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5 Favorite Back Exercises | Erin Stern

May 11, 2018

I remember the first time I trained my back. I was running track in college, and we had “upper body maintenance” days in the weight room. We would go through some basic lifts like dumbbell shoulder press, biceps curls, and triceps push downs. We also had lat pull downs. The machine didn’t have a seat, but had a place to anchor your heels while you kneeled in front of the plates and cable. I would grab the bar and use momentum to swing myself into a secured position. I felt an immense rush from being able to pull heavy weight, and within weeks, saw my overall strength increase dramatically. 

Naturally, we’re more inclined to train the muscles we can see. I had spent my time looking at my quads, abs, and biceps, and hadn’t given much thought as to what the other side looked like. The lat pull downs made me fall in love with training my back, and I think it ignited my love for bodybuilding.

There are many benefits to training your back. It improves posture and can correct imbalances in the body. Wider lats give the look of a smaller waist. You can change the overall shape of your body. It’s a large muscle group, so training back burns a lot of calories. It can also help improve other lifts. For example, a strong back will greatly improve your squats and deadlifts. 

Here are my top five back exercises:

1.       T-bar Rows

This is a great exercise that’s better done towards the beginning of the workout, because it’s taxing. I like using 25 lb. plates to get a longer range of motion. With most pulling exercises, think of your hands and forearms as merely anchoring the weight. Pull through the elbows. You can also work different areas of the lats, depending on the angle you set with your upper body. A tall stance will work higher on the back, while bending over will work lower on the back.
Demo here. 

2.       Bent Over Dumbbell Rows

This exercise builds width and depth in the lats and rhomboids. I like to start with my non-dominant side and let that dictate the number of reps I do on the dominant side. With any single arm or unilateral exercise, make sure you’re performing the reps the same on both sides.
Demo here. 

3.       Close Grip Chin-Ups

 This is a great exercise for the mid-back. It can also hit the rear delts and biceps. If you’re not able to do chin ups unassisted, try using the assisted pull up machine, a resistance band, or have a friend spot you. I love warming up with chin-ups, and will do 3 sets of as many reps as possible. I might get 12 reps, then 9, then 7, as strength and endurance tends to decrease with successive sets.
Demo here.

4.       EZ Pullovers

 This was Arnold’s favorite exercise. I love doing these with a dumbbell while laying over a bench. This builds width in your upper lats. As a bonus, you’ll also stimulate chest and triceps. You can also do these standing, with a straight bar on a cable machine. I prefer using a dumbbell, but the constant tension of the cable can help maintain mind-muscle connection and encourage muscle growth.
Demo here. 

5.       Wide Grip Pull Ups

 This is another good exercise for building width in the upper lats. Angles affect how you activate your muscles – a higher angle will train higher on the muscle. So, pulling the bar to your clavicles will hit the upper lats, rhomboids, and rear delts. Leaning back and pulling to your sternum will hit the lower lats. Change up your angles to hit all parts of your back.
Demo here.

Regardless of what I’m training, I rely on BetaTOR to help me get more quality reps in my workouts. I’m able to train longer, too. 

Thank you for reading! Until next time, train hard, y’all!


Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Figure Olympia

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