The development of certain muscle groups can truly define one’s physique. When one thinks of power, strength, and even aesthetics many different muscles can come to mind. No one can deny however, that a thick and wide back says power, strength, and contributes to the visual of a body.
The back is involved in many different movements. It is a part of the posterior chain of muscles that run constitute the back of the body (others are glutes, hamstrings, calves). The back has a involvement in pretty much all pulling movements of the body- if it be pulling something from the ground, pulling the body up in the air, or pulling something towards the body. The back is used a lot to say the least.
How does one develop their back into something special? Even though the back is worked indirectly a lot as noted, it does require isolated and direct training as well. When training becomes isolated, one needs to know what they are training before they know how to train it.
The back in simple terms can be broken down into a few groups. Starting at the top, you have the traps (rear delts are involved but are trained indirectly when working back). Working your way down you have smaller muscles (rhomboids, infraspinatus, teres major and minor) that are trained indirectly with the training of the bigger muscles such as the lats and lower back. Since all those smaller muscles are hit when training the bigger muscles, the focus on this article is of course the big muscles!
Starting with the traps, nothing beats a good, heavy set of shrugs, Now, shrugs can be done using dumbbells or a barbell (word to the wise, forearms are usually trained harder when shrugging with dumbbells due to the required grip to hold the weight individually in each hand, so take note if you are looking at building up grip and forearms). Many people go way too heavy when shrugging which restricts their ability to get their shoulders up, engaging those traps. Find a weight where you can get that effective range of motion. Mix it up and even do a behind-the-back shrug with a barbell which helps put more emphasis on the middle part of the upper back as well.
Working our way down to the lats and main area up the back you have a slew of options when it comes to isolated training. The best method when training back is going heavy, but always keep in mind your form and clean, high quality reps. A good rep range would be 8-12 reps.
Here are some effective back movements:
- Deadlifts (works pretty much everything)
- Wide-Grip Pull-Ups (focus is on lats)
- Standing T-Bar Row (lats, rhomboids)
- Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row (lats, rear delts, teres major and minor)
- Close-Grip Pull Downs (lats, rear delts)
- Single Arm Dumbbell Rows (lats, rhomboids)
- Dumbbell Pullovers (lats)
(Please note that even cleans are very effective for back training, especially with a focus on the traps. Do not neglect big, compound movements when training back because they truly give the back an extra “pop” and thick look)
Now looking at the lower back, options in training may not be as abundant, but that does not take away the significance of it. Lower back training is maybe more important for function than for looks. Having a strong lower back will help out with many lifts and even contributes to overall core strength. Movements such as planks, lower back extensions, good mornings, and even stiff legged dead lifts all contribute to a stronger and more developed lower back. These muscles are very delicate though because this is where the body’s center of gravity usually rests so the muscles are always firing and engaged, so going really heavy to train them is not the emphasis as much as isolating them through nice, clean reps. Focusing on a rep range of 6-12 is good so the muscles are not fatigued or over worked.