Back Exercise Video (Exercises for Lats, Rhomboids, Trapezius, Rear Deltoids)
Part 1/2 Latissimus Dorsi (using Bar and Cable/Bands)
Part 2/2 Middle Back and Upper Trapezius Exercises (using Dumbbell and Barbell)
Weighted chin-ups using a 12kg kettlebell with a Harbinger belt. When you are doing chin-ups contract your abs and glutes. Feel your scapula depress and retract. Pause at the top and lower yourself down slowly if you goal is muscle building, faster if you are focusing on strength and power and want the stretch response and momentum to assist you. As always, exhale during the concentric phase as you pull up and inhale on the return down during the eccentric phase. Note: Do not tilt your head like I am doing at the end of the chin-up. I was exhausted during my last set.
Horizontal Body Rows/Inverted Rows
Horizontal Body Rows. This is a great bodyweight exercise for the lats and rhomboids. I am using Perfect Pull-Up handles here. Beginners should do this with knees bent. More advanced lifters can do with straight legs or with feet elevated or held by their training partner. To make this exercise even more challenging (and if you are sadistic), you can wear a weighted vest. Start from a fully extended arm position, pull up and retracted and depress the scapular. Envision using your back rather than arms and forearms. At first your body may be forced to use assistor muscles more until you build enough strength. Exhale and you pull up, pause at the top, and lower down slowly while inhaling.
Rope Pull-up/Chin-up . Here are some pull-ups using a Harbinger tricep rope. This is a great compound exercise for the lats, rhomboids, shoulders, and biceps. I like to mix up my grip when I am working my upper back/lats and arms. By using a rope there is more focus on the long head (outer head) of the biceps along with the lats. I find you experience a better mind-muscle connection doing pull-ups/chin-ups with this grip (feel the “squeeze”). Do the whole range of motion from a fully extended arm position. Contract your abs and glutes (like almost all exercises) when performing this pull-up. Try to feel your scapulae depressing – coming down and together. Exhale as you are pulling up and inhale on the return down.
Horizontal Pull-Up/Inverted Body Rows with Rope
Horizontal pull-up or body rows with Harbinger tricep rope. This is a great compound exercise for the lats, rhomboids, shoulders, and biceps. I like to mix up my grip when I am working my upper back/lats and arms (or when I work any muscle group for that matter). By using a rope there is more focus on the long head (outer head) of the biceps along with the lats and rhomboid when performing horizontal rows. I find you experience a better mind-muscle connection and a greater range of motion using this grip (feel the “squeeze”). Do the whole range of motion from a fully extended arm position. Contract your abs and glutes (like almost all exercises) when rowing up. Try to feel your scapulae depressing – coming down and together. Exhale as you are pulling up and inhale on the return down.
Pull-Overs with Kettlebells and Strength Bands
This is an exercise that focuses on strengthening and building the upper back, lats. Secondary muscle that are worked/recruited include the chest, serratus anterior (muscles around the ribs), and abs. The kettlebells make the initial movement challenging, while the bands add resistance to the end part of the movement. By using both kettlebells and strength bands you are challenged with resistance through the whole range of motion. This is great for muscle building and strength gains. Try to keep your lower back flat. This can be easily achieved by lifting your legs off the bench/surface. Contract your lats and abs as you are pulling the weight. Exhale as you pull, inhale on the return.
Bent-Over Rows on One Leg
The bent-over row, a standard lats and rhomboid exercise, can be made more challenging and turned into more of a compound exercises by performing it on one leg. By doing this, abs and obliques are more engaged as well as calves and tibialis anterior.
Upright or Upward Rows with Kettlebells
Standard upright rows. Row upwards until your elbows break the horizontal plane. Around shoulder width distance is ideal. This exercise works the upper traps/trapezius and rear deltoids/delts. Contract your abs and glutes as you row upwards. Exhale as you row upwards, inhale on the return down.
Pull-Up Drop Set Ladder with Strength Bands
Strength bands are very useful for performing failure sets for the last set of pull-ups. I like to sometimes push myself to my limit for my last set of some exercises. For these, I do as many bodyweight pull-ups as possible then add more and more assistance bands until I can no longer pull myself up. This improves the time under tension and increases muscle growth and strength. It is great for breaking plateaus. I am using Perfect Pull-Up handles here so I can get neutral/hammer grip as I feel it isolates the back/lats better. Pull yourself until your chin is above or at the bar. Pause at the top and lower yourself down slowly. Exhale as you pull-up, inhale as you come down.
Hammer Grip Pull-Up with Band attached to Kettlebell for Added Resistance
Here is just another way to make an already challenging exercise more difficult. This is one of the best compound exercises for your back, shoulders, and biceps. Resistance bands make it even harder to finish the motion of the pull-up. I attach strength bands to a kettlebell and loop it around my waist. You can also have your training partner stand on the band. Try to pull up using full range of motion (arms extended on the bottom and pulling up until you chin is at or over the bar). Try to make a slight pause at the top when the resistance is extreme, then lower yourself slowly. Like almost all exercises, you should be contracting your abs and glutes while doing these. Exhale as you are pulling up, inhale on the return down.
Pull-Up with Strength Band
This is a very challenging back exercise. If you want to take your pull-ups to another level try doing them with resistance bands to make the last part of the movement more difficult. It will help you break through the sticking point. Perform them like a traditional pull-up but try to pause at the top of the movement and slow it down.
Pull Up Variation "21" Style
You can perform “21’s” not only with bicep curls. They work well with a few other movements like shoulder presses and rows. Stimulate the muscles in different ranges of motion. Achieve a great lactic acid burn. Execute these by performing 7 reps of the first half of the movement followed by 7 reps of the last half of the movement. Then perform the last 7 reps with the full range of movement. The technique is like a standard pull-up. You can also do these with chin-up and hammer grip for variety.
Cable Machine Pull-Overs
Cable machine pull-overs provide pretty even resistance throughout the movement. This exercise targets primarily lats. Secondary assisters are; chest, serratus anterior (muscles around ribs), abs, and triceps. Do this movement lying on your back to get a better range of motion and more focus on the lats. You can do this with legs down or elevated. By lifting your legs you will be working abs more and it is easier to keep the lower back pressed against the floor. Start with arms fully extended and pull the weight while keeping the arms fairly straight. The cable pullover should be at least 90 degrees of motion in the shoulder. Exhale as you are pulling over, inhale and slowly lower the weight on the return.
Cable Side Pull-Overs
This is an exercise that focuses on the lats. The lats are responsible for pulling your arms down and depressing and retracting the scapulae. It is good to tackle a muscle from every angle. Combine this with straight arm cable pull-overs to optimize lat development. This exercise can also be done with strength bands/resistance bands. This exercise is new for many people, start with a light weight (around half the weight you would use for straight arm pull-overs). Set the cable handle at around knee height. Lie down on your side. Start with your arm outstretched overhead. Pull your arm down to your hip, feeling your scalpula depress. Exhale on the way down and inhale on the return.
Equalizers Inverted Body Rows
Equalizer inverted body rows are a great exercise for lats, rhomboids, and biceps. These can also be performed with TRX or a barbell on a rack. To increase the difficulty of inverted rows, you can do these on a decline with legs up on a bench or chair or wear a weighted vest. Pull until your body is parallel to the floor or until your elbows are behind you. Exhale as you pull up and inhale on the return down.
Standing Barbell Shrugs
Standing barbell shrugs can be performed with the bar in front or behind your back. They target the upper trapezius muscle which is responsible for holding your posture upright. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears without rolling the shoulders much. Try not to have an extreme forward head tilt/shift (“Smartphone neck” or “reader’s neck”) as I have in this video. Try to keep your chin straight or slightly up and head back. Pause at the top and exhale, inhale as you lower the weight down.
Seated Dumbbell Shrugs
This is a variation of the standing barbell shrug. These also work the upper trapezius muscle. They shrugs are performed in the same fashion as the barbell ones above. To hit different angles do these shrugs seated and with your chest on an incline bench.
Upward Cable Rows
Upward or upright cable rows are a good exercise for the upper trapezius and rear deltoids. With a cable machine, as opposed to free weights, it is easier to pause at the top of the movement and “squeeze”/contract hard. There is a better mind to muscle connection and you can feel the contraction better. Row up until your elbows are parallel to the floor. Pause at the top then lower the arms down slowly. Do not use your lower back to lift heavier, keep your chest high. Exhale while rowing upwards and inhale on the return down.
Pull-Overs with kettlebells are an upper back exercise that focuses on the lats. Using kettlebells creates a little better pull and maintains tension on the muscle. There is a lot of resistance during the first half of the movement. Lie on a bench with legs down or with feet on bench (I prefer the latter as it prevents the lower back from extending/arching). Lower the weight overhead with arms almost fully outstretched. Bring the kettlebells down so they are around a couple inches below the bench or to a point where you feel a good stretch in your upper back. Pull them up so they are hovering above your chest. Keep your abs contracted. Exhale as you are pulling and inhale as you are lowering the weight.
Back Extensions on Roman Chair
Back extensions on a Roman chair are a good exercise for lower back (erector spinae), glutes, and hamstrings. The tension/resistance is focused on the second half of the movement. Adjust the bench so that your torso is free to flex and extend through the whole range of motion – your belly should be fully off the rest. Come down until you feel a bit of a stretch in your lower back then lift your torso using you lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Pause at the top of the movement. Exhale as you come up, inhale on the way back down. Start using just body weight with hands clasped behind head. When you are more advanced performed these with a weight plate held with arms across chest or with a weighted vest.
Here is way to improvise if you do not have a Roman chair. Partner-assisted back extensions are a great exercise for lower back and glutes. All that is required is a high box and a training partner to anchor your legs down. The movement is the same as the above. Lower your torso slowly to 90 degrees. Extend upwards until your spine is at least in a straight line. Exhale as you extend, inhale as you lower yourself.
Single Arm Cable Lat Pulldowns (Hammer and Standard Grip
Here are single arm lat pulldowns with hammer grip and standard grip. I like to perform unilateral exercises like this to help stimulate my core more. The hammer grip pull-downs work the lats and long head/outer head of the biceps. You can also perform these with standard grip, this also stimulates the lats and long head of the biceps but has a slightly different feel. In a seated position with a slight lean backwards, pull down until your hand is about chest height. Pause at the bottom and feel the lats contract and scapula depress.
Single Arm Lat Pulldowns from Fully Stretched Position
This is a creative, challenging, and effective exercise for the lats. It is one of my favourites because you really feel the lats working and scapular depression. These pull-downs are performed with one arm stretched laterally overhead. You will feel a deep stretch in the lats in this starting position. Perform these pulldowns with the palm facing away. Exhale as you pull and inhale on the return.
Standard Pull-Ups and Chin-ups with Fat Gripz
These are standard pull-ups and chin-ups but with Fat Gripz to make the exercises more challenging for the forearms and grip. Standard pull-ups with palms facing away focus more on the lats with less assistance from biceps than chin-ups. With both exercises, feel the scapula depress at the top of the movement – imagine pulling down with your elbows. Contract your abs and glutes as you are pulling up. Do not swing you legs forward. Lower your weight down in a controlled fashion. Inhaling on the way down and exhaling on the way up.
Cable Machine Rows (Single Arm)
Cable rows work the lats, shoulders, and biceps. The advantage of cable rows is that pretty constant resistance/tension is maintained throughout the movement. It is easier to hold the contraction and pause at the end of the movement compared to performing them with free weights. I like doing single arm rows because it forces you to use your abs/core to brace yourself and prevent rotating your torso. Perform these seated at a cable machine. Keep your chest up high and do not use much forward and backward movement of your torso. Exhale as you row, inhale on the return.
Barbell Upright/Upward Rows
Upright or upward barbell rows work the shoulders and trapezius. They are a good exercise for posture. Hand positioning can be just inside shoulder-width to shoulder-width. The two stimulate the shoulders and trapezius slightly differently. Choose hand positioning that you are comfortable with. Keep your glutes and abs contracted as you lift. Exhale as you row and inhale on the way down. You can also use Fat Gripz to challenge your grip strength and build forearms at the same time.
Lat Pulldowns with Standard Grip
Cable pull-downs using pull-up palms away grip focus on the lats. Set the bar at a height that allows a good stretch. Use wider than shoulder grip – your elbows should have a 90 degree bend at the bottom of the movement. Pull down without using forearms/wrists. Feel your scapula depress and come together. Pause at the bottom and return the weight up slowly. Exhale as you pull and inhale on the return.
Lat Pulldowns Chin-up Grip
Cable machine pull-downs with chin-up grip target the lats, shoulders, and biceps. Set the bar at a height that allows a good stretch. Use shoulder-width grip. Pull down without using forearms/wrists. Feel your scapula depress and come together. Pause at the bottom and return the weight up slowly. Exhale as you pull and inhale on the return.
Rows with Added Strength Bands
These rows are performed exactly like standard bent-over rows but with a band for added resistance at the end of the movement. Try to slow down the movement as the tension builds up and pause at the top. "Squeeze" the lats, reinforce mind-muscle connection. Row towards your hip and not straight up to your chest. Exhale as you row, inhale on the return to starting position. In this video, I am using a medium resistance booty band wrapped around a dumbbell.
Chaos Barbell Upward Rows with Kettlebells Attached to Strength Bands
Description and cues for this exercise available September 2018.