Last night was a brutal back workout but brutal in an ‘I Love It!!’ kinda way. Working the back is something many people struggle with but is essential to get a well rounded and symmetrical appearance. It is a large area (stating the obvious!) made up of a number of muscles such as the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), Rhomboids and Serratus amongst others.
The key to working out the back has the same principle as all other muscles; the focus should be on the mind to muscle connection. You must feel the muscle working, feel the contraction whilst moving the weight. With all back exercises the temptation is for the arms take over, instead what you need to do is imagine pulling the weight from your elbows. If you concentrate on just moving your elbows back, then you will begin to be on the right path… the path of en’LAT’enment!!
So onto my workout last night:
Firstly, warm up on the cable pull down for 5 sets of 10-12 reps. I often do this standing to begin with for perhaps the first two sets and then I get into the conventional seated pull down position. I use a light weight (around 30-40 kg for the first two sets and then move up 10 kgs each time for the next 3 sets). But remember this is just the warm up so use lighter weights and do it slow with a full range of motion.
Next we get the back pump on! Starting off with my favourite machine:
- Seated Cable Row – 5 Sets of 15 reps. In a working set I use a mix of hand grips; hammer grip, overhand and underhand, each for 5 reps. This may seem excessive but I want to work all grips and target all the different angles because I love the feeling on this machine and also next we have…
- One Arm Dumbbell Rows – 10 sets in total but divided into both arms (so essentially it is 5 sets). I pull a moderate to heavy weight up with a powerful concentric contraction (up) and a slower eccentric move (down) and trying to really feel the pull in the lats. Again, don’t let your arm do all the work, pull from the elbow.
- Smith Machine Deadlifts – 5 sets of 10-12 reps. This is not your conventional deadlift as I set the stoppers around shin height. So, although I am still bending with my legs with good form (arched back etc.) most of the weight is pulled from your inner back muscles such as the internal obliques and even into the traps towards the top of the motion (via a slight shoulder drawback at the top of the movement). To really accentuate the muscle contraction I also try to pull away from the machine.
- Low Cable Rows (with rope attachment) – 3 sets to failure. A fairly simple move; I pull up the U-Rope attachment to chin height, flaring out the elbows and feel the burn around the shoulder blades. Just go to failure as this is one where 15 reps just isn’t enough!
- Pull Downs – 5 sets (dropsets). I move back to the pull down machine and do more or less the same as the warm up but with bigger weights and not standing! Often, I do drop sets on these so I go very heavy for say 5 reps, then a bit lighter for the next 10 and then even lighter until failure. A partner is required for this… my wife seems to manage but she is a bit hardcore!
- Lastly, Lat ‘Squeeze’ Machine – 3 Sets of 6-8 reps. I purely use this as a finisher and go a bit lighter on the last set. I like to hold/ pause the rep at maximum contraction for a couple of seconds just to feel the burn but really this is the beginning of the warm down so full motion is accentuated which leads into the stretching process.
Now we are done don’t forget to fully stretch. I find the most effective stretch after a back workout is ‘The Tree Hug’. If you join your hands together by interlinking the fingers and create a circle with your arms, imagine you are hugging a tree and stretch up down and all around.
And that’s that. Back peaks back…alright!!