Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Basic Back Exercises

This guide will demonstrate some basic exercises for the back. First, lets take a look of what the back muscles are composed of so you know what you're working with:

The green area is what we call the traps which is the upper middle back.
The purple area is the spinal erectors which is lower back.
The blue area is what we call the lats. This is what gives you a tapered V look.
The pink area by the rear shoulders is what we call the delts.

These are pretty much the basic parts for the back. You can look at the diagram for scientific names and details.

Now lets walk you through some simple exercises for the back...
This is one of the best power building exercises that you can do to build an overall foundation. Deadlifts mainly work the lower back, traps, and hamstrings. However, it does require you to use your whole body to lift.

**note** Pick your weights accordingly. The pictures are just demonstration. You don't need a lot of weights if you're a beginner.

Stand in front of a barbell with your shins very close to the bar. Feet shoulder width apart. Grab the bar with your hands slightly wider then shoulder width. Keeping your arms straight, bend your legs and flatten your back.

Pull the barbell off the floor by straightening your legs and torso until your body is completely upright. Pull your shoulders back. Then lower the bar back to the floor. Repeat.

**TIP** your adominals will expand while you're doing this exercise so if you're wearing a belt; leave about an inch or two gap so you have room to breath. Otherwise it will cut off your air.

Bent Barbell Rows
This is a basic back exercise that works the lats, traps, erectors, biceps, and forearms.
Bend over at the waist and grab a barbell with your hands placed shoulder width apart. Keep a slight bend in the knees. Lift the bar with your arms straight. Try to keep your upper body at a 45-degree angle to the floor and arch your back.The heavier you go the more away from 45- degree you'll be and you'll end up targeting more upper back.

Moving just your arms row the barbell into your stomach. Hold this position and squeeze your back muscles for a second to maximize the peak contraction. Lower the bar until your arms are straight, but do not let the barbell touch the floor in between each rep. Keep the tension on the muscles. Repeat.

Seated Pulley Rows
This exercise is good for working the lats, erectors, traps, biceps, and forearms.
Attach a narrow handle to a low cable pulley. Sit in front of the machine and grab the handle with both hands. Brace your feet and keep your knees slightly bent.
Lean forward and straighten your arms to stretch your lats completely. Hold this stretched position for a second. Then pull the handle into your stomach and sit up straight. Arch your back and squeeze your back muscles, hold this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction. Repeat.

Lat Pulldowns
The lat pulldown works the lats, rear delts, biceps, and forearms.

Attach a straight bar to a high pulley. Grab the bar a bit wider then shoulder width. Sit down at the machine and place your knees under the knee pad.

Straighten your arms and let your lats stretch. Pause this position for a second. Arch your back and pull the bar down in front, try to get the bar closest to your chest. Pause this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction. Straighten your arms to the starting position. Repeat. 

Chin Ups / Pull Ups
The chin up works that same muscles as the lat pulldown (i.e. the lats, rear deltoids, biceps, and forearms). If you cannot lift your bodyweight then you may try to find an assisted pull up machine or have someone spot you.
Grab a chin up bar with your hands a bit wider then shoulder width apart. Bend your legs so that your body is hanging from the chin up bar.

**note** for you guys that are advanced you can try getting a dip/pull up belt to add on weights like Frank here.

Straighten your arms and let your lats stretch. Hold this position for a second. Arch your back slightly and pull yourself up to the bar until your chin is over the bar. Hold this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position. Repeat.

This exercise is excellent for working the traps. Secondary stress is placed on the forearms from gripping the weights.
**note** You can use barbell or dumb bells.
Grip a weights shoulder width apart. Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart.

Keep your arms straight during the entire movement. Sag your shoulders downward as far as you can. You will feel your traps stretch, hold this position for a second. Shrug your shoulders upward and squeeze your traps at the top. Hold this position for a second. Repeat.

Here's my first back workout video if you haven't seen it already.


  1. Great post man. I love your blog, i watch it almost everyday :P
    just want to say thanks for all your hard work.

  2. Thanks JohnR, I'll be posting some more basic workouts soon.

  3. When doing pull ups, is it more efficient to have your thumbs over the bar or under the bar to put more emphasis on the lats?

    I'm wondering if you could drop by my page (or anyone else) as I decided to hop on the train (though a bit late) on my journey, I might need a bit advice on my meals as I'm already skinny but plan on cutting more before bulking.

    Anyways, this is getting long enough, good post, definitely these exercises, if not all should be incorporated to anyone's back routine!

  4. THANKS HANH. This is very helpful!

  5. hey Hanh! How much weight was Frank doing on the pull up bar? one 45lbs plate or two 45lbs plate?

    I'm currently following your back workout since i can see gains from it but when i do build up my pull up reps i might wanna give Frank's back workout a try.

  6. Hanh- Oh and also how long did you and Frank rest when doing pull ups in the back attack workout?

  7. Pete- It works regardless of how you keep your thumb.

    Mikhaelkueh- you're welcome!

    Dronkos- He goes up to 3x 45lb plates, but in the picture its only 1. We rest about a minute.

  8. Hanh,
    1. What is the best supplement for bulking?
    Been training for 5 months now. Month 1-2,
    studying technique(no supplement).
    Month 3-4, taking ON supplement
    (Serious Mass 1280 calories)
    serious training mon-fri. Weight gain 4kg,
    biceps gain 2 inch. Back, shoulder, chest &
    triceps improve. But i feel a bit fat using
    this product, however the result is
    fantastic in 2 months.
    Month 5, using Dymatize Elite Whey (117
    calories) already take it for 3 days. M i
    doing it right? is this supplement suitable
    for bulking? Still in serious training
    mon-fri (+ using muscletech nano vapor).
    2. I am using nano vapor (orange) but the
    result is disappointing. Energy 6/10,
    focus 5/10, pump 5/10. Crash after
    2hours. (1-2 scoop, 15min before
    workout). Should i change to BSN
    Hope to hear from you soon. Really need your help here. Thanks.

  9. in your deadlift it may be just me but isnt your bck supposed to be straight? Im a newbie to wight lifting but i thought lifting with a round back causes back pain? Sorry if I'm wrong or anything.

  10. Thankyou Hanhchampion this is very helpful

  11. hyee hanh i have a question.
    how come if i take weights and i do an exercise but i dont feel that i do something with that muscle can you help me?

  12. Hee Hanh, I have a qeustion about deadlifting. I have been doing it for around 3-4 weeks. Is it necessary to go as deep as touching the ground with the barbell. So far i'm not doing it because I have the feeling the tension on my back will get loose from resting it even for not even a second on the ground. Hope you can reply soon thanx! and thanx for all ur tips on diets and workouts big motivation!!!

  13. i was just looking for some advice because im kinda plateuaing with how much i can deadlift i want to be able to do 315 for reps and im stuck at 295 twice. and ive been faithfully workin out 5 times a weak at least. its just a little discouraging

  14. hi sir ....hws u....i am doing workout about 9 month...but my bisceps is 13.6...it is not increase..pls tell me complete good excrises for bisceps and triceps....i wait your answer...

  15. I have a question Hanh, do you use a belt to keep your core more tight.
    I've seen Bart use them on his deadlifts and squats and I was wondering if you would advice them too?

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