Having a strong back will do wonders for the overall look of the upper body.
Okay, so the chest and shoulders make you look athletic but it is the back
muscles that will add real size and shape (the classical 'V shape') to your
Below we'll discuss the must have exercises to develop great back muscles.
But first we'll take a quick anatomy lesson.
There are a smaller number of muscle groups that make up the muscularity
of the back.
The 'lats' are the muscles lying at each side of the upper back. These muscles
give the appearance of the the aforementioned classic V shape and developing
this muscle group will add both size and width to the upper back.
The 'traps' are located between the neck and deltoids. They stretch from
the base of the head (neck) to the mid point of the upper back. It is these
muscles that give the appearance of wide strong shoulders and a strong neck.
These muscles are located around and on top of the shoulder blades. These
muscles support the lats and the traps and give the appearance of a well
developed and toned back.
These small but crucial muscles lie at the base of the back and support
the spine and torso. Without strong lumbar muscles you will be prone to
lower backache and low back problems later on down the line.
The trick to building either strength, tone or size is to perform the same
exercises but under different conditions.
- Perform 3 - 5 repetitions for
4 - 5 sets.
- Perform 6 - 10 repetitions for 3 sets.
- Perform 12 - 15 repetitions for 2
- 3 sets.
Prepare a barbell. Position it on the floor and stand over it with your
ankles very close to the bar. Bend your knees while keeping your lower back
straight. Grasp the bar with your palms facing your legs. Grip tightly.
With your knees still bend look forward and up slightly. Now drive your
feet into the floor and pull the bar up until you are standing tall and
the bar is handing in front of you. Bend your knees and keep your lower
back straight to return the bar to the floor. Repeat for the desired number
You will be able to pull a lot of weight
quickly with this exercise. However, do not do so if you feel any lower
back pain or if more weight means you can't maintain a straight back throughout
The performance or the pull up and pull down are essentially the same. The
difference is that the pull up requires the performer to pull their own
weight up until their chin is above the bar, while the pull down allows
the performer to use less weight while pulling the bar down below the chin.
For the purpose of this discussion I will assume that if you can perform
pull ups you have been exercising for a while already and that you understand
how to perform both variations. Thus I will discuss the pull down.
Sit facing the weight stack. Place the pin in at approximately 75 percent
of your own body weight. Grasp the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder
width grip. Hold a naturally curved lower back and look up at the bar. Maintain
this position throughout. Contract the muscles of the back and you will
see and feel the bar move. Pull the back muscles down and back until the
bar reaches your upper chest. Pause and then return for the count of 3.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
As you tire, or if you are using too much weight, you will
feel little effort from the back muscles and more emphasis from the biceps
and arms. If this is the case lower the weight used until you can feel the
back doing all of the work.
Grasp two moderately heavy dumbbells. Stand tall with the weights hanging
by your sides. Look forward and allow the arms to hang straight. Maintain
this position throughout the performance of the exercise.
Concentrate on pulling your shoulders high and up towards your ears. Pull
them as high as possible. Pause, them slowly allow your shoulders to relax
and drop to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.