How big is your chest? 44 inches? 46 inches? 50 inches? That’s impressive! It takes a lot of chest work to build that kind of size, but don’t forget that half of your measurement comes from your back development. After the muscles in your quads and glutes, the largest muscles in your body — the lats and traps — are behind you.
For many, the back is a hard muscle group to connect with. Men are visual, and will subconsciously only work muscles in which they can actually see development. Because you can’t see your back when you’re training in the mirror, developing that mind-muscle connection is especially critical to preventing injuries. It’s very easy to use the biceps or other assisting muscle groups when training the back muscles.
That’s where concentration will override using or over-relying on alternative muscles. Real growth comes when you’re isolating the correct muscle group, which means forming a solid mind-muscle connection.
Learn to feel your lats and middle back muscles working. Concentrating on that is more important than counting reps or thinking about how much weight you’re lifting. To help you in this process one should do some “lat activation” exercises at the beginning of your workout — something as simple as a stint on the row machine at low to medium weight. Once you’re warmed up, the heavier lifting can begin.
Pull-ups, plain and simple, have worked the best for me. They are one of my role model and idols favorite and most used exercises for the back. Arnold, the man himself, would talk about challenging himself with pull-ups until he could no longer hold on to the bar. The key to a killer back workout is isolating all the back muscles from various and different angles.
A well defined and sculpted back can make or break you as a physique competitor, like me. Having that V-shape is very important to the judges. However, for the regular everyday mans work out, it is what sets you apart from the guys who only focus on arms, chest, abs, and legs.
My favorite back workout is one that will give me “wings.” If I don’t go to “failure” — lifting until I physically can’t anymore — my back won’t grow. This workout is pieced together to hit every muscle in the back from as many angles as possible.
Below is a breakdown of the exercises and reps I do, but any variation of this based on your level of ability is fine.