Weight Lifting: Back – Exercises For A Thicker, Muscular Back And Lats

weight lifting backIf you’re training with weights, one of your goals may be to have an awesome V-shaped back. A well developed back like this shows that you’re a dedicated bodybuilder and that you’ve really put in the hours at the gym. Lats can be your best friend, as they’re guaranteed to be visible through your shirt or t-shirt and get your body noticed by the opposite sex and your friends.

However, it’s common for beginners to forget about training their back muscles as intensely as they should. One of the reasons for this may be that performing exercises for your back isn’t considered “cool” because you can’t watch yourself in the mirror as you do each rep.

Some people just work out in the gym to look cool and don’t really care how they develop their body, as long as they get a few muscles. However, this is entirely the wrong attitude to take. In order to avoid injury, you need to know what you’re doing in the gym. If you’re a beginner, then following a decent weight training program is a good place to start. And don’t forget, you’ll also need to follow a proper weight training diet, in order to get the most out of your workouts.

To experienced weight lifters, it looks like beginners just don’t care about getting a well defined back. And they should. But beginners seem to focus all their attention on building chest muscles which is a huge error, as flexing the upper back muscles is very important. You wouldn’t want to have a scrawny back and a more muscular chest that’s out of proportion with your back, would you?

If you’re determined to build massive muscle mass and gain weight, then it’s vitally important not to neglect training your back. You may not be aware of it, but the back muscles are the largest muscle group in your upper body, and if you ignore them, you won’t get the big muscles and weight gain that you desire.

If you ignore training your back, apart from limiting the amount of muscle mass and weight you can gain, you can also experience serious muscle asymmetry if you just concentrate all your attention on chest exercises. This muscle disproportion can lead to problems with your posture and even serious injury, which means you may not be able to lift weights again. So ensure you focus on your back and perform intensive back workouts!

Now let’s take a look at some important back exercises you should incorporate in your workout for the best results:

Major Back Muscles To Target In Your Workouts:

back muscles diagram

  • Trapezius (Traps) – The trapezius are muscles in your upper back that run from the back of the neck down to the shoulders. Weight lifting exercises that focus on the traps are upright rows and shrugs.
  • Latisimus Dorsi (Lats) – These are big muscles in your middle back. If you follow a good weight training program, these muscles can make the coveted v-shape that makes your waist look slimmer. Weight lifting exercises that focus on lats are seated rows, wide-grip pull-ups, bent-over rows and the lat-bar pulldown.
  • Rhomboids – This rather small muscle lies in the middle of your upper back, underneath your trapezius muscle. The rhomboids’ main task is to brace the shoulder blades during movements and to bring your shoulder blades nearer to your spine. You can feel a good, strong contraction of your rhomboids if you squeeze your shoulder blades together at the same time. Good weight lifting exercises for your rhomboids are dips, seated cable rows and chin-ups.

Weight Lifting Exercises For Your Back & Lats:

Below is a list of exercises for your back and lats.

Simply click on one of the back exercises to see a video and description of how to perform it correctly:

Pull-Ups

Mechanics Type: Compound

Primary Mover: Lats

Secondary Movers: Biceps, Middle back

Grip a pull-up bar so that your palms are facing away from you. You should be gripping the bar 6-8 inches wider than your shoulders. This will ensure you are targeting your lats. Look towards the ceiling and pull your body up, focusing on pulling down your elbows. Then slowly lower your body back down to the starting point.

Tips:

Make sure your head isn’t right under the bar by angling your upper torso back a little.

When you’ve finished each rep, make sure you go down completely and can feel a stretch at the end of the exercise.

Don’t swing your legs or let the momentum take your body over the bar. And make sure your grip isn’t wider than 6-8 inches past your shoulders as this may bring about an injury. If you can do more than 8 reps with just your bodyweight, you can increase resistance by adding a dumbbell between your feet or legs, Or by using a weight belt, which is my preferred method because then you can concentrate on the exercise instead of focusing on hanging onto the weight.

Barbell Bent-Over Rows

Mechanics Type: Compound

Primary Mover: Middle Back

Secondary Movers: Biceps, Lats, Shoulders

This exercise is a compound lift that’s great for developing a thicker back. Clasp the barbell with an overhand grip (palms down) and make sure you’re holding it at shoulder width. Bend your knees because you’re going to be in a bent over position for this exercise. You want to make sure your back is flat. Pull the barbell towards your lower chest, making sure the rest of your body isn’t moving. Squeeze your back muscles at the top of the movement and then slowly lower it back to the starting position.

Tips:

Make sure you don’t round your back when you do this exercise. Your head needs to be level with your back and your eyes need to be fixed on the horizon, instead of on the ground.

Good form is important for this exercise, so make sure your butt is sticking out when you do this exercise. You can move your body naturally during each rep and let your back rise a little as you lift the weight.

This exercise is a compound lift that’s great for developing a thicker back. Clasp the barbell with an overhand grip (palms down) and make sure you’re holding it at shoulder width. Bend your knees because you’re going to be in a bent over position for this exercise. You want to make sure your back is flat. Pull the barbell towards your lower chest, making sure the rest of your body isn’t moving. Squeeze your back muscles at the top of the movement and then slowly lower it back to the starting position.

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Mechanics Type: Compound

Primary Mover: Middle Back

Secondary Movers: Lats, Biceps, Shoulders

Place one knee on a bench and put the hand on that side of your body on the bench as well. Your other leg will balance you on the floor. Pick up the dumbbell with your free hand. Make sure your arm is stretched out fully so you can feel a corresponding stretch in your lats. Now, your back should be arched and your elbow right next to your body as you draw up the weight towards your rib cage. Squeeze your back muscles together as you feel them contract, then slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting point.

Tips:

Your back should be arched, not rounded and your butt should be stuck out. Your body can move naturally when you perform this exercise. It’s important to pull the dumbbell into your ribcage instead of your chest because this will place the focus of this exercise on your back.

Lat Pulldowns

Mechanics Type: Compound

Primary Mover: Lats

Secondary Movers: Middle Back, Biceps, Shoulders

If you want to work your upper and mid back, then lat pulldowns are great. Sit down at a lat pulldown machine, making sure your knees can slip under the pads. Grasp the bar with an outward facing grip with your hands on the bar at a length of approximately 6-8 inches wider than your shoulders. Now pull down on the bar, aiming it towards your upper torso. When pulling you need to lean backwards and arch your back a little during the complete motion. When you’ve got the weight at your torso, contract your lat muscles for a second, and then carefully push up to place the bar back to the starting point.

Tips:

It’s important you don’t move your upper body all around during each rep.

But you can move naturally while performing each rep and your body can sway backwards a little as you pull downwards on the weight. If you lean backwards 45-55 degrees towards the ground when pulling down on the weight you can avoid injury and place greater stress on your lats.

Don’t pull the bar down behind your neck as you could injure yourself. Make sure you pull the bar down in front of your body.

Barbell Shrugs

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Traps

Secondary Movers: None

Grip the barbell making sure your palms are facing inwards. Your palms should be placed on the bar just inside your shoulders. Stand with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Stretch out your arms downwards. Now pull up your shoulders, as if you were shrugging “I don’t know” to a question someone asked you. Pull up the bar as high as you can. Make sure you contract your traps at the peak of the motion, and then slowly lower the weight down to the starting point.

Tips:

It’s important not to roll your shoulders when performing this exercise. Just remember to shrug for correct form and make sure your arms are straight when shrugging the weight up.

Dumbbell Shrugs

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Traps

Secondary Movers: None

(NOTE: Don’t mind the weird pictures towards the end of this video… haha. This dude is obviously in love with himself BUT he does give good advice for how to do dumbbell shrugs.)

Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and in each hand grab a dumbbell from the floor. (Make sure you use your leg muscles to pick up the weight, not your back.) Your arms should be stretched downwards and then shrug your shoulders, trying to bring those dumbbells up as high as possible. You need to squeeze your traps at the peak of the motion, and then slowly lower your arms back to the starting point. Do as many reps as you can. When you can’t do any more, make sure you bend your knees as you put the dumbbells back on the floor or just re-rack them.

Tips:

Don’t roll your shoulders, just shrug your shoulders straight up and down. Make sure your arms are straight the whole time during each rep.

 

 

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