Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Out of sight out of mind is not a good approach to back training. But for a strong, balanced physique you have to train your back.
Not only does a strong back make your waist look smaller, but training your back muscles offset tight chest muscles that lead to poor posture.
Basically speaking there are three elements to back training. Exercises that widen the latissimus dorsi (lats), those wings that give you that flared V-shape, the middle upper back that, with exercise, can incorporate the back thickness, and the lower back, that lumbar region that shows up at the base of your torso like two thick coils of muscle.
Perform this workout once a week.
Beginners should perform one set of 12 reps. Intermediates (four to six weeks of regular training) can do two sets of 12 reps, and advanced trainers can benefit from three to four sets of 12 reps of each exercise.
Are you ready? On your marks, get set, go!
Exercise 1: Back Thickness
Seated Low-Pulley Row
Setup: Attach a handle to the low pulley row machine, and sit holding it with your palms facing each other, arms extended. Place your feet on the platform and lean forward and then bring the bar into the waist area.
Action: Drive your elbows back to pull the handle in toward your abdomen, pausing a moment at the top to squeeze. Slowly return to the start and resist the pull of the weight stack on the return.
*Note: Some trainers advocate that the torso remain upright while only the arms move. Which style you adopt is entirely up to you.
Exercise 2: Lower Back
Setup: Stand facing a barbell with the bar over your toes, feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and grasp the bar with an alternating grip (one hand pronated and one hand supinated) and your hands shoulder-width apart.
Action: With your chest up and back flat, straighten your knees and drive your hips forward and up, squeezing your glutes at the top. Pause, then bend your knees while simultaneously leaning your torso forward at the waist while keeping your back straight to lower the bar back down to the floor. Repeat.
Exercise 3: Building V-shape
Setup: Hold the bar with a wide, overhand grip then sit down in the machine and secure your knees underneath the pad. Sit up tall and draw your shoulder blades down and back.
Action: Drive your elbows down and pull the bar into your upper chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the peak contraction. Pause briefly, then slowly return to the start, resisting the pull of the weight stack on the return.