In the latest of his blog posts, Personal Trainer Ernesto Ortino talks about how to train your back. We train our back for most of the day, we may not know it, but we do! When we sit at a desk, we are curving our spine developing a more hunched posture, when we are picking up our bags from the floor we are training the lower back – the erector spinae, and when we are walking around with bags upon one shoulder we are training an imbalance to develop from side-to-side.
Ok, so we may not always be training our back and shoulders in the best possible way. This places added importance on putting together an effective workout which will stabilise and strengthen your entire core as well as improving your physical appearance.
In order for your back to get stronger and bigger you need to focus on some specific exercises designed to emphasise a pulling motion. A common mistake is to use your arms to pull instead of your back. By squeezing your shoulder blades together focusing on using your back to move the weight, you’ll be taking some of the effort away from the arms and transfer them to the back. Leave the ego to one side and concentrate on technique over weight.
This beginner’s workout routine is an excellent starting point and will help you to target all of your major back muscles. Here are my three favourite exercises for the back and shoulders, but don’t forget, as they are compound movements, they work other muscles, such as your biceps, shoulders and core.
Choose the number of sets and reps based upon what you wish to achieve out of the session. I’d suggest completing this workout only once per week to avoid any risk of overtraining:
For toning: 3 sets x 12/15 reps (rest 45 seconds between sets)
For size: 3-4 sets x 8/10 reps (rest 60 seconds between sets)
For strength: 4-5 sets x 5 reps (rest 90 seconds between sets)
Assisted Pull ups/Chin ups:
These are two great exercises which are hard but very effective. As they can be performed on an assisted machine, it means everyone can do them – no excuses!
The exercises are very similar, just with a different hand grip. The wider the hand grip the more you work the outer part of your lats helping to give you that classic "V-shape"
• Choose a suitable weight, remember the heavier the weight on the assisted machine, the easier the exercise.
• Kneel on the platform with your abs and lower back strong.
• Hold the pull-up bar with overhand grip. For your pull ups, the distance between your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. For your chin ups narrow the distance to shoulder width apart.
• Let yourself hang on the bar.
• Pull yourself up until your head is over the pull-up bar. Hold for one second. Return to starting position.
Once you feel strong enough, move away from the assisted machine and perform these against your full bodyweight – this will get you results, fast!
Cable seated rows (Low pulley row machine)
This is an amazing exercise to build muscle in the middle/centre back. The best way to perform this exercise is with a V-bar handle.
• Sit on the machine and place your feet on the foot platform.
• Check that your knees are slightly bent.
• Grasp the handle keeping your back straight and abs tight.
• Pull the bar until it reaches your waist.
• Pull your shoulder back and push your chest forward.
• Return to start position until your arms are extended and your shoulders are stretched forward.
Some people bend too much when returning the weight to the stack. If you want to make this exercise more effective, keep your body as stable as possible.
Face Pull (Cable Station)
This is a brilliant movement to strengthen your rear deltoids and lower trapezius. It will help you get your upper body into its natural alignment and to stabilise your shoulder joints.
• You will need to attach the pulley rope to the cable machine.
• Stand straight facing the pulley and adjust it according to your head height.
• Keep your back straight and slightly bend your knees.
• Grab the rope with an overhand grip and hold it tightly with your hands.
• Pull the weight towards your chin and rotate your forearms towards your ears, separate your hands when you pull the rope.
• Return to starting position and repeat without pausing.
Avoid using too much weight as this will force you to use your lower back to produce the movement. Also if you feel as though you are moving your head to meet the rope, then the weight is probably too high – lower it and you’ll feel the true benefit.
So there you go! Three ways to start building up your back! Apply these tips and you’ll see significant gains in strength, power, and lean muscle mass. Enjoy!
Read more great fitness tips and advice from Ernesto on his Facebook page.