Don’t ignore your back


The upper back is one of those bodyparts which is often neglected. The reason is quite simple I believe. We train what we can see. It’s more fun to train the biceps, chest and shoulders because we can see these when we steer directly into those oversized mirrors. But the back is not one we can view easily. So it generally gets the low priority treatment. Back gets slotted in after chest or shoulders or lower back and consists of some pull downs and rows. Exercise selection is poor and we tend to train without the volume and intensity required.

    The reality is that the upper back is one of the most important bodyparts. From a personal point of view my bench only really started to take off once I began to focus on my back. The purpose of this post is to reinforce the importance of training the upper back.

    Regular followers will be familiar with my adage “a big arse bench physique”. This touches on my view that we need to train the back like a bodybuilder. There is nothing more impressive than a big, thick, wise back with sweeping lats and dense muscularity through the mid back. It’s not all about all show and no go. To me it is about building a big back to make better and stronger lifters.

    Powerlifters do not have great backs. The reasons in my opinion are:

    • They don’t train their backs hard enough.
    • They train with poor technique and/or use too much weight.
    • They do not use enough volume to properly stimulate the upper back muscles.

    For intermediate and advanced lifters I suggest that you devote one session a week to training the upper back. For beginners I suggest that you train your back alongside another bodypart but that you still train with purpose and look to perform 8-12 sets spread across 2-3 exercises.

    For advanced lifters I believe that you need to train the back like a bodybuilder. This means lots of sets and reps and variety. I will do 25-30 sets for my back and the session is over in about an hour.

    A typical training for me will look something like this:

    1. Front lat pulldowns- 2×10, 2×8, 2×6, 2×8, 2×10
    2. Cable rows- 10, 8, 6, 8, 10
    3. T- Bar rows- 10, 8, 6, 8, 10
    4. Bent over barbell rows- 10, 8, 6, 8, 10
    5. Behind neck pulldowns- 4×15

    My rep range allows me to achieve a good balance between training heavy with big weights and going lighter with more reps. I believe that the key is to train with a full range of motion. My lats grow when I have a big stretch at the bottom of each rep.

    My message is pretty simple. You need a big powerful upper back if you are going to be strong. If you want back to be your best bodypart, train it as hard and as smart as your best bodypart.

    Bigger stronger smarter

,

  1. #1 by john schulte on October 26, 2012 - 10:07 pm

    Powerlifters do not have great backs. The reasons in my opinion are:

    • They don’t train their backs hard enough.
    • They train with poor technique and/or use too much weight.
    • They do not use enough volume to properly stimulate the upper back muscles.

    you obviously know nothing about powerlifting lol

    • #2 by bigger stronger smarter on October 26, 2012 - 10:28 pm

      Cool story bro. I know a little bit John.

      Why don’t you tell me a bit more about yourself and your philosophies? Then we can have an intelligent discussion. I’m not into trading insults. Let’s leave that for the weak and small.

      Craig

      • #3 by john schulte on October 26, 2012 - 11:53 pm

        ya know what…that was probably the best reply i have ever gotten when someone has a different view on training…and im not being a smart ass im being serious….absolutely lets talk…..

        i used to be one of the top discus throwers in the country (getting back into training again cuz im not that old …yet;) lol 37) and powerlifting became second nature to me with training…mind you i learned the right way to lift when i was a freshman in high school my coach was a 4 time olympian in shot and discus….

        now i will say that i do powerlifting for strength and my sport….lifting for powerlifting competions the technique is a little different and in my opinion take away from the lift…

        example…my main lift is hang clean…..not a power hang or power clean from the floor….when i do them i pull the weight as high as i can then catch it….most competative powerlifters pull a little then go get the bar (jump under it) and basically do a front squat…in my opinion kinda defeats teh purpose in the lift..its a pull so pull it dont just front squat it

        now by doing it this way my back is rediculously strong….best hang clean without droping under it was 405….321 snatch and 705 tripe back squat….never when for a single in th front squats but at one time i did 315 for a set of 31….insane…but great

        anway….by actually pulling the weight more builds the hell out of my back and shoulders….guess this was the long version of saying that but lol

      • #4 by bigger stronger smarter on October 27, 2012 - 12:28 am

        Very nice reply. Thank you. 🙂

        I am a powerlifter as opposed to an Olympic lifter. I have competed internationally and will again shortly as a raw lifter. I don’t do Olympic movements in training. My best lifts are around a 350 kg squat (770 pound), 230 kg bench, 350 kg deadlift. These are around 112 kg bodyweight. I am trying to grow into the 125 kg class. So I’m not one of these guys who is all about theories. 🙂

        I don’t disagree with what you are saying. Pulling big heavy weights explosively builds muscle. My point about bodyparts like back is that you can improve weak points by working with more variety and volume and using good technique. Traditional approaches to powerlifting have overlooked this and in my view many lifters do not reach their potential because they throw in a few sets of rows and pulldowns and think that the job is done. I now take a more powerbuilding approach to my training. And proper training technique is important.

        Athletes like yourself are inspirational to me. There is nothing more impressive than a big strong athlete dominating the weight room.

        Keep me posted with your comeback. I myself am 39 and have never been stronger.

        All the best

        Craig

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