Tips for Effective Back Training

Don't you think it strange that the professional bodybuilders, weightlifters and trainers always seem to ignore the back? When did you hear of them doing back training?

We hear of core muscles, legs, arms, chest, abs etc, but nobody pays much attention to the back! I find this strange and very under-rated.

For one thing, the lower back muscles are the antagonistic muscles to the abdominal muscles and keep that area of the torso in proper balance. The internet and late night television are full of ads for ab exercises and gadgets, yet they hardly ever talk about the opposite muscles, which are equally important.

Secondly, lower back pain is among the most common of medical complaints, of both men and women. Strengthening these muscles is an easy way to, in many cases, get total relief from chronic pain and is infinitely better than an addiction to painkillers.

So, let’s look at a few ways to get more out of your back training.

As you know, I'm a huge fan of SCT, so I’m going to assume that you’re already doing the Static Contraction workout, as described in Train Smart 2009, which means you are already using the #1 ranked exercises for upper back, lower back and trapezius muscles, but here are a few more ways to get a bit more out of them.

When you perform lat pulldowns, don’t let it become a biceps exercise, by bending your elbow any more than is really necessary. This is why you need to perform the pulldown at the top of the range, where it’s your lats doing unassisted lifting. Raise the weight stack an inch or two and hold it there. This way you won’t use your biceps to help with the load. Pull the weight by consciously squeezing your lats and feeling them contract.

Also on the pulldown, experiment with a wide grip, a narrow grip and an under-hand and over-hand grip, to determine which configuration allows you to hoist the heaviest weight.

When you get strong enough to use the entire weight stack, try adding a dumbbell or two to the stack, to make it even heavier. Be safe and consult with an expert first.

When you get to the stage that this isn’t enough weight, you can also do the pulldowns one arm at a time, effectively doubling the intensity.

Deadlifts are a compound exercise, meaning there are several muscles and muscle groups that assist in the movement. But, your objective is to maximize the use of the spinal erector muscles in your low back. So pay attention and don’t use your legs or traps to move the weight. Keep your back straight and your head up and pull with your low back, to raise the barbell an inch or two from the power rack.

Shrugs have a short range of motion, so don’t worry about getting your shoulders to touch your earlobes. Just use your traps to raise the bar an inch. Resist the temptation to use your biceps to raise the bar higher. This isn’t a biceps exercise, so leave them out of it.

Take three deep breaths before any of these lifts. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Really fill your lungs on every breath. As you exhale on the third breath, force the weight up as you exhale.

If possible, give a loud yell or grunt as you lift, as this has been shown to generate 12% more strength in static contraction test subjects.

If you have an aptitude for distance running, cycling, martial arts or other endurance sports, try doing the Beta workouts for these exercises, using 4 ‘sets’ of each exercise and see if your numbers improve faster. I know martial arts isn’t really considered an endurance sport, but many serious practitioners have told me that the Beta workouts are better for them.

Seriously, this is my #1 tip for these exercises: Get a pair of lifting hooks. On these pulling exercises, people just don’t realize how grip strength is limiting the weights they use. The day they use hooks - every weight goes up. Way, way up. That translates to extra muscle growth stimulation. If a nutritional supplement delivered these kinds of weight increases on day one, it would be constantly sold out and featured on the cover of every fitness magazine. Using lifting hooks is what I call training with your brain.

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Clinton Robson is a South African fitness fanatic and is a qualified Personal Trainer. He has completed a contract to run the gyms on cruise ships. He has done a special higher level course and qualified as an Exercise Specialist, or Conditioning Coach. He works in 2 local gyms, assisting the staff with clients and training plans. He has been working out regularly, since 1996. He writes articles on many fitness topics, such as training, bodybuilding, working out, losing fat, toning the muscles, nutrition, supplements and more. Visit his blog at Fitness And Fatness, by clicking here, or by copying this link: