Workout Routine- Back

December 11th, 2006 | Posted in General

Last week I mentioned periodization as a central concept to successful weight training. Briefly, it means changing your routines often in terms of exercises and target muscle fibers in order to avoid your body becoming used to the routines and no longer responding to them by getting bigger, stronger or both. This week I will be detailing my current workout program, which will be changing shortly. Right now I am at the tail end of a short power and strength routine, which will be followed by a hypertrophy (size gaining)/ strength hybrid workout. I’ll use this as a transition to a longer hypertrophy workout program since my overall main goal is to build muscle.

Strength and power training involved short rep sets (usually from 1 to 6 reps), long rest times (2-3 minutes), and traditional compound movements. The classic exercises like squats, bench press, deadlifts and shoulder presses are compound movements. Compound movements are exercises involving more that one joint at a time, and are the staple of all weightlifting programs. The squat, for example, uses three joints: the knees, hips and ankles. A leg extension, where you sit in a machine with the front part of your ankle/foot on a pad and lift your feet until your legs are straight only uses your knee joint. That is called an isolation movement, and is used more in the hypertrophy/endurance kinds of workouts. Compound movements involve many muscles besides the targets as well, especially core and stabilizing muscles, and improve overall strength and stability.

Strength and power workouts involve a lot of weight, and can be dangerous if you don’t follow proper form and safety. Form is by far the most important aspect of weightlifting. If you don’t do the exercises properly, the target muscles are not worked correctly and you do not get maximum benefit from the movement. The gym is full of meatheads who swing and cheat their way through sets with way too much weight to look macho. These guys are morons. It’s better to use lesser weight and have good form than the other way around.

Here’s my current back routine, which I do on Mondays. I’ll give a brief description of each movement, but if anyone wants to try these and has not done them before, look it up on the internet… there are lots of sites with pictures and full descriptions of the movements as they are supposed to be done:

Back Day

Lat Pulldowns- 4 sets x 6 reps: Using an Icarian or similar pulldown machine (you can use a cable machine also, but I like the ones that pivot like this one) lean back only slightly, squeeze your shoulder-blades together to keep your shoulders from rounding forward. Imagine your hands are hooks and visualize pushing down with your elbows as far as you can, pause for a beat and control the weight on the way back up.

Sorry this pic is blurry… This is the lat
pulldown movement at the top…

…and at the bottom. Yes, that’s me.

Deadlifts- 4 sets x 6 reps: Using a power/squat rack, adjust the bar holders to upper thigh level. Load a bar with an appropriate weight. Grip the bar a little wider than shoulder width. Lift the bar and step back, with your feet about shoulder width apart and heels/toes straight and parallel to each other. Keep your back as flat as possible by drawing your bellybutton in towards your spine to tighten your core, and squeeze your shoulder-blades together to keep your shoulders from rounding forward. Drop your hips and rear end as you squat down, looking upwards to keep from bending forward at the waist. Try not to touch the floor with or bounce the weights off the floor. Still looking up, explode to a standing position, thrusting your hips forward as soon as the bar clears your knees.

Close grip pulldowns- 4 sets x 6 reps: Using a seated cable pulldown machine with a straight bar attachment, grip overhand (knuckles toward your face) with about 6 to eight inches between your hands. Sit as straight up as possible, with little leaning back. Concentrating on squeezing your mid back muscles on either side of your spine, bring the bar down past your chin, pause, control on the way back up. Do not allow your elbows to move in towards each other, but keep them as far out as you can.

Underhand T-Bar Rows- 4 sets x 6 reps: Using a T-bar row machine, grip the bar handles in an underhand grip. With your chest firmly on the pad, keep head up and looking straight forward while you lift the weight up to your chest. Pull your elbows back and away from your body as far as you can. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to keep your shoulders from rounding forward. You can arch your back a little here to maximize the contraction, but don’t rock backwards and forwards. Pause at the top and control back down.

Bent over V handle Bar Rows- 4 sets x 6 reps: Take a full bar and place one empty end into a corner or at the base of a wall. Put weight on the other end. Get a “V” handle attachment from a cable row machine and place it under the bar at the weighted end, just below the collar. Stand with the bar between your legs, empty end behind you and against the corner/wall base. Grab the handles of the V, lift the weight off the floor and bend at the waist until your upper body is at about a 30 degree angle to the floor, with your head elevated a little above your rear end. Keeping your back flat and your shoulders back, lift the weighted end from a fully extended arm position to your chest, pause and control the weight back down until your arms are fully extended again. Do not rock backward or arch your back.

Reverse Bent Over Dumbbell Flys- 4 sets x 6 reps: These are for rear deltoids, but I train them on both back and shoulder days. Take a dumbbell in each hand, bend over at the waist until your upper torso is at a 30% degree incline from the floor with your arms hanging straight down on either side, palms in. Look forward, not down. Keeping your arms as straight as you can (a slight elbow bend is okay, but not too much) raise your arms out to each side as high as you can. Pause and then lower in a controlled manner. Try not to bend farther forward and jerk your torso back for momentum… keep your torso still and your core tight.

Ab Routine- I do some abs every workout except on leg day. At least two and preferably three exercises, 3 sets of 20 reps or so. Knee-ups are good, crunches, planks, leg lifts… there are a million of them.

Always stretch the muscles you just worked out well afterward. This helps relieve some lactic acid soreness and increases your flexibility. Always make sure you eat something within 45 minutes of finishing your workout. For bodybuilding, this should include 30-40 grams of protein and 40-50 grams of carbohydrates. A post workout shake with whey protein and some fruit mixed in, plus a small bowl of oatmeal is perfect.

Tomorrow: Chest Day…


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New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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