Training back is probably the hardest day in your weekly training routine next to leg day.
Such a complex muscle group requires you to hit it at many different angles, with heavy weights and varied rep ranges to induce any type of hypertrophy in that area.
One of the most difficult aspects of back training is the simple fact that you cannot see it.
As ridiculous as that may sound, when you can see the muscle you are training, you can develop a better connection with that muscle and feel the exercises the way they should be felt when performing them.
Many people have difficulty “feeling” back movements and end up wasting their time and going through the motions during back day or they end up just feeling any type of pull down movements or rows in their arms and shoulders.
If you fall into this category, here are 5 simple tips that should help you develop a better connection with your back and get it growing the way you want it to.
Tip #1: Take a false grip
One simple way to help you pull with your back versus pulling with your biceps is by taking a false grip (thumbless) on the bar.
To do this you simply eliminate your thumb and think of your hands as hooks and hold onto the bar with only your fingers.
For whatever reason (and I’m sure there’s a very good scientific explanation for this) when you eliminate the thumb from your grip, it seems like you bypass your biceps for pulling weight and all the focus is shifted to your back.
Tip #2: Pull and lead with your elbows
I always tell people after they’ve gripped the bar to pretend they have a rope attached to their elbows.
And when it’s time to pull the weight, think about someone standing behind them pulling on those ropes attached to their elbows and what that would look like and feel like.
Once they’ve established in their mind how that scenario would play out, I get them to go through the motion without holding the bar and then once they’ve nailed that, it’s time to try with some weight.
Tip #3: Set up a mirror (so you can see your back)
This may not always be a feasible option for you but if you train at a facility where you have a good relationship with the owner, you may be allowed to situate certain machines so that you can see yourself in a mirror or you may be allowed to perform exercises in places in the gym not commonly designated as a spot for what you’re doing so that you can get a view of your back during your sets. If you train in your basement or garage, then you can set up mirrors wherever you’d like so you can see your back while training it. The mirrors in the gym are there for a purpose; utilize them when you train every body part.
Tip #4: A Partner’s touch
Let’s say for example you are trying to target the upper middle section of your back right below your traps. Or let’s say you’re focusing on adding width to your outer lats or you are simply trying to feel the pull of the weight in your lats. Having someone identify by touching the exact point on your back where you should be feeling it can help tremendously. By keeping a hand or finger pressed into the area of the back being trained, the trainee can adjust during the set until they feel the area being pressed on working.
Tip #5: Lighten Up
Many times people get caught up in how much weight they’re using.
In an effort to get bigger and stronger, heavy weights get moved from point a to point b with no real regard for how it’s supposed to make the back muscles feel and a chance for hypertrophy is lost.
Instead, lighten up the loads you’re using, focus on proper and precise form, feel the weight moving rather than simply moving it and take your time with each rep.
Don’t be afraid to use a weight which you can easily handle but extend the length of the set so that you can manipulate the barbell or dumbbell in ways that allow for you to feel the muscles of your back working differently than ever before.
This would be an excellent time to experiment with posture, rep cadence, accentuating the stretch and contraction of the muscles so that you can find exactly how you need to perform the exercise so that it benefits you the most.
You’ll often hear that bodybuilding competitions are won from the back and the greatest champions of our time all had phenomenal development in that area.
Find what works the best for stimulating the back for you and work hard at it.
Hopefully these tips will help and if not, keep playing around with your approach to back training until you find what does work.