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The biggest mistakes that people typically make in their back workouts are focusing on the wrong exercises and focusing on high-rep training, rather than high-weight training. If you hope to add mass and strength to your back muscles, you should instead focus on lifting heavy weights with low repetitions, as well as focus on back exercises that safely allow for progressive overload. Here are some examples of exercises that are good for strengthening and defining the muscles in your back.
This is probably the most important exercise for working out your back, as well as many other muscles. Be warned—practicing good form is essential for avoiding serious injury during this exercise.
Begin by positioning your feet so they are slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart and place a barbell between the middle of your foot and where it would be touching your shins. Your shoulders should be in line with the bar or slightly behind it, which allows for maximum leverage as your pull the bar up and back.
Move toward the bar by pushing your hips back, not by squatting straight down. Keep your lower back arched and your shoulders down. Keep your head in a neutral position as you place your hands on the bar and squeeze while contracting your back muscles as you move upwards.
There are other variations of the dead lift that work out slightly different muscles in your back, including:
- The Sumo Dead Lift: This involves using a wider stance to shorten the range of motion and shearing force on your lower back. Since the range of motion is reduced, less work is performed, but this also allows for heavier weights to be used.
- The Hex Bar Dead Lift: This involves the use of a different kind of bar that wraps around your body while you stand inside of it and grip handles on either side. This is a great way for beginners to start learning how to dead lift since it doesn’t require as much hip and ankle mobility to get to the bar and puts less stress on your spine. This type of dead lift also allows you to lift more weight than the conventional dead lift.
This is another staple in back workouts, since it works many muscles, including the erector spinae and the traps. There are many different types of rows, including:
- Barbell Row: This involves grasping the bar just outside of shoulder-width, keeping your knees bent, and pulling the bar low towards your hips.
- Pendlay Row: This is a stricter version of the barbell row. You approach the bar the same way as the traditional barbell row, but you pull it straight up and down while you keep your back parallel to the floor. You lower the barbell all the way back to the floor between repetitions.
- Dumbbell Row: This involves dumbbells rather than barbells and provides a wider range of motion. You rest one knee and arm on a bench while your other foot is on the floor and you grip the dumbbell in the other hand. Pull the dumbbell straight up until it is at your side before going back down to the ground.
This is one of the best exercises for building the middle of your back and your lats. To emphasize your lats while doing a pull-up, your grip should make a 90-degree angle between your forearm and your elbow, with your elbows pointed out to the side and your arms straight up. Keep the bar in front of your face while you perform the pull-up.
This is another exercise that should be performed in conjunction with the wide-grip pull-up. The grip for a chin-up will be similar to a wide-grip pull-up, but your hands will be turned so your palms are facing you rather than outwards.
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