The back is composed of more muscles than people seem to believe. Not knowing the anatomy of your back can lead to some deficits in growth because certain muscles are never being hit. Your back is composed of three trapezius, two rhomboids and a big erector spinae, amongst many other smaller muscles.
When training back muscles, most people stick to the common vertical and horizontal pulls. This is a great start but in order to maximize growth you need to access the back muscles using multiple exercises at different angles and different ranges of motion. That's where we come in. Here are some tips:
1. Hit the big three
Deadlifts: Deadlifts are one of the most advanced complex exercises because they work so many muscles of your posterior chain and are important for building strength, stability and proper lower body posture.
Chin ups/pull ups: We’ve all seen the movies and know that pull-ups and chin-ups are the number one exercise to make you look awesome. Start with the assisted pull-up machine if you’re new to pull-ups, then work towards band-assisted pull-ups and negative pull-ups. Also try switching up your grip (more details below).
Rows/pulls: Rows and pulls are the most common back exercise. Depending on angle and grip you can hit all your major back muscles. With any exercise and equipment, just remember to keep your shoulders back and down, pull like you’re trying to squeeze your elbows together behind your back, and when releasing, try to maintain that squeeze as long as possible.
2. Switch up your equipment
If you commonly stick to machine-based back exercises, like lat pulldowns and rows, try switching to cables. With cables, you can normally hit a new angle and use more stabilizer muscles, like a seated or standing cable row. Dumbbells require the most stabilizer muscles and are good for pulling against gravity like in bent-over single-arm rows.
3. Switch up your grip
Supinating your grip by turning your palms up allows for more of the load to be used and maximum contraction of the back because this puts our shoulders into external rotation and helps pull the scapula in the right direction. You can do this with any kind of rows or pull-ups.
4. Take your time
One of the most effective ways to build muscle size is time under tension. Yanking on a machine or dumbbell and doing 10 reps in 5 seconds won’t be as effective as a moderate speed concentric pull and a slow eccentric release. Try timing of 2-1-4-0 for your next back exercise and feel the difference.
5. Don’t forget about the little guys
Don’t forget about your smaller muscle groups like your rear deltoids and rotator cuffs. Hitting rear delts are great for getting a nice rounded shoulder look and definition - try reverse flys either with cables or dumbbells. Though you can’t see your rotator cuffs, including them in your workout routine with moves like internal and external rotations with either a band, cable or dumbbell will ensure you have strength and stability for larger pulling exercises. They’re also important in proper posture and shoulder alignment.
And of course, to sub-mention item #6 which is to join the BE.AM Fitness team! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, or check out beamfitness.ca/services to pick a program that's right for you.
Amy & Maddie.