Building a Powerful Back


A lot of people love to work chest and arms.

Some people love to work shoulders.

A coupla people love to work legs – like me.

But very few people love to work their back.

And , why is that, you may ask?

I guess, because of all the groups you could be working today- the one you need to be the most careful in form and execution– is back.

You can tear that sucker up so bad, you’ll never chase another redhead again.

I’ve seen it done.

And, when you run into the guy at the supermarket or pizza place who wants to tell you all about the competing and working out he USED to do,

…. but now only lifts boxes of pizza and Krispy Kremes, invariably, he says he can’t workout out anymore – because he ruined his back.

Now, I’m not sayin’ all them guys are tellin you the absolute skinny…..

But, it does demonstrate how a back injury can take you outta the game- maybe permanently.

So- you wanna ‘watch your back’.
( Ok, bad pun, but what do you want for nuthin’? )

One thing you learn quick – just about every pulling movement, like rows, pull ups, pull downs, etc. are good for building the back.

Most of the work for middle back is folcrumed through the Latissimus Dorsi, the upper back the Trapezius, and the erector spinae muscles in the lower back.

Remember this – never arch your back forward – with your head and shoulders glooping forward..
always lift with an natural arch – head and shoulder slightly back.

When working with heavier weights, practice and use a technique called “blocking” –
basically, this means sucking in some air, pushing your chest out, your shoulder in, and flexing your abdominals.

This supports your internal structure, and gives you more stability and concentration of power.

Here’s how Delavier describes it:

” The chest expands with compressed air, which supports the rib cage and prevents the chest from collapsing forward.

Contracting the abdominal muscles during compression supports the core and increases the intra-abdominal pressure, which prevents the torso from collapsing forward.

Arching the lower back by contracting the lumbar muscles positions the spinal column in a strong and proper alignment during extension. “

——————————————(Frederic Delavier, “Strength Training Anatomy“)

Now, let’s talk about those movements and implements you should use to design a back workout for building strength and maybe even showin off on the beach.

( I’ve been to Venice Beach – it ain’t all that, believe me… )

Recommended Exercises:

Back Hyperextensions
Start by lying face down, then raise your arm and head with the opposite leg.
Sounds easy, but everybody learns to hate em.

Good Mornings
While standing, place a barbell across the back of your shoulders as you would for squats.
Keeping your legs rigid, bend forward at the waist, with head up, until your shoulders are parallel with your knees.
Do not do these while incarcerated, or on the beach in Provincetown.

Lying Leg Raises
Start by lying on a mat face up with your legs straight out. Lift your legs straight up using only your abdominals and hip flexors. Lower your legs down without them touching the ground and repeat . Yawn.

Trap Squeaks or Shrugs
Standing, take a dumbell in each hand, and with your arms at your side, raise your shoulders as high as you can go, then return to the starting position. ( You can use a Hammer Strength machine for this as well. )

Lat Pull Down (Machine)
Using a wide bar, hold it with a wide comfortable grip, while putting your knees underneath the pad. Pull the bar down smoothly until it touches the top of your chest. No cheatie da weightie.

Bent over Barbell (or Dumbell) Row
Stand with feet shoulder width apart and a bend in the knees. Bend at the waist with your head up and grasp a bar with an wide overhand grip. Raise and lower in slow deliberate motion, keeping elbows out. If you’re a bodybuilder, the dumbbells are for you. If you train for strength, I prefer the bar.

Back Extensions (Machine)
Adjust pad to midback, push back, keeping natural arch until almost flat. Take your time and flex your abs and back during each rep. This is a good way to catch your breath between other more strenuous movements, and to catch a glimpse of any hotties that may be passing by, too.

Long Pull (Machine)
Sit on machine with back in natural arch, pull bar forward toward chest. works upper and mid back. I love these… but don’t round your back– or something could go SPpppRrrrOING!!!.

Seated Row (Machine)
Same as above – works mid and lower back. You will learn to love these, too. Umm hmm.

Bend over with your knees slightly bent and your arms locked out, putting the power emphasis on your quadraceps, hamstrings, glutes, and support with your lower back. Raise in a powerful quick motion, lower and repeat. This is my absolutely favorite movement – but don’t forget the rules here…
2- remember your BLOCKING,
3- and once you’re ready, COMMIT TO THE LIFT.

Alrighty… that’ll certainly get your back day into motion.

If you love your back, your back will love you back…..
( ummm… or somethin’ like that, anyway. )

Bottom Line — you can learn to love working your back!!

—- Now, go get you some.


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