Hands are a little wider than shoulder width. Hang with arms straight and pulling at the shoulder blades. Pull yourself up, your chest just parallel to the bar. Pause. Lower to the starting position. You’ve just done 1 rep. Do 6-8 reps before you move to the next exercise.
At the machine, place your feet on the crossbar. Keep your knees bent slightly – do not lock. Your back is in its natural alignment. Now, lean over to take the handle attachment using a palm down grip with your left arm. Extend your arm, and pull back until your torso and legs form a 90-degree angle. Your back should be arched – slightly – and chest sticking out. Hold the bar, feeling a stretch in the lats. Do 3 sets with 12-15 reps.
Adjusting your seat correctly may be the key. When you sit at the pull-down machine, use the wide bar. Adjust the knee pads to your height. With the wide bar, and both arms fully extended in front of you, bring your torso 30-degrees back, forming a lower back curve – start here. Breathe out, pull the bar down to your upper chest. This will cause the upper arms and the shoulders to draw down and back. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
You’ll use the power rack with pins. Set the pins to very specific places: mid-thigh, right above knees and right below knees. Assume a deadlift position against the bar. With your feet under the hips, back arched – involve the hamstrings with the hips back. Continue looking ahead and pull through the knees and hips to raise the weight back and up. Use your shoulders to complete the exercise. Do 3 sets with 8-10 reps.
Hook your feet under the leg anchor at the back extension station. Your upper thighs are resting on the pad, arms locked behind your head, bend at the hips until perpendicular to the floor. Slowly, raise up straight. This is 1 rep. Do 6-8 reps with a 60 second rest in-between sets.
This is a great exercise for strengthening the erector spine. You don’t need a machine a to do this one, just a barbell. Load one side and secure the unloaded end into a corner of the room. With your feet on both sides of the barbell, shoulder width apart, bend over to achieve a closed grip under the bar.
Your back tight and arched, knees slightly bent – start here. Keep the abs tight, pulling the bar to your chest by pressing the shoulder blades together. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Do 8-10 times per set.
Absolutely. The strongest muscle group in our body is the back. When you use heavy movements, you’ll achieve that stronger and bigger back. But at the same time, keep your reps low for highest muscle gain. Doing a high number of reps with heavy weight doesn’t work.
You should always be changing up your routine. While deadlifts are an excellent exercise, you should also add barbell rows, weighted pull-ups, cheat curls, Sandbag cleans and Atlas stone loading to your routine.
Bodyweight training is a super way to keep up strength levels. It can help you to build more size by adding volume. You’ll need to use every angle to get that wider, stronger back.
It depends on your goal. It’s a super way to increase your lean muscle, power and strength. You’ll burn more calories because your heart rate will be elevated. But if your goal is to build serious muscle, this is not your best choice.
They can be a super addition to your workout – think Olympic and plyometric style lifts. You’ll build strength by adding lean muscle mass. Do 5-8 reps per set when doing explosive movements.
You should deload every 3-4 weeks, mainly after doing heavy work. Do some low-intensity work for 7-10 days. Why? Your muscles use this time to recover and when you get back to your regular routine, you’ll be energized. Deloading can help your attitude and give you what you need to achieve your goals.
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