This has been a favorite back workout of mine for years

June 15, 2018

The back for me was always something I wanted to create into a masterpiece. Especially when I would step on stage, the back is where shows could be lost or won, so I made sure that my back workouts were hitting all the right spots.

The back is a complex group of muscles that we can’t see when training. We don’t see the muscles working, flexing, and pumping as we perform the repetitions, and all too often I see people rushing the exercise and using too much weight to effectively work the muscles. The back is one area that if you can learn to ‘feel’ the muscles work, and control them during the various movements, you’ll start to make progress in your overall back development, as well as find many other movements that are facilitated by the back muscles, improve also. You owe it to yourself to learn proper back muscle involvement during each and every exercise performed.

rob riches back workout

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Learn To Consciously Flex

When you’re performing bicep curls, or a chest press, you can see the muscle working as your performing the movement. Your eyes are sending signals to your brain to contract the muscles as you perform the movement. When perming many back exercises, you don’t have that same signaling because you’re not looking at the muscle. This can weaken the mind-muscle connection, and can leave you performing the movement without fully involving the muscles with maximal peak contraction.

Learn to consciously flex your back muscles at rest. Perfect the art of thinking about the muscles in your back and contract them without performing an exercise. This can take some practice, but this method of contraction-visualization as you’re moving the weight will really help spur your development.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to have someone place two fingers vertically  at the center of your back (right about where a woman’s bra strap would sit), and try to pinch them by squeezing your back muscles together – with your arms relaxed at the side of your body. Then try it without any fingers placed there. Once you’ve got the idea and can flex your muscles without the need of any resistance, try doing this the next time you perform a lat pulldown, or seated cable row. Feel the difference?

Lead With The Elbows

Another thing I’ve often seen with back training is people pulling too much with their arms, involving their biceps to pull the handle towards them, which lessens the involvement of the back muscles. Next time you perform any type of back exercise that involves a handle or bar being pulled in towards you (Lat Pulldown, Row, even Deadlifts), focus on your elbows being driven back with your hands just holding on to the grip. This approach will help take some of the emphasis off the biceps, and allow you to better focus on involving the back muscles to contract.

I’ve also found it to be beneficial to allow for a full stretch in the lats when lowering the weight, by allowing the arms to be fully lengthened and the lat muscles spread as though they’re wrapping around your torso. The easiest way to do this is on a seated cable row, whereby you can tilt forwards at the waist a little when your arms are fully lengthened and you’ve almost lowered the weight down to the bottom. You’ll feel a really deep stretch within your lats, and then as you return to an upright seated position, start to contract the back, and lead the pull with your elbows. Do you feel the difference?


Include Some Unilateral Exercises

Try to include at least 1-2 unilateral movements (one arm at a time), in every back workout, or at least every other back workout. Besides one-arm dumbbell rows, you can almost perform every other back-type movement as a single-arm variation. You just need to get a little creative, but the effort is worth it. Not only will it help iron out any weaknesses and muscle imbalances, but will help you develop a greater understanding of your own body and training.

rob riches back workout

Exercise 1

5 sets of 15,12,12,10,8 reps

Exercise 2

4 sets of 12,10,10,8 reps (using neutral grip bar)

Exercise 3

3 sets of 12,10,8 reps

Exercise 4

3 sets of 12,12,10 reps

Exercise 5

3 sets of 15,12,12 reps