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Weight Training Routine for Building the Lats - Part 7

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Back Muscle Workout Program

There are 3 large muscles to target when working the back - the latissimus dorsi (or lats), trapezius (traps), and the spinal erectors (lower back). There are also smaller muscles such as the teres major, rhomboid and infraspinatus. But this gibberish probably doesn't mean much to you, nor does it mean much to me. ;-)

The role of your lats is to pull your shoulder downward toward your lower back, and spinal erectors hold your spine erect. Performing different exercises will target the different muscles of the back.

My Back Muscle Routines

Like my other workouts, I have a even and odd week workout, each with different exercises. See below:

Week 1, 3, 5

Exercise Week 1 Week 5
3 X 6, 4, 3 (355lbs) 3 X 4, 3, 2
(375, 385, 385)
Pull downs
3 X 6 (160) 3 X 7(160)
Hammer strength Rows
3 X 6 (180) 3 X 7 (200)

Week 2, 4, 6

Exercise Week 2 Week 6
Weighted Chin ups

3 X 15, 10, 10, 10, 5 (body weight) 3 X 10, 8, 6, 6
(body + 25lbs)
Bent over barbell rows
3 X 6 (185) 3 X 6(205)
3 X 6 (275) 3 X 6 (315)
Seated rows 2 X 6 (180) 2 X 6 (180)
Close grip pull downs n/a 2 X 6 (160)

The odd weeks are my deadlift weeks, where I start off with the deadlift, then followed with wide grip pull downs, and finished with hammer strength rows - performed on the hammer strength machine.

For the even weeks, I start off with weighted chin up, then bent over barbell rows, shrugs (for traps), seated rows, and then close grip pull downs.

My even week workouts involve a few more exercises than odd weeks, but its also a "lighter" week, where I do not do deadlifting. Barbell shrugs are performed on the even weeks.

Warm Up Exercise

Odd Week Warm Up: I start off with deadlift, the wide grip pull downs, and finish with hammer strength rows. I always make sure to stretch as part of warm up. Below is how I warmup to doing 385lbs on the deadlift.

  1. Warmup with 12 reps using just the bar
  2. Load 1 plate (135lbs) and perform 10 reps
  3. Load 1 more plate (225lbs) and perform 6 reps
  4. Load 1 more plate (315lbs) and perform 2 reps
  5. Load the remaining weight and perform the regular three full sets

Resting during deadlifts: during my deadlift workouts, I rest slightly longer than normal in between my deadlift sets. Normally I rest 2 to 3 minutes, which some may think is too long already, but for resting in between deadlifts, I like to rest 3 to 4 minutes. I go all out when doing deadlifts, and I find that resting slightly longer than normal allows me to recuperate more, and be able to perform each set at peak intensity.

Even Week Warm Up: For the even weeks, I started each workout with weighted chinups - initially, I used just my body weight, and eventually worked up to using 25lb plates. This is followed with barbell rows, shrugs, seated rows, and close grip pull downs (which was only done during week 6, I guess I just felt like doing it.) Here's how I warmed up after stretching:

  1. Grab a hold of the chin up bar, and let yourself hang, and you will feel your lats being stretched - hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds. Do this 3 to 4 times.
  2. Perform 6 quick reps of chin ups, and a few partial reps (not going all the way up)
  3. Then continue to perform regular chin ups with the added weight

Chin ups is not as easy as it sounds, especially for beginners. At first, some of you may have trouble doing your own body weight. If your gym has a chin up machine where the machine helps lighten the load, use that and slowly work your way up. Or, if your gym does not have one of those machines, cross your feet with your legs bent, and get a spotter to support you at the knee area, and perform your reps with assistance.

My GF workouts out with me everyday, and follows almost the same weight lifting routine as I do. When she first started doing chin ups, I had to provide quite a bit of support - enough so she can at least do 8 reps. Now, she can do 1 rep by herself. It may not sound like allot, but I think its a very nice improvement. As for me, by the end of 6 week,s I was able to do 10 reps (maybe more) with an added 25lbs.

Chin up is one of the best exercises you can do to develop width in your back, so if you're not doing it, then you should start. As for back thickness, exercises like bent over barbell rows, close grip pull downs, and seated rows are excellent for developing a thick back.

A note about shrugs: Shrugs are performed to develop the trapezius muscle, which connects your shoulders and your back. Its the the triangle shaped muscles in the middle of your back, and looking from the front with a most muscular pose - its those 2 bulging chunks to the sides of your neck just above your shoulders. There's not a ton of exercises you can do other than barbell shrugs, dumbbell shrugs, and using some sort of machine.

You can either work your traps on your shoulder days, or back days - I had worked it in with the even week back days during these 6 weeks, just because it fitted in best for my schedule.

Weight Lifting Wrist Straps (lifting straps)

Don't be shy about using these! Especially for deadlifts and shrugs. Sure, I hear people say everyday that "oh, but I want to develop my forearms"... etc. etc. etc... But you know what? They get so focused on working on their grip strength that they lose the focal point, which is to go as heavy as you can doing deadlifts, and unless your born with amazing genetics, your forearms are likely ALLOT weaker than your lower back and legs to be able to hoist a few hundred pounds.

Just ask yourself this, "do you think your back and legs will give out sooner hoisting 400lbs, or will your forearms give out sooner?"

There you go. That's your answer. ;-) So don't ever "under-work" your body by using light enough weights just so your forearms can grip and hold it. After all, this is NOT a forearm workout.

So, don't lose focus, and use those lifting straps! Your forearms are almost worked everyday during most exercises. For example, holding dumbbells, barbells, doing chin ups, pull downs, bicep curls, and the list just goes on. Besides you can set a little time aside each week to work on your forearms.

Now, I'm not say that you should use straps for everything, that would just be lame. I see people in the gym who almost always have wrist strap on - they use it when they do pull downs, chin ups, and so on. That's pretty dumb. The only time you should ever use wrist straps is for heavy deadlifting, and heavy shrugs.

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>> Continue to part 8 (Deltoid muscles)

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