Do you limit yourself by avoiding horizontal or vertical back movements? Did you know that your traps and lower back also need to be strengthened? Are you stuck on lat pull downs as your main back exercise? Can’t do a pull up?
Tsk, tsk, tsk…
Avoid these 6 common back training mistakes and you will have a much better chance of looking like Atlas and performing like an Olympian.
The Top 6 Back Training Mistakes
Confusion of Muscle Groups
The back is a large, major muscle group, and it can definitely lead to some confusion when training it in the gym. The greatest mistake most people have is they aren’t actually aware of what muscles they’re working whenever they train back. You have your spinal erector and middle back muscles, you lower, upper, and inner lats, rear deltoids, and trapezius muscles in your back. There’s several different muscles you’re wanting to target.
Here’s some exercises that I recommend:
- Rows are great for building thickness in the middle of your back. Use a barbell, dumbbells, and even cables.
- Pull ups are great for building wider lats, and so are chin ups, which also work the biceps pretty hard.
- Deadlifts are great for overall back thickness, and building your lower back and traps.
- Shoulder shrugs and cleans are also used to build the traps.
- Find at least two bread-and-butter movements that can build width to your upper lats. These usually include pull ups, pull downs, or properly performed rows.
Not Training Lower Muscles
The majority of people ignore their lower back muscles, like their lower spinal erectors, and serratus. This is because the “show off” muscles like wide lats and a thick upper back are more impressive to the average person. However, if you want a complete physique, and especially if you’re planning on competing as a bodybuilder, you’ll want to train your lower back extensively. Stick with the recommended exercises mentioned such as deadlifts especially, and some rows will hit your lower back as well.
Not Feeling the Muscles
Quite often people perform lat exercises either in one of two ways. They’re either training without regards to feeling their lats actually performing most of the work and squeezing well, or they’re performing exercises in search of wider lats without it actually being a good lat-targeting exercise.
It is important to find which exercises stimulate your lats well, and stick to those. Continual progression over time should lead to some good lats. If you look like a cobra at any point during a back exercise, it’s a safe bet that it’s a pretty effective exercise.
Too Many Machines
This problem is caused by a variety of reasons. Primarily the ease, and lack of movement involved with machines is “easy” for some people. Another primary reason is the transformation and evolution of modern gyms into possessing way more machine equipment than 10-25 years ago. More and more machines are being made, and relied upon. However, free weights are obviously superior for stimulating growth.
Want a good example of this phenomenon? Look at the back development from the 1970s-1980s and compare it to today’s bodybuilders. Their backs were more developed. Think they did hours of cable pull downs and cable rows? If so, search YouTube for Arnold and bent over rows.
Choose free weight rows, and pull ups or chin ups to build the foundation of your back. Use cable movements only for fine detailing.
Too Much Chest, Not Enough Back
The majority of people who train back go in and train this muscle like it’s a small, non-complex muscle to train, like arms or shoulders. This isn’t, however, the correct approach. Your back is actually bigger than your chest and should be trained accordingly. Skimping on training your back can lead to injury, poor posture, muscle imbalance, and you will look more like an old lady than a bodybuilder.
So many young athletes focus way too much on chest and biceps, a common complaint of knowledgeable weightlifters. The reality is that you need to spend at least as much time training your back, as you do training your chest. You should be able to barbell row as much weight as you bench press, believe it or not.
A Lack of Stretching
Several people within the bodybuilding industry highly recommend stretching your lats not only prior to beginning your workout, but during it. This practice is very efficient as it allows your muscles to be stretched in their full range-of-motion, which helps you to stimulate the depth of your lat muscles while training.
Add some stretching in before, during, and after your workout. It’s as simple as putting your arms against a wall or stable surface, and leaning backwards to stretch them, and you can start attacking your lats better.
- Target specific regions of your back during your workouts in a knowledgeable, effective way.
- Stretch during your back workouts, and before your back workouts. This allows your muscles a chance to get accustomed to the full ROM, and get ready.
- Feel your lats when performing width exercises especially. This should help get that true v-tapered appearance.
- Include free weight exercises as your primary go-to exercises when training back. Machines are OK, but at a minimum.
- Momentum is fine, but make sure you’re feeling the usage of the targeted muscles.
- Utilize lat isolation exercises, such as straight-arm pull downs.
- Do deadlifts. Seriously, you’ll thank us later. This exercise is a bread and butter back exercise, and will have you building development all over your back in an efficient, quick manner. Especially your lower back and spinal erectors.
- Read this: The Top 5 Best Back Exercises