Lee Walker Personal Training
Lee Walker Personal Training

Back

The back is central to everything. With more days taken off work through back pain or back injuries than any other injury,  it is essential to develop and maintain muscles in the back for life as well as training.

 

Pullups

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Lats

Other MusclesBicepsMiddle Back

Equipment: Body Only

Mechanics TypeCompound

Level: Beginner

SportNo

ForcePull

 

  1. Grab the pull-up bar with the palms facing forward using the prescribed grip. Note on grips: For a wide grip, your hands need to be spaced out at a distance wider than your shoulder width. For a medium grip, your hands need to be spaced out at a distance equal to your shoulder width and for a close grip at a distance smaller than your shoulder width.
  2. As you have both arms extended in front of you holding the bar at the chosen grip width, bring your torso back around 30 degrees or so while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out. This is your starting position.
  3. Pull your torso up until the bar touches your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back. Exhale as you perform this portion of the movement. Tip: Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. The upper torso should remain stationary as it moves through space and only the arms should move. The forearms should do no other work other than hold the bar.
  4. After a second on the contracted position, start to inhale and slowly lower your torso back to the starting position when your arms are fully extended and the lats are fully stretched.
  5. Repeat this motion for the prescribed amount of repetitions.

Variations:

  • If you are new at this exercise and do not have the strength to perform it, use a chin assist machine if available. These machines use weight to help you push your bodyweight.
  • Otherwise, a spotter holding your legs can help.
  • On the other hand, more advanced lifters can add weight to the exercise by using a weight belt that allows the addition of weighted plates.
  • The behind the neck variation is not recommended as it can be hard on the rotator cuff due to the hyperextension created by bringing the bar behind the neck.

 

Rocky Pullups

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Lats

Other MusclesBicepsMiddle BackShoulders

EquipmentOther

Mechanics TypeCompound

Level: Intermediate

Sport: No

ForcePull

 

  1. Grab the pull-up bar with the palms facing forward using a wide grip.
  2. As you have both arms extended in front of you holding the bar at the chosen grip width, bring your torso back around 30 degrees or so while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out. This is your starting position.
  3. Pull your torso up until the bar touches your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back. Exhale as you perform this portion of the movement. Tip: Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. The upper torso should remain stationary as it moves through space and only the arms should move. The forearms should do no other work other than hold the bar.
  4. After a second on the contracted position, start to inhale and slowly lower your torso back to the starting position when your arms are fully extended and the lats are fully stretched.
  5. Now repeat the same movements as described above except this time your torso will remain straight as you go up and the bar will touch the back of the neck instead of the upper chest. Tip: Use the head to lean forward slightly as it will help you properly execute this portion of the exercise.
  6. Once you have lowered yourself back down to the starting position, repeat the exercise for the prescribed amount of repetitions in your program.

Caution: The behind the neck variation can be hard on the rotator cuff due to the hyperextension created by bringing the bar behind the neck so this exercise is not recommended for people with shoulder problems.

Variations:

  • If you are new at this exercise and do not have the strength to perform it, use a chin assist machine if available. These machines use weight to help you push your bodyweight.
  • Otherwise, a spotter holding your legs can help.
  • You can also use a pull-down machine.

 

Wide Grio Pull Up

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypeStrength

Main Muscle WorkedLats

Other MusclesBicepsMiddle Back

EquipmentBody Only

Mechanics TypeCompound

LevelIntermediate

SportNo

Force: Pull

 

  1. Take a wide grip on a pull-up bar, hanging freely with your arms extended. This will be your starting position.
  2. Pull yourself up by flexing the elbows and adducting the glenohumeral joint. Do not swing or use momentum to complete the movement. Attempt to get your chin above your hands.
  3. Pause at the top of the motion before lowering yourself to the starting position.

 

V Bar Pulldown

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypeStrength

Main Muscle WorkedLats

Other MusclesBicepsMiddle BackShoulders

EquipmentCable

Mechanics TypeCompound

Level: Intermediate

Sport: No

Force: Pull

 

  1. Sit down on a pull-down machine with a V-Bar attached to the top pulley.
  2. Adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. These pads will prevent your body from being raised by the resistance attached to the bar.
  3. Grab the V-bar with the palms facing each other (a neutral grip). Stick your chest out and lean yourself back slightly (around 30-degrees) in order to better engage the lats. This will be your starting position.
  4. Using your lats, pull the bar down as you squeeze your shoulder blades. Continue until your chest nearly touches the V-bar. Exhale as you execute this motion. Tip: Keep the torso stationary throughout the movement.
  5. After a second hold on the contracted position, slowly bring the bar back to the starting position as you breathe in.
  6. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

Caution: Avoid the temptation to use a weight so big that you need to start swinging your torso in order to perform the exercise.

 

Leveridge Iso Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypeStrength

Main Muscle WorkedLats

Other MusclesBicepsMiddle Back

Equipment: Machine

Mechanics TypeCompound

LevelBeginner

Sport: No

ForcePull

 

  1. Load an appropriate weight onto the pins and adjust the seat height so that the handles are at chest level. Grasp the handles with either a neutral or pronated grip. This will be your starting position.
  2. Pull the handles towards your torso, retracting your shoulder blades as you flex the elbow.
  3. Pause at the bottom of the motion, and then slowly return the handles to the starting position. For multiple repetitions, avoid completely returning the weight to the stops to keep tension on the muscles being worked.

 

Shotgun Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypeStrength

Main Muscle Worked: Lats

Other Muscles: BicepsMiddle Back

Equipment: Cable

Mechanics TypeCompound

LevelBeginner

SportNo

Force: Pull

 

  1. Attach a single handle to a low cable.
  2. After selecting the correct weight, stand a couple feet back with a wide-split stance. Your arm should be extended and your shoulder forward. This will be your starting position.
  3. Perform the movement by retracting the shoulder and flexing the elbow. As you pull, supinate the wrist, turning the palm upward as you go.
  4. After a brief pause, return to the starting position.

 

Bent Forward Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength

Main Muscle WorkedMiddle Back

Other Muscles: BicepsLatsShoulders

Equipment: Barbell

Mechanics TypeCompound

LevelBeginner

Sport: No

Force: Pull

 

  1. Holding a barbell with a pronated grip (palms facing down), bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward, by bending at the waist, while keeping the back straight until it is almost parallel to the floor. Tip: Make sure that you keep the head up. The barbell should hang directly in front of you as your arms hang perpendicular to the floor and your torso. This is your starting position.
  2. Now, while keeping the torso stationary, breathe out and lift the barbell to you. Keep the elbows close to the body and only use the forearms to hold the weight. At the top contracted position, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a brief pause.
  3. Then inhale and slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Caution: This exercise is not recommended for people with back problems. A Low Pulley Row is a better choice for people with back issues.

Also, just like with the bent knee dead-lift, if you have a healthy back, ensure perfect form and never slouch the back forward as this can cause back injury.

Be cautious as well with the weight used; in case of doubt, use less weight rather than more.

Variations: You can perform the same exercise using a supinated (palms facing you) grip.

 

Dumbell Incline Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypeStrength

Main Muscle WorkedMiddle Back

Other MusclesBicepsForearmsLatsShoulders

Equipment: Dumbbell

Mechanics TypeCompound

LevelBeginner

Sport: No

Force: Pull

 

  1. Using a neutral grip, lean into an incline bench.
  2. Take a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip, beginning with the arms straight. This will be your starting position.
  3. Retract the shoulder blades and flex the elbows to row the dumbbells to your side.
  4. Pause at the top of the motion, and then return to the starting position.

 

T Bar Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Middle Back

Other MusclesBicepsLats

EquipmentBarbell

Mechanics Type: Compound

Level: Intermediate

SportNo

ForcePull

 

  1. Position a bar into a landmine or in a corner to keep it from moving. Load an appropriate weight onto your end.
  2. Stand over the bar, and position a Double D row handle around the bar next to the collar. Using your hips and legs, rise to a standing position.
  3. Assume a wide stance with your hips back and your chest up. Your arms should be extended. This will be your starting position.
  4. Pull the weight to your upper abdomen by retracting the shoulder blades and flexing the elbows. Do not jerk the weight or cheat during the movement.
  5. After a brief pause, return to the starting position.

 

One Arm Dumbell Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength
Main Muscle Worked: Middle Back
Other Muscles: Biceps, Lats, Shoulders
Equipment: Dumbbell
Mechanics Type: Compound
Level: Beginner
Sport: No
Force: Pull

 

  1. Choose a flat bench and place a dumbbell on each side of it.
  2. Place the right leg on top of the end of the bench, bend your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor, and place your right hand on the other end of the bench for support.
  3. Use the left hand to pick up the dumbbell on the floor and hold the weight while keeping your lower back straight. The palm of the hand should be facing your torso. This will be your starting position.
  4. Pull the resistance straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side and keeping the torso stationary. Breathe out as you perform this step. Tip: Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. Also, make sure that the force is performed with the back muscles and not the arms. Finally, the upper torso should remain stationary and only the arms should move. The forearms should do no other work except for holding the dumbbell; therefore do not try to pull the dumbbell up using the forearms.
  5. Lower the resistance straight down to the starting position. Breathe in as you perform this step.
  6. Repeat the movement for the specified amount of repetitions.
  7. Switch sides and repeat again with the other arm.

Variations: One-arm rows can also be performed using a high pulley or a low pulley instead of a dumbbell.

 

Alternate Renegade Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Middle Back

Other Muscles: AbdominalsBicepsChestLatsTriceps

Equipment: Kettlebells

Mechanics Type: Compound

Level: Expert

SportNo

Force: Pull

 

  1. Place two kettlebells on the floor about shoulder width apart. Position yourself on your toes and your hands as though you were doing a pushup, with the body straight and extended. Use the handles of the kettlebells to support your upper body. You may need to position your feet wide for support.
  2. Push one kettlebell into the floor and row the other kettlebell, retracting the shoulder blade of the working side as you flex the elbow, pulling it to your side.
  3. Then lower the kettlebell to the floor and begin the kettlebell in the opposite hand. Repeat for several reps.

 

Bent Forward Dumbell Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypeStrength

Main Muscle WorkedMiddle Back

Other MusclesBicepsLatsShoulders

Equipment: Dumbbell

Mechanics Type: Compound

Level: Beginner

Sport: No

ForcePull

 

  1. With a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing each other), bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward, by bending at the waist, while keeping the back straight until it is almost parallel to the floor. Tip: Make sure that you keep the head up. The weights should hang directly in front of you as your arms hang perpendicular to the floor and your torso. This is your starting position.
  2. While keeping the torso stationary, lift the dumbbells to your side as you breathe out, squeezing your shoulder blades together. On the top contracted position, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a second.
  3. Slowly lower the weight again to the starting position as you inhale.
  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Caution:

  • This exercise is not recommended for people with back problems. A Low Pulley Row is a better choice for people with back issues.
  • Ensure perfect form and never round the back as this can cause back injury.
  • Be cautious as well with the weight used; in case of doubt, use less weight rather than more.

Variations: You can perform the same exercise using a low pulley instead with a V-bar or with a barbell.

 

Inverted Row

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Middle Back

Other Muscles: Lats

Equipment: None

Mechanics Type: Compound

LevelBeginner

SportNo

ForcePull

 

  1. Position a bar in a rack to about waist height. You can also use a smith machine.
  2. Take a wider than shoulder width grip on the bar and position yourself hanging underneath the bar. Your body should be straight with your heels on the ground with your arms fully extended. This will be your starting position.
  3. Begin by flexing the elbow, pulling your chest towards the bar. Retract your shoulder blades as you perform the movement.
  4. Pause at the top of the motion, and return yourself to the start position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

 

Hyperextensions

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength

Main Muscle WorkedLower Back

Other Muscles: GlutesHamstrings

Equipment: Body Only

Mechanics TypeCompound

LevelIntermediate

Sport: No

Force: Pull

 

  1. With someone holding down your legs, slide yourself down to the edge a flat bench until your hips hang off the end of the bench. Tip: Your entire upper body should be hanging down towards the floor. Also, you will be in the same position as if you were on a hyperextension bench but the range of motion will be shorter due to the height of the flat bench vs. that of the hyperextension bench.
  2. With your body straight, cross your arms in front of you (my preference) or behind your head. This will be your starting position. Tip: You can also hold a weight plate for extra resistance in front of you under your crossed arms.
  3. Start bending forward slowly at the waist as far as you can while keeping your back flat. Inhale as you perform this movement. Keep moving forward until you almost touch the floor or you feel a nice stretch on the hamstrings (whichever comes first). Tip: Never round the back as you perform this exercise.
  4. Slowly raise your torso back to the initial position as you exhale. Tip:Avoid the temptation to arch your back past a straight line. Also, do not swing the torso at any time in order to protect the back from injury.
  5. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Variations: This exercise can also be performed using a hyperextension bench. Also, a similar exercise to this one is the good morning and the stiff-legged deadlift.

 

Rack Pulls

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypePowerlifting

Main Muscle WorkedLower Back

Other MusclesForearmsGlutesHamstringsTraps

Equipment: Barbell

Mechanics Type: Compound

LevelIntermediate

SportNo

Force: Pull

 

  1. Set up in a power rack with the bar on the pins. The pins should be set to the desired point; just below the knees, just above, or in the mid thigh position. Position yourself against the bar in proper deadlifting position. Your feet should be under your hips, your grip shoulder width, back arched, and hips back to engage the hamstrings. Since the weight is typically heavy, you may use a mixed grip, a hook grip, or use straps to aid in holding the weight.
  2. With your head looking forward, extend through the hips and knees, pulling the weight up and back until lockout. Be sure to pull your shoulders back as you complete the movement.
  3. Return the weight to the pins and repeat.

 

Stiff Leg Barbell Good Mornings

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypeStrength

Main Muscle Worked: Lower Back

Other Muscles: GlutesHamstrings

EquipmentBarbell

Mechanics TypeCompound

Level: Beginner

SportNo

ForcePush

 

  1. This exercise is best performed inside a squat rack for safety purposes. To begin, first set the bar on a rack that best matches your height. Once the correct height is chosen and the bar is loaded, step under the bar and place the back of your shoulders (slightly below the neck) across it.
  2. Hold on to the bar using both arms at each side and lift it off the rack by first pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso.
  3. Step away from the rack and position your legs using a shoulder width medium stance. Keep your head up at all times as looking down will get you off balance and also maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position.
  4. Keeping your legs stationary, move your torso forward by bending at the hips while inhaling. Lower your torso until it is parallel with the floor.
  5. Begin to raise the bar as you exhale by elevating your torso back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Caution: This is not an exercise to be taken lightly. Be cautious with the weight used; in case of doubt, use less weight rather than more. The stiff-legged barbell good morning is a very safe exercise but only if performed properly.

 

Seated Back Extension

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Strength
Main Muscle Worked: Lower Back
Equipment: Machine
Mechanics Type: Isolation
Level: Beginner
Sport: No
Force: Push

 

  1. Adjust the machine and select an appropriate load.
  2. Seat yourself with your upper back against the roller and grasp the handles with your feet planted firmly on the footrest. Your head should remain looking forward and your chest should be up. This will be your starting position.
  3. Initiate the movement by extending at the hips and lumbar spine to straighten your body, pushing the roller to the rear.
  4. At the top of the motion pause, and then return to the starting position.

 

Superman

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Stretching

Main Muscle WorkedLower Back

Other MusclesGlutesHamstrings

EquipmentBody Only

Mechanics Type: Compound

Level: Beginner

SportNo

Force: Static

 

  1. To begin, lie straight and face down on the floor or exercise mat. Your arms should be fully extended in front of you. This is the starting position.
  2. Simultaneously raise your arms, legs, and chest off of the floor and hold this contraction for 2 seconds. Tip: Squeeze your lower back to get the best results from this exercise. Remember to exhale during this movement. Note: When holding the contracted position, you should look like superman when he is flying.
  3. Slowly begin to lower your arms, legs and chest back down to the starting position while inhaling.
  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions prescribed in your program.

Variations: You can also perform this exercise using one arm and leg at a time. Simply elevating your left leg, arm and side of your chest and do the same with the right side.

 

Deficit Deadlift

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

Type: Powerlifting

Main Muscle Worked: Lower Back

Other MusclesForearmsGlutesHamstringsMiddle Back,QuadricepsTraps

EquipmentBarbell

Mechanics TypeCompound

Level: Intermediate

SportNo

Force: Pull

 

  1. Begin by having a platform or weight plates that you can stand on, usually 1-3 inches in height. Approach the bar so that it is centered over your feet. You feet should be about hip width apart. Bend at the hip to grip the bar at shoulder width, allowing your shoulder blades to protract. Typically, you would use an overhand grip or an over/under grip on heavier sets.
  2. With your feet, and your grip set, take a big breath and then lower your hips and bend the knees until your shins contact the bar. Look forward with your head, keep your chest up and your back arched, and begin driving through the heels to move the weight upward. After the bar passes the knees, aggressively pull the bar back, pulling your shoulder blades together as you drive your hips forward into the bar.
  3. Lower the bar by bending at the hips and guiding it to the floor.

 

Seated Good Mornings

 

Start Position

Finish Position

 

TypePowerlifting

Main Muscle Worked: Lower Back

Other MusclesGlutes

EquipmentBarbell

Mechanics Type: Compound

Level: Intermediate

Sport: No

ForcePull

 

  1. Set up a box in a power rack. The pins should be set at an appropriate height. Begin by stepping under the bar and placing it across the back of the shoulders, not on top of your traps. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and rotate your elbows forward, attempting to bend the bar across your shoulders.
  2. Remove the bar from the rack, creating a tight arch in your lower back. Keep your head facing forward. With your back, shoulders, and core tight, push your knees and butt out and you begin your descent. Sit back with your hips until you are seated on the box. This will be your starting position.
  3. Keeping the bar tight, bend forward at the hips as much as possible. If you set the pins to what would be parallel, you not only have a safety if you fail, but know when to stop.
  4. Pause just above the pins and reverse the motion until your torso it upright.
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