Back Attack

We’ve talked about training glutes quite a bit (too much? Never.), but there’s more to your posterior chain than just the booty. Today, we’re talking about our backs. A strong back will not only help with overall strength and stability, but more specifically, a strong back will help with posture, spinal stability, and daily activities. There are a plethora of muscles in your back, and a few that aren’t technically your back that I like to include. All of these muscles work together to help connect your body from upper to lower and diagonally, and helping to contribute to your overall stability.

*Trapezius: Your trapezius muscle is a large part of your upper back, and is in charge of moving, rotating, and stabilizing your shoulder blade, as well as extending your head at your neck. Your trapezius is one of the most overactive muscles in your body, taking on most shoulder movements and back movements, unless otherwise trained. An overactive trapezius contributes to forward rounded and elevated shoulders and an overly forward head position. To combat an overactive trapezius, we must strengthen the shoulder muscles, and mid to lower portions of the trapezius to try and bring the shoulders back.

*Latissimus Dorsi: Your lats are the muscle group most commonly associated with back training. They are the muscle that flare out and make your back look wider. Your lats are another large part of your back, running from the top of your hip all the way up to the back side of your upper arm, near your triceps. Your lats are mainly in charge of adduction, extension, and rotation of the arm at the back. Adduction can be seen in movements such as a pull up, a pull down, or any movement where the arm comes down to meet the midline of the body. The extension can be seen in rowing movements, where the arm is pulled towards the back of the body.

*Rhomboids: Your rhomboid muscles are two rhombus shaped muscles in the middle of your back, running underneath of the trapezius muscle. Your rhomboid muscles retract your shoulder blades, bringing them down and in towards each other, while also stabilizing the shoulder joint. They stabilize by depressing the shoulder blade so it lies flat against the rib cage. This motion also helps to improve posture. Movements such as practicing retracting the shoulder blades, and lying arm raises, help to improve rhomboid strength.

*Levator Scapulae: Your levator scapulae is a smaller muscle running from your scapula (shoulder blade) up to your C1-C4 vertebrae (base of your head). It’s main function is to lift the scapula, along with the top fibers of the trapezius, and to flex your neck laterally, or to the side.

*Posterior Deltoid: Your posterior deltoid is the portion of your shoulder located on the back of the muscle. Your posterior delt is in charge of movements such as transverse extension, or your arms arcing away from the midline, and shoulder extension, in which it helps the lats bring your upper arm down and towards the back.

*Erector Spinae: Your erector spinae is the muscle that runs along the length of your spine, on either side of it. The erector spinae helps with stability of the spine, as well as flexion, extension, and lateral bends.

Now that we know the anatomy, we can see how various muscles help each other in movements. The lats and traps tend to be the main movers in our back, assisted by many other muscles to complete the movements. A strong and healthy back will be muscularly balanced, having the strength to keep your body upright, while also having the mobility to bend forward, extend backward, bend to the sides, and rotate. As well, working the larger muscles in your body expends more calories and energy than smaller muscles, so a back workout tends to be more exhausting than just an arm workout would be. Even though we want to be sure to work these muscles out enough to be balanced, and use heavy enough weight to overload them, we want to make sure we’re performing the movement with control and purpose. Your body moves in the path of least resistance, aka the stronger muscles will always work first. As I said in the blurb about the trapezius muscle, it tends to take over movements if we’re not careful, so extra attention must be paid to the back movements.

Below are my favorite exercises for back training, a mixture of these are always in my back day, along with some tips to get the most from your training! Incorporate exercises into your routine for 3-4 sets for 8-12 repetitions to stay in the hypertrophy range. Build that back!

In video (in order):

*Pull-Up: works lats, posterior deltoid, biceps

*Deadlift: works lats, erector spinae, hip complex, shoulder stability

*Bent Over Row (barbell and dumbbell): works lats, trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae

*Lat Pulldown (wide grip and single arm): works lats, rhomboids, posterior deltoid

*Face Pulls: works trapezius, posterior deltoid


– Start big to small. Start with the big, compound movements first and then follow with the smaller parts of the back.

– Move with your scapula first. In any movement, retract your scapula first and then let the arms follow. This allows for your back to properly work, without much help from your arms.

– Use heavy enough weight to overload, but not so heavy that you can’t control the movement.

– Be sure to train both big movements and smaller ones unilaterally (one arm at a time) to ensure there’s no imbalances.

Alright, enough talking, time to get back to your workouts! (Get it? Back to it? Back day? You got it)

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