If chest day is the only day when you load the Olympic bar with some heavy weights, you might want to reconsider your training program. Having great pecs for the price of keeping your back weak and under-stimulated won’t bring you any closer to your ultimate ideal of a strong, muscular physique.
So unless your primary reason for lifting is building a more impressive beach-ready front side, use the following advanced back routine to sculpt a huge and powerful back!
There Are Two Sides to Everything
One of the saddest truths in the weight room is that most guys seem addicted to pressing movements without any awareness of the much required balance between pressing and pulling.
In other words, to build a balanced, healthy and optimally strong body, especially if you struggle with back development, you need an equal amount of pressing and pulling (if not more pulling than pressing actually). And for every heavy bench press you do, you should be ready to perform an adequately heavy pulling exercise.
This is probably one of the most obvious, yet hard to follow rules for bodybuilding progress, and it’s time to put it into practice. Not to mention that including more pulling movements in your routine on a regular basis will allow your biceps to reach their full growth potential.
The Advanced Way to Work Your Back
Your back needs to be trained both hard and effectively, which is why this workout is based on the most efficient moves for building width and thickness in the back – the wide-grip pull-up and bent-over rows – while the supporting moves include cable rows, lat pull-downs and lower back extensions.
When it comes to bodyweight exercises, the wide-grip pull-up is their crowned king. Besides giving your entire body a challenging workout, pull-ups with a wide grip will train your lats more intense and thoroughly than any other pull-up or chin-up variation, and will push your core muscles to grow substantially denser and stronger as well.
Due to the increased difficulty, your core musculature will have to work harder to maintain stability and balance, and the effects will be felt in every aspect of your performance.
The bent-over row is one of the greatest old-school compound movements that works the lats, rhomboids, rear delts, traps and even biceps, and using it properly will ensure you are getting optimal benefits out of your back training.
And if you’re an avid bench presser, know that the bench press and bent-over row go together like peanut butter and jelly – by counterbalancing what the bench press does for your pecs, the row will help you build a strong and stable upper back and protect your torso from muscle imbalances and posture issues. To reap these gains, keep your form as perfect as possible and if wear a weightlifting belt if necessary.
The back routine
- Rowing Machine: 5 minutes
- Lat Pull-Downs: 1 set x 12-15reps with lighter weight
- Pull-Ups: 1 set, short of failure
Wide-Grip Pull-Ups: 5 x 10 reps
Bent Over Rows: 5 pyramid sets of 12,10,10,8,8 reps
Lat Pull-Down/Lower Back Extension: 3 supersets, 10-12 reps per set
You will start with a five-minute warm up on a rowing machine, if you have one of those available at your gym. Continue warming up with a light set of lat pull-downs and one set of pull-ups. If you don’t have a rowing machine you can just use light bands and improvise the rowing movement.
For the working sets, limit your rest periods to 60-90 seconds between all sets, and reduce them even further between supersets. Include rest-pauses on the last two sets of pull-ups to maximally fatigue the muscles.
On bent-over rows, you will start with a lighter weight and then pyramid up; on cable rows you’ll do the reverse. Finish the workout with lat pull-down/back extension supersets to exhaust all posterior muscles in the upper body and get a monster pump. Make sure to focus on the back muscles on every rep, and limit arm involvement as much as possible.
Whether you like it or not, your back defines your physique, and if you don’t work on it you will miss on the opportunity to build a powerful, balanced and healthy body. One of the most prominent characteristics of a well-developed, athletic physique is undoubtedly the three-dimensional V-taper that makes a lifter look huge and impressive, so it’s no wonder that this is also one of the hardest area to fully develop.
Sometimes the reason for this is that people tend to avoid training what they can’t see, sometimes its sheer laziness or worse, an unhealthy infatuation with the chest and biceps.
Don’t be one of those guys who do only the exercises they enjoy and then wonder why they don’t get respect in the gym. It’s time to think big and train for greatness!
I am 66 years and am using a pacemaker for the last 5 years so I can’t do really heavy weights…I compensate by doing plenty of reps…30/35 on most exercises…can you please advise me about which are the best exercises I should do and the ones to avoid…I work out 4 days a week….legs, chest and abs and shoulders back and arms…one day rest then the following two days the same routine then two days rest…
If we are talking about back exercises then I would go with dumbbell and barbell rows, cable rows, cable pull downs, straight arm pulldowns. I would add deadlifts ocassionally but watch the weight and not go over 10 reps.