Becoming The Latsbrah
In the following article I will try explain my views on back training. First of all, I must clarify that I have very good genetics for building a broad back (and also muscle in general). This, however, does not mean that a muscular back isn’t for everybody. It certainly is! Just remember that everyone’s genetic predisposition is different, both regarding to how easily you put on muscle and also (more importantly) to how your muscles look and how they respond to training. Also, since I am not Layne Norton I will stick to the purely empirical and just explain what has worked for me!
Training back twice a week. I have since I started lifting had relatively good lats but they really came along when I (a year ago) started training them twice a week. My first back day consisted of my usual routine. Starting with deadlifts, standing rows and lateral pull downs as my mayor movements. The second back day consisted mainly of chins (starting with weighted and then having no weight). I did the heavier session (with deadlift) on Saturdays (which also was my eating day) and the lighter version on Wednesdays (to keep them as far apart as possible within the week). As of now I try to train every muscle group twice a week and I can really recommend that you at least train your prioritized group in this way.
Deadlift. Doing deadlifts or not is always a hot topic when it comes to back training. I mainly see it as a exercise for the whole body rather than just for the back. This said, it is one of the very best movements (if not the best) for getting overall size. In the words of the late Zyzz;
“Notice how you rarely see people deadlift heavy at the gym? Do you also notice how all these people have average physiques? Put 2 and 2 together.”
I have also deadlifted since I started lifting, obviously with good results. Put deadlift on the day when you have the most energy and put your soul into each lift. And as with all exercises, try to beat your previous lifts (from the last session). I usually have insane Pre-workout routines leading up to the deadlift session. This includes beta-alanin, heavy metal and the company of my aesthetically pleasing gym brahs. Deadlifts are very taxing on the body, so make sure you are ready for it! Here is a video of me doing dead lifts, notice that I am using a non-mixed grip, this is to avoid any discrepancy in between my right- and left side.
What if I (for some reason) can’t do them? Don’t worry. You can still get a great back. Just replace them with heavy standing barbell rows and lots of chins and or lateral pulldowns. I have gone long periods (long as in two months) without deadlifts (did a lot of legs then instead to bring them up to par).
Lateral pulldowns. Obviously one of the main ingredients in a successful back workout and of course the main movement for building your lats. Now, this is one of the trickier exercises to get right. A lot of people use their arms to much when pulling down. This is especially the case when you are new to the gym or just have stronger arms than you have lats. To combat this problem, lower the weight considerably to get the right movement. Imagine your arms as static and lower your elbows in a straight line towards the floor. This should isolate the lats. When you become more comfortable with the movement, add more weight.
Standing barbell rows. First of all, this one is very hard to go heavy on if you have already done several sets of deadlifts. I usually go heavy on this exercise when I don’t do deadlifts (for whatever reason). If I do deadlifts then I take a lower weight and do about 3-4 sets depending how my lower back feels. Also, don’t be obsessed with form during this exercise; the most important thing is to pull up as much weight as many times as possible. I have seen lots of guys still using the same old weights never progressing for fear of having a “bad” technique.
With this said, I don’t suggest that you put twice as much weight on the barbell the very next session and train with a terrible form, just that you do not let a perfect form come in the way of using heavier weights each session. This might sound complicated and it is. Using the form shown below has at least worked well for me. Below is a video of me doing it on 100 kg (video was taken in May so I’m stronger now, promise 🙂 ).
I prefer to use an underhand grip. This is solely based on personal preferences.
These three are the main exercises for building a broad and deep back. Of course you can add other movements or replace them with other similar ones. For example, you could do weighted chins instead of lateral pulldowns and seated row or standing dumbbell row one arm at a time instead of standing row. These are however the ones that has worked best for me. Also, if you feel particularly full of energy on a certain day you can always do all of them! For example, if you start with dead lifts, followed by lats, followed by standing rows, if you now feel that your lats still is fresh, try a different grip on the lateral pulldown machine and push out the last energy.
As you might be aware I wrote this article a while back, since then I have added a fifth day to my schedule. This fifth session includes trapezius, arms and abs. The reason for this was that I felt that I was in need of bigger trapezius to match my back.