“How much ya bench?” – Most Bro’s in the gym.
“I want to have toned arms” – Most women.
A large majority of people who approach lifting on their own are often quick to jump to the “typical” exercises – bench, curls, shoulder presses, some leg stuff, and abs.
But what about your back?
The muscles you can’t see in the mirror are forgotten about in most self made recreational lifting programs.
Not only do some people forget about training back, but if they do train the back muscles, they often don’t train them enough or with the right kind of work.
First let’s look at the back:
The “big 3” back muscles are the trapezius (traps), the teres major, and the latissimus dorsi (lats) – and you could throw in the back of the shoulders – the posterior or scapular part of the deltoid (rear delts).
Why should they be trained?
Your back muscles play a huge part in your posture and overall spinal health. Most people nowadays spend most of their time hunched over at a desk, hunched over in the car, or hunched over on their phones. This leads to a chronic weakening of the upper back muscles, and a shortening or tightening of the chest muscles, leading to “desk posture”
So, by focussing only on mirror muscles at the gym – chest especially – we are only reinforcing that posture and thus leading to more bad posture and more chronic back issues.
How much should you be training your back?
Most fitness experts will propose a 1:2 or 1:3 push to pull ratio.
***This means for every pushing exercise you do (bench press for example), you should do 2 or 3 pulling exercises (rowing exercises or pulldowns)***
Now we can get even deeper here and I would argue for a 1:2 ratio of vertical to horizontal pulling exercises.
Vertical pulling being pullups, chin ups, or pulldowns, and horizontal pulling exercises as any row variation from multiple angles varying from 45 degrees above the shoulder, straight on from the shoulder, and 45 degrees below the shoulder.
How should the back be trained?
Back exercises should focus on using the back muscles to initiate the pull, and end with a strong contraction of the back muscles. Many times, people focus on pulling with the arm, and don’t actually pull with the back muscles.
Think about initiating the pull with your lats, and squeezing the heck out of the lats on the contraction.
Bonus: Having a muscular back is sexy
Yes, I get it, we don’t all workout just to look good – but thats usually a nice added bonus.
Having a muscular back for men gives you a wider upper back, which is in alignment with the more traditional masculine body type, you fill out your tee shirts better, and it also makes your waist look smaller (pro tip).
For women, having a muscular back looks great when you wear a swimsuit or tank tops, and it often helps with the look of having sexy toned arms.
As evidenced by my badass women’s lifting group:
Rather than asking for a light load, ask for a strong back – Do your rows.
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