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A well-developed back will complement any physique. The simple way to break down training back is this. Movement you pull down or up are more for building the width of your back & movements that you row or pull towards yourself are for building thickness. The important thing when training back is getting in a variation of different movements so you can hit all the different angles of your back, to get a fully developed back. When the debate comes down to free weights & machines, the better option is the one that you feel most. There is no one better movement, you should do the exercises in which you feel the most contraction out of the movement. I will go through some basic exercises below that will help you build a good base for your back.
Bent over rows. A simple movement often over complicated. You should be slightly bent over the bar but keep your back straight to make sure it’s protected. You then simply pull the bar towards your torso, roughly around your mid abdominal section. Make sure that you can feel your back contracting. This compound movement will help build multiple muscles in your back but the main back muscles it targets is the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids. Basically more aiming towards your lower back. The negative on this movement really gives you great development on your back, so when you are performing reps really control the movement on its way down to get the full benefits. This movement will also help improve your grip strength as you get stronger, which will in turn help you with other lifts as you further progress to try to do heavier weights!
Lat pull downs are great for getting a wider back. A real staple movement for any back regimen. Please don’t use silly weight because all you will do is incorporate other muscles to be able to pull the bar down. If you use a decent weight and really focus when pulling down you can add some serious width to your back. If you try this movement with drop sets you will get one hell of a burn. I prefer to use a shoulder width grip because that allows me to get a decent range of motion and great squeeze. When you do this movement with you palm facing towards you and a closer grip you change where the muscles you hit in your back. Now with a different grip you aim more towards the upper back. So as you can see different grips hit different angles, so make sure to try different movements and try to use movement where you think your back is weaker. This will ensure you have a proportionally developed back!
Pulls ups are also a great back movement. You can use different grips but for width and to hit your outer lats it normally a wide grip pull up you would start with. With this movement get a full stretch so you can get a full contraction and really get the lats engaged. Normally I like to do this as a warm up so that I can get a good mind muscle connection from the beginning of the workout. You can really get a good stretch so this is a great way to get your back muscles ready for the workout ahead. If you are a beginner and cannot perform many reps, don’t worry build your way up! You can start with close grip pull ups as they are easier and slowly build your strength until you can manage to do wide grip pull ups properly. When the gyms are back open many of them have those machines you can stand / kneel on so you can learn to do pull ups on those too.
Cable rows is a brilliant movement to get real mass / thickness onto you back. You want to try and go heavy as possible while keeping decent form. This movement again works multiple muscles but the main focus is the latissimus dorsi (inner back). If you are doing the movement correctly you will feel a great pump within you back and really feel you lats full of blood. This again will use a lot of forearm strength so make sure you are not swinging so you get the full benefits of the exercise. On my last set of these I like to do multiple drop sets so I can really get the muscles working and shock the back into growing. I hope that some of the tips above helped you, there a lot more exercises which you can perform but these are my 4 favourites that helped me develop my back the most! Below I will enter a basic workout, try it out and let us know how you got on! As you progress add more exercises which you like doing or feel that are missing to the workout.
Pulls ups – 3 sets till failure (close grip if wide are too difficult)
Lat pull downs – 3 sets of 8 (wide / close grip or even both)
Bent over rows – 3 Sets of 10
Cable rows – 3 sets of 10 ( on last set perform drop sets till failure)