Meet You at the Bar - The Best Back Workouts Written by Genesis Team Jun 26, 2019
Meet You at the Bar - The Best Back Workouts

This e-book will focus on the do’s and don'ts of building that chiselled back that you’ve been striving to achieve.

Meet You at the Bar - The Best Back Workouts

Help-guides, motivation, workouts | Jun 26, 2019
Published by Genesis Team

We may have all seen that famous scene in Rambo First Blood, where Sylvester Stallone is stick fighting in a back alley bar. During the scene, he turns his back to the camera and ties up his sweatband, managing to get every muscle in his back rippling for the audience to view. Now, as much as it is cool for action stars to have flawless lats and ripped traps, the question is, how do we all achieve this? 

This e-book will focus on the do’s and don'ts of building that chiselled back that you’ve been striving to achieve. Whether its growing your lats to be thicker and stronger or achieving that famous bodybuilding “V” taper, this e-book will guide you through a step by step workout while explaining the benefits that each exercise will provide. This will have you leaving the gym feeling like your back is as strong as the man of steel himself!

One of the biggest reasons people have a hard time developing a strong defined back is because they don't know how to complete the exercises in the correct way. Many of us may ignore the one thing that will help us either reach our ultimate back goals or give us an incredibly inconvenient injury; this is “form”. Bad form can result in ineffective muscle gains as well as potential injury. This ebook will help you to eliminate bad form so you can get the most out of each back-building exercise! 

So let's dive into the deep end and prepare to learn how to build a back stronger and harder than you've ever dreamed possible. Don’t have access to a gym? We’ve offered a home workout variation for each exercise.

You will need: Access to gym equipment. If at home, you will need a resistance band, dumbbells, or another form of hand-held weight.

Exercise No: 1 | Pendlay Rows

Pendlay rows are great as an all-round back exercise. This is a compound movement that involves large muscle groups. Due to how the body is positioned and how the range of motion is completed, you will work most of the muscles in your back. We recommend using a squat rack for this, but it is not essential.

You will need: Squat rack and barbell. The squat rack is handy but not necessary if you don't have access to one.

Note: Complete 1 set at a low weight to warm the muscles up.

2x10 rep warm-up sets at 50% of 1rm (1 rep maximum weight)
2x10 rep working sets at 70% of 1rm
2x5 rep working sets 85% of 1rm

  1. Set your feet at roughly shoulder width apart and bend at the hips until your torso is parallel to the ground. Set a small bend in your knees for stability. 
  2. Place your hands on the barbell just outside shoulder width and set the bar so it is in line with the lower part of your chest. 
  3. Contract your core to stabilise your body.
  4. Pull the barbell up to your chest. At the top of the lift, imagine your trying to touch your elbows together behind your back and hold for one second. This will force the contraction (squeeze) through your back, focusing on the Latissimus dorsi and the Teres Muscles.
  5. Lower the bar back to the starting point in a controlled negative.

Home Variation: Bent Over Row

Alike Pendlay Rows, this exercise is a great compound movement exercise that benefits most of your back and even the biceps. Using free weights work just as well as using a barbell, and using a resistance band is also very beneficial as you are still creating tension for your back muscle groups. 

You will need: Resistance band or two dumbbells

4x10-15 rep working sets

  1. Set your feet at roughly shoulder width apart and bend at the hips until your torso is parallel to the ground. Set a small bend in your knees for stability. 
  2. If using a resistance band, place the middle of the resistance band under your feet so it stays put. 
  3. Grab the ends of the resistance band in one hand each and start in a position where your arms are straight. 
  4. Contract your core to stabilise your body.
  5. Pull both ends of the resistance band up to your chest. At the top of the lift imagine your trying to touch your elbows together behind your back and hold for one second. This will force the contraction (squeeze) through your back, focusing on the Latissimus dorsi and the Teres Muscles.
  6. Lower your hands back to the starting position in a controlled negative. 
  7. If using dumbbells, skip step 2 and follow the steps with two dumbbells instead of a resistance band.

 

Meet You at the Bar - The Best Back Workouts

Exercise No: 2 | Seated Low Row

Seated low rows focus more on the traps down the centre of your back. Correct positioning during this exercise will force your arms into a somewhat J shaped motion which will cause your traps to engage during the later part of the movement. This exercise can be done single arm or with both arms.

You will need: Low Pulley Row Machine with a V-bar. If you don’t have access to one, you can wrap a resistance band around the bottom of a pole and sit on the floor.

2x10 rep warm-up sets at 50% of 1rm
2x10 rep working sets at 70% of 1rm
2x5 rep working sets 85% of 1rm

  1. Set the seat on the seated row machine so that the chest pad sits towards the bottom of your sternum.
  2. Position your feet behind under the seat so that you don't use your legs to produce power.
  3. Lean forward and grab the handles. Note whether your shoulders roll forward or not. We suggest rolling your shoulders forward a bit so that the back expands completely.
  4. Keeping your back straight and your core engaged, pull the handle towards you. At the height of the motion, your elbow should start to move up causing the trapezius to engage. At this point hold for 1 second.
  5. Return to starting point in a controlled negative.

Home Variation: Seated Low Row/One Arm Dumbbell Rows

Seated Low Rows and One Arm Dumbbell Rows mainly targets the centre of your back. If you don’t have a row machine, no need to worry! Here are two variations using a resistance band or dumbbell. You can also use a heavy object if you have no dumbbells on hand, such as a water bottle filled with rocks or sand. 

You will need: Resistance band or one dumbbell or one heavy object

Resistance band: Do 2-3 sets of 30 to 60 seconds each. 
Dumbbell rows: 3x8 rep working sets

Resistance band option:

  1. Wrap the resistance band around the bottom of a pole or sturdy object that won’t move. You can either stand, sit on a stool, or sit down with your legs out in front of you for this exercise. * If you don’t have a sturdy object, you can also sit down with your legs out in front of you and feet together and place the resistance band under the bottom of your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent so you don’t lock your legs. 
  2. Grab the two ends of the resistance band with each hand. 
  3. Keeping your back straight and your core engaged, pull the two ends of the resistance band towards you. At the height of the motion, your elbow should start to move up causing the trapezius to engage. At this point hold for 1 second.
  4. Return to starting point in a controlled negative.

Dumbbell option:

  1. You can perform this exercise on a bench, or the floor if you don’t have one. 
  2. Place your dumbbell (or a heavy hand-held object) on one side of the bench.
  3. Place your right leg on top of the end of the bench, bend your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Place your right hand on the other end of the bench for support. * If you are on the floor, put your right knee on the ground and left leg out horizontally straight. Keep your right hand on the ground under your shoulder for support.
  4. Use your left hand to pick up the dumbbell off the floor and hold the weight while keeping your lower back straight. The palm of your hand faces your torso. 
  5. Pull the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side and keeping the torso stationary. Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. At this point hold for 1 second. 
  6. Return to starting point in a controlled negative.

 

 

Meet You at the Bar - The Best Back Workouts

Exercise No: 3 | Lat Pull Downs

Lat pulldowns will target the Latissimus Dorsi but will subsequently activate the Biceps and forearms as well. When this exercise is completed correctly, the entirety of the lat muscle will be engaged. This will leave you with a well proportioned back instead of an over-dominant upper and lacking in the lower. 

You will need: Lat Pulldown Machine. 

1x10 rep working set at 60% of 1rm.
1x10 rep working set at 70% of 1rm.
2x5-8 rep working set at 80% of 1rm.
1x until failure set at 40% of 1rm.

  1. Set the knee support so that it holds your legs firmly in position.
  2. Position your hands on the bar so that they are about 10 cms outside shoulder width. Do not position your hands too far out as this will limit your range of motion and the effectiveness of the exercise.
  3. Start with your head directly under the bar and while focusing on your lats pull the bar down. While the bar is coming down arch your back and point your chest up.
  4. Pull the bar all the way to your chest and once again imagine your trying to touch your elbow together to force a full contraction. At this point hold for one second.
  5. Return to starting point in a controlled negative.

Home Variation: Pull Ups

Pull Ups are a fantastic compound exercise and very efficient for when you’re short on time. It is a great exercise for beginners and experts alike as it targets a broad range of muscles and helps the overall development of your body. 

You will need: A pull-up bar. You can use a mountable door or wall pull-up bar, or find one in a park. There is also the option of using a sturdy kitchen table or desk; however we advise a proper pull-up bar for safety. 

3x8 rep working set or until fail

  1. Jump up and grab onto the pull-up bar. Hang from the bar with your hands spaced wider than your shoulders.
  2. Contract your lats and pull up until your chin is over the bar. It helps to clench your abs as you do this to help you rise up. 
  3. Lower yourself slowly to the initial starting position. Challenge yourself to repeat until you can’t go anymore! 

Hot tip: Don’t swing your legs front to back or side to side in an effort to get you up to the bar. This may cause injury and is also considered a bit of a cheat. 

 

 Meet You at the Bar - The Best Back Workouts

Exercise No: 4 | Cable Face Pulls

Face pulls will target more of your Rear Deltoid and Teres muscles. It is very important that this is performed correctly to avoid overstressing your shoulders. This exercise focuses on the less-dominant muscles in the back to help support your main back muscles. It is important to not neglect these muscles as it will help you perform stronger in other back exercises!  

You will need: Cable Machine

2x10-12 rep sets at 65-80% of 1rm.
2x6-8 rep sets at 80-90% of 1rm.

  1. Position the cable so it is at eye level.
  2. Using a rope handle position, the ends of the rope facing the bottom of your hands. At the height of the exercise, this will force more contraction without over rotating your shoulders. Over-rotation is more likely to happen when the ends are towards your thumbs.
  3. Place one foot one step in front of the other. Bend the rear knee and brace yourself with the front leg.
  4. Pull the rope towards your face, while making sure your elbows stay pointed outwards. Focus on contracting your upper back muscles and your rear delts. Note: Don't pull the rope past your face as this will over rotate your shoulders
  5. Pause at the top and return to starting point with a controlled negative

Home Variation: Banded Face Pull

Banded Face Pulls are a great alternative to Cable Face Pulls if you don’t have the appropriate equipment. It is a movement that targets your Rear Deltoid, Rhomboids, External Rotators and Trapezius - all specific back muscles that deserve attention too! This exercise benefits larger muscles by working a combination of smaller back muscles. You can perform Banded Face Pulls using a resistance band. 

You will need: Resistance band

2x20 rep sets 

  1. Wrap the resistance band around a pole or sturdy object. If you don’t have a pole, you can sit on the floor with your legs in front of you and knees slightly bent. Then wrap the resistance band around the bottom of your feet.
  2. Pull the band towards your forehead, while making sure your elbows stay pointed outwards. Focus on contracting your upper back muscles and your rear delts. Note: Don't pull the rope past your face as this will over rotate your shoulders
  3. Pause at the top and return to starting point with a controlled negative

Hot tip: Banded Face Pulls are done with light to moderate tension for moderate to higher reps. You can perform up to 8-20 reps per set based on what you prefer. We encourage you to challenge yourself! You can also perform these in a warm-up, in a rehabilitation setting, or simply to increase hypertrophy and control.

Controlled contractions may be best for this exercise rather than high loading and doing fewer reps, as the smaller muscles used in this movement often do not promote as much force output as larger muscle groups and movements. 

If you need assistance, use a chair below you to help take off some of the holding weight. You can also use a resistance band by tying it onto the bar and stepping your feet into the bottom of the resistance band. This will help relieve some of the body weight and help strengthen your arms until you can do a pull up without any assistance.

 

Meet You at the Bar - The Best Back Workouts

Exercise No: 5 | Weighted and Unweighted Hyperextensions

The lower back is usually the most neglected part of your back but is one of the most important because it is used to stabilise your body. Hyperextensions will target your lower back and strengthen it.

You will need: Hyperextension Bench and a weight. If you don’t have access to these, use a medicine ball or no weight for either of them. 

1x20 rep set unweighted
2x20 rep set weighted 
1x20 rep set unweighted

  1. Position yourself on the apparatus so that your Quads are resting on the support pads. Your hips must be above the pads.
  2. Using a controlled negative and keeping your back straight, lower your torso all the way down and pause at the bottom. If your backbends then you have reached the limit of your range of motion and the hyperextension should be performed inside this limit.
  3. While focusing on your lower back, raise your torso back up. Do not straighten your body all the way out as this will cause your glutes to engage and take over from your spinal erectors. 
  4. Perform this exercise while holding a weight to your chest (weighted) or hugging your arms in an X position to your chest (unweighted). 

Home Variation: Floor Hyperextensions

Floor hyperextensions help to strengthen your lower back muscles and improve your posture, mobility and stability. This exercise also challenges the core and engages the deep abdominal muscles helping you to lift your legs and arms off the ground. 

You will need: a yoga mat or towel for support but is not necessary. 

3x5 rep sets 

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and slightly apart. 
  2. Keeping your shoulder blades settled in your back and shoulders away from your ears, stretch your arms overhead.
  3. Pull your abs in so that you can lift your chest and belly button away from the floor.
  4. Extend both your arms and legs up from the floor, as if you have become the shape of a banana or the bottom of a boat. At the same time, make sure you get enough length in your spine that your head moves up off the mat as an extension of the reach of your spine. Keep your face down towards the mat and refrain from creasing your neck. 
  5. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds, focusing on squeezing your back muscles and pulling in your abs to keep you upright. Make sure your knees are lifted off the floor as you do this. 
  6. Slowly return to starting position with a controlled negative. 

Hot tip: A similar move to the Floor Hyperextensions is the “Swimming Pilates” pose. This exercise is very similar but instead you “flutter” your arms and legs in alternating sides, just as if you are swimming! This is a great alternative to Floor Hyperextensions if you find the same repeating movement too much. 

After you finish either of these sets, perform a “Child’s Pose” to stretch out and relieve the lower back muscles. To do a Child’s Pose, begin on your hands and knees and spread your knees wide apart while keeping your big toes touching. Reach up and then bow your torso forward, draping it between your thighs. Your bottom rests on your heels and your arms keep long and extended. Hold for 30-60 seconds, breathing softly. Then release to sit back onto your heels.

Meet You at the Bar - The Best Back Workouts

You are Finished! 

Great work! Now take the time to indulge in the feeling of the super back pump that you have created. Make sure to do a few stretches, warm down, and of course, get yourself a good back selfie so you can show off all the gains to all your mates. It won't be too long before they will be asking you what your secret is. Good luck, stay swole and happy lifting!

About the Author

My name is Joel Owst and I am 29 years old. I have always loved sports and my background predominantly consists of playing Basketball as this was something that I obsessed about from the age of 7. When I realised that my prospects of playing for the Chicago Bulls were getting very slim, I naturally found myself looking for my next challenge. I ended up studying as an automotive mechanic and worked as one for 10 years. Whilst I always stayed in the gym I decided that fitness was the field for me and made the swap

This brought me to my current job at Genesis Nutrition where I have been able to do things such as help other people achieve their fitness goals. Since being at Genesis I have learned how to further my abilities in sales, business management, networking, and goal setting. 

Outside of my career, you will find me in the gym working on my physique or lifting something seriously heavy. When I have spare time I like to explore new restaurants and spend nights out seeing DJ's with my friends

I decided to write this ebook because I have a passion for Bodybuilding and I wanted to pass on what my knowledge to the masses so they too can benefit from what I have learned.

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