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Back - Creating Your Own Workout Program

By Frank Gigante

Often times we will look in a magazine or online, find a fitness person we like or admire and follow their routine in hopes that it will produce amazing results. This may not always work or be the best approach. Exercise routines and their effectiveness are often very individualized and what works for one person may not have the same results for another. This month, we will take a look at creating a program to work the entire back.

Your back is made up of a number of individual muscles and so trying to target all of them takes some planning and variety of exercises. The lats are the largest and create that v-shape. Also involved are the rear delts, traps, rhomboids, and erectors in the lower back. When training back we want to focus on working the complete back by hitting the upper, lower, outer, and inner back.

When developing your back workout you again need to first consider your goals before choosing the exercises, number of sets, number of reps, etc. Your back program should be tailored to you and your goals. This is why following someone else’s routine verbatim may not always work for you.

The form of most back exercises involves keeping the head and chest up, lower back slightly arched or flat, and pulling the shoulders back while squeezing the shoulder blades together to get a good contraction of the back muscles. This will also work to bring the elbows back behind the body as well for a good squeeze.

Back exercises can vary, but mostly can be divided between rows and pulldowns. Barbell rows, dumbbell rows, t-bar rows, pulley rows as well as a variety of machine style rows are excellent choices in this group – but not all in the same workout. For pulls, there are pull – ups, cable pulldowns, wide grip, close- grip, and even reverse grip pulldowns, as well as using the v-bar for pulldowns. All of these exercises in the rowing and pulldown group are intended to hit the lats and most of the muscles of the upper back. Shrugs are one exercise that will directly target the traps and can be done with a barbell, dumbbell, or machines. Rear laterals can also be done with dumbbells, cables, or machines and there are many variations within those choices as well to target the rear head of the deltoid. The erectors can be worked through hyperextensions, good mornings, and are involved in many other exercises such as deadlifts, squats and any exercise where core stability is needed.


A good back program should incorporate both some sort of rowing exercise as well as some type of pulls. To complete the program you may add in some direct trap, rear delt, or erector exercises.

One example or a back routine may be to start with heavy barbell rows. These can be done with an overhand or underhand grip. I find both to be useful and will alter them from routine to routine. The next exercise may be pull- ups, assisted, unassisted, or even weighted depending upon your skill level. Some pull up equipment offers several hand positions, each designed to target a slightly different area of the back. I recommend trying and using all of them from time to time. You may follow this up with with a shrug movement to hit the traps and end it with good mornings to directly target the erectors.

A second example of a back routine could be pulley rows, wide-grip pulldowns, v-bar pulldowns, and dumbbell side laterals. This routine will work to target the inner and outer lats, the muscles of the upper back as well as the rear deltoid muscles. Again, I did not include sets or reps as both of these programs can be designed to match individual goals and skill levels. In general with any routine, the goal is to complete a desired number of sets and reps with good form and through a full range of motion so that you are challenging and stimulating the muscles so that they may recover and grow stronger and be ready for your next challenging workout.

When creating your own back workout program you want to be sure to choose a variety of exercises that will target and work the complete back and all of its muscles. This is best accomplished through both row type movements and pull type movements. To more effectively hit the back muscles and continue to make progress, be sure to use a variety of angles, hand positions, and equipment – dumbbells, barbells, cables, machines, or your own bodyweight and resistance. For more information on how to create your own back program, or if you still have questions contact me through email at frankgigantenaturalpro@gmail.com or on Facebook at www.facebeook.com/frankgigantenaturalpro.


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