For most athletes looking to build an elite physique, there's no better testament to the hard work they put in than having a strong, muscular, sexy back. Developing a wide, rippled back isn't necessarily easy given its complex musculature and the fact that the muscles trained on back day can be difficult to feel / see.
Sometimes when people try to train their lats, they find themselves getting a stronger pump in the biceps or forearms, which obviously isn't stimulating back growth. Fortunately, a little self-awareness and attention to form can help correct these training snafus and get you building the aesthetic back you've always wanted.
Here are my top four tips for dominating and getting the most out of your back workout:
1. Don't Overload.
Perhaps the primary mistake that trainees make - often across the board, but particularly with regard to back exercises - is overdoing it on volume. Yes, there's a correlation between how strong and how large a muscle is. That said, there's a much stronger link between muscle development and time under tension / the ability to "feel" it performing the work. DO NOT underestimate the mind-muscle connection! Going too heavy on your back lifts will disrupt the focus on your target muscle areas, thereby preventing you from reaching maximum stimulation.
For the best results, mix up your routine with lower rep counts using heavier weight some days and higher rep counts using lighter weight other days. Generally, if you can't feel the muscles in your back flexing and tensing to perform the exercise, you're probably lifting too heavy.
2. Hit The Full ROM.
The second biggest culprit leading to an underdeveloped back is the failure to take advantage of the complete range of motion (ROM) for each exercise. Look around your gym sometime at how many people are rushing through their back day movements, either consciously or subconsciously. This severely short-changes the exercise, limits progress, and poses a greater risk of injury since in all likelihood proper form isn't being observed.
To fix this mistake, be sure that you're taking every rep on a back exercise from a deep stretch to full contraction. Partials should only be used when you're beat and don't have the strength to knock out full movements for the last couple reps.
3. Don't Cheat The Stretch.
Another common error that people often make - again, when rushing through their back day workouts - is to bounce at the bottom of the movement without holding the stretch. One of the most reliable methods for boosting hypertrophy (i.e., increases in muscle size) is to create trauma in the muscle fibers, which in turn signals to the body that repair and growth are needed to stave off future injury. By failing to hold the stretch under tension at the bottom of your lat exercises, you deprive yourself of quicker, more efficient progress.
4. Be Multi-Dimensional.
When training back, some gym goers tend to focus exclusively on certain types of movements at the expense of others that would hit multiple dimensions. There are three essential angles that any back workout should cover: vertical, which would be your lat pulldown; horizontal, which would be your seated cable row; and bent-over rows with a barbell or dumbbells. By hitting different angles on back day - and varying up your grips - you'll be in a much better position to build an overall well-developed back.