by Kevin Thomas
In my personal opinion probably the second most neglected body part next to legs is the back. A big broad back giving your a V shape flare is impressive and is what gives bodybuilders their distinctive look. John noted during my shoot that my lats in particular seemed to stand out and asked if I would write an article for his site on my back routine. Well I do not do anything all that secret or special but nonetheless will attempt to briefly summarize my back routine and what I found worked for me.
First of all if you start out your back routine with lat cable pulldowns....well....don't expect to get a broad wide back anytime soon. Many of you might be surprised by this thinking that the lat pulldown since it seems to especially target the lats of the back would be the best exercise to give you that V look and flare. However as is the case with all the other body parts you always want to start your workout with the basic compound preferably free weight movement which targets the whole back. The best overall back exercise in my opinion is the deadlift and I think you could build an impressive back even just by doing the deadlift alone. Sometimes people will see me at the gym doing deadlifts and come over and say " so that works out the lower back?" No, on the contrary it works out the whole back.
It is important to do the deadlift correctly to avoid injury and to work out back effectively.. Most gyms have a deadlift platform where the bar rests about waist level on two poles. Now I see some guys grab the bar with one palm facing the legs and one palm facing away from the legs. Some find this gives you a better grip and more strength. I find it somewhat awkward and just grab the bar with both palms facing my legs. Try both to see what works best for you. Now the important thing is to keep the bar close to your body throughout the movement. There will be a natural tendency for you to let the bar move away from the body. This is not good as it increases likelihood of injury and makes the movement less effective. Keep the bar real close to legs and waist the whole time, almost having it touch the body the whole time. Slowly lower the bar while keeping your head looking not down but face forward. Continue lowering until bar hits floor or until it hits your ankles if you are able to do it on a deadlift platform. Likewise when you lift bar back to waist level once again keep bar close to the body during the whole movement. It is on the way back that you will be most likely to let the bar move away from your body, but make a special effort to not let it. Believe me if you have not included deadlifts in your back routine until now, once you do you will definitely feel that the back has been worked out the next day. You do not need to do mega sets to work out the back. I do one warm up set and then three main sets. I know every muscular guy and bodybuilder can relate to me when they have non gym people come up to them and say " you must work out seven days a week four hours a day?" The answer to that of course is NO. To do that would make you look more like a concentration camp victim rather than a bodybuilder.
So the main focus of my back workout is the deadlift. Yes after that I will most likely do some finishing exercises of either lat pulldowns, t bar rows or cable rows. The deadlift however is the meat of the back workout. The second major point to my back workout and in fact to all my workouts is rep and weight variation. Are you doing the same rep scheme every time you do a workout?? If so, I would probably bet the farm that you have been stuck at a plateau for some time. Yes, there should be days you go heavy and do a weight where you can only do 3-5 reps maximum. The next workout you should do weights where you can only do 6-8 reps maximum. After that you will have a light day where you do a weight for each exercise where you can only do 10-12 reps maximum at that weight. I rotate on these three rep schemes. Every once in awhile I will do a workout where I do mega reps...like 30-40 reps. Of course it goes without saying that each time you will want to try to go up in reps or weight. Let's say that at a previous workout you could only do six reps for a certain weight. Next time try to get eight at that weight. I carry around a log during my workout. It amazes me that not many others do as how else can they chart their workout progress. Continue to try to go up in weight and the size and mass will follow. So there in a nutshell is my back routine....do the basic compound movement, don't do too many sets, vary the rep scheme, continue to try to go up in weight and follow good form. Bodybuilding is not voodoo medicine. I sometimes think we make it more complicated than it really is. I think if I could gvie one bit of advice to beginners it is to stay away form Muscle and fitness magazine. It has week after week of all these different routines that will produce in you a sea of confusion. They have to do this to be able to continue to sell magazines, but it really comes down to the three or four simple points I made above.
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