Top 6 Back Training Mistakes

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.

Back Training Mistakes

The Top 6 Back Training Mistakes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

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4 Responses to “Top 6 Back Training Mistakes”

  1. When you are under training or preparing yourself for some competition, it is likely that you put in your extra efforts to achieve your goal. But many a time it may happen that you forget that when you do these intense workouts, you also require taking care of your health and capabilities. You need to take extra care and do things in a right manner so that they do not harm you and your health. You also require working on each and every part of your body. Each part of your body is equally important and needs to take care properly. One must avoid above mentioned mistakes so as to not to harm your body and eventually self.

  2. As a woman I started doing lower back exercises only recently and I swear it has completely changed my waist area. Gave my body a much more athletic appearance, especially on the backside.


  3. Nice article, nice website! I found you a few months back trying to find the best exercises for my weak spots, and stumbled into one of my favorite sites! Anyhoo, maybe I’ll leave more kudos for future posts, clearly you stay pretty busy. 🙂

    One question, are you encouraging static stretching the lats before working them? If so, can you elaborate a little more on it (and the stretch you mentioned)?

    In previous posts you’ve mentioned static stretching before resistance training should be avoided, and instead, stretch afterward. I’ve adopted this philosophy, and instead do some dynamic stretching with a little cardio before a work out. This has worked well for me, with the exeception of my lats. Are lats the exception? They are my one of my weak spots and I find it takes a lot to get them warmed up. Any advice you can give me would be appreciatted.

    • You should use the rowing machine for a couple minutes before starting your free weight training. Either that or a couple high rep sets, no where near failure, of cable rows with a full range of motion should help you out.

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