I hear it all the time: “I just don’t feel like I’m fully engaging my back,” or “My back is never sore from my workouts,” or even, “I don’t ‘feel’ my back when I’m working it,” if you’ve ever said or thought any of the above phrases, you are not alone!
Feeling that “mind + body” connection when lifting can be challenge for many, especially when trying to target the back muscles. When you “feel” your muscles working, engaging, squeezing and lengthening in through every rep and set, your workouts suddenly become much for efficient and effective. Results start popping up and plateaus start shattering by simply connecting the cognitive to the physical. It’s all about FEELING and acknowledging that feeling!
Enough about feelings, let’s talk about attacking your back workouts to help create the mind-body connection and stimulate the results you’re looking for.
For the “Attack Your Back” workout I chose my favorite back exercises which are also my old-faithful “go to’s” when I need a good, full ROM, back workout.
- Cable Lat Pulldown: the primary target here is the Latissimus Dorsi and the execution is performed by gripping the bar over-hand and wider than shoulder width (but not too wide as it will compromise range-of-motion). Pull the bar down to the top of the chest, squeeze, and release the bar creating a FULL stretch in the arms, lats and shoulders. Often times people do not allow full extension when performing this exercise, resulting in a decrease in range-of-motion, limiting development potential.
- High Rows: this exercise can be performed on the cable with the rope attachment as I am demonstrating in the video, or on several types of machines, so be sure to mix it up each time your perform this exercise. For this exercise it is important to lean forward while stretching and reaching upwards on the eccentric movement, while not move the torso backward too far on the concentric movement. Allow the elbows to move past the midline of the torso while also pulling the shoulders back and squeezing the shoulder blades together at the bottom of the contraction.
- Single Arm Seated Rows: in the video this exercise is being performed on the Hammer Strength Iso-lateral Low-Row, however this could be performed on the cables or swapped out for dumbbell rows. Using the Iso-Lateral Row provides the stabilization needed so that I can focus on using heavier weight. Be sure to allow a full stretch on the extension and pull back far enough on the contraction, past the midline of the waist while also stretching the shoulder back and squeezing the scapula.
- T-Bar Row: this is a true “no cheating” exercise as keeping the chest glued to the pad while performing the rows isolate the back and rear delts, preventing any help from the core or legs. This exercise is a staple in all of my back workouts, along with Lat Pull-Downs of course! Full range of motion is necessarily in order to get the most out of this exercise for effective back development. I prefer using a wide grip here most of the time, but you can certainly alternate between wide grip and close grip.
- Bent Over T-Bar Row: keep your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and torso at a 45 degree angle with your back straight and core engaged, a true full body exercise while targeting the back. This exercise is advanced, as it requires use of the entire body and meticulous form in order to get the most out of it. Start out with lighter weight and if you notice your torso rising above 45 degrees, reduce the weight. You are no longer working the targeted muscles! I prefer using a close grip on this exercise however, you can alternate between close grip and wide grip here as well.
- Incline Dumbbell Twisting Row: I like to use this exercise as a “finisher” to really finish burning out the trapezius, rhomboids, teres minor, teres major, and rear delts. Adding in the twist is CRUCIAL to making this the most difficult part of your back workout. Getting the form right and adding that twist, you won’t need much weight at all to feel the effects of this. Remember to keep full range of motion and add a pause squeeze for at least one second at the top of the row, pulling your shoulders back and pinching both shoulder blades together.
- Cable Pullovers: I love using this as my lat finisher, but it truly works the entire back and core. You must keep your core stabilized and engaged while performing this exercise. Start with your arms by your ears, pull the bar towards your hips, also pulling the shoulders back, and allow your arms to return all the way back to your ears. Often times I see people skimp on full range of motion for this exercise and it makes a world of difference to do it correctly! Try using different attachments from time to time as well like an EZ bar or the rope.
- TRX Supine Row: Surely your back will be numb by the time your reach this exercise, but just in case it isn’t (you may need to use more weight and decrease your reps on the above exercises! J) this exercise is added in for good measure! The closer your body is to the ground the more bodyweight your will be pulling up. Still not hard enough? Add a twisting motion with the arms as pictured in the video or like we did on the Incline Dumbbell Twisting Row exercise.
*The number one key to back development and detail: FULL RANGE OF MOTION (ROM).