The intent of this back workout is not to make it an end-all workout. It’s to add yet another tool to your list of workout methods. It is a high intensity upper back workout that will give you something to take you to a higher level, or help you break free from a plateau.
For it to work in that capacity, it has to be done with a high degree of intensity. That’s why it should be used periodically and not continuously. It is a breakthrough type workout.
You’ll do three exercises to a high level of fatigue with only enough rest between them to change to each weight station or change equipment. That will mean you will do in 10-15 minutes what you would normally take 30-45 minutes to do.
It’s the intensity that makes it work.
Keep in mind, if you don’t have one or any of the pieces of equipment shown, you can substitute something else. Just try to emulate the move and weight load. It may take some imagination, but keep in mind, your body doesn’t know whether you’re lifting a concrete block or a dumbbell.
Don’t be afraid to be creative.
Before starting, about the importance of the lats. Yeah it looks good to have a wide back. But more important than that the lats are what gives the deepest functioning ability to your shoulders. The lats enable stable, strong shoulder rotation and provide strength to finish the most difficult lifts and pulls done with the arms and shoulders. The lats also provide significant body armor protecting your body from hard impact.
My warm up for my upper back workout is often in the form of power cleans. These may be light, medium or heavy according to what my strength training needs are at the time. The power cleans are compound moves that fully warm up my legs, upper and lower back, and arms. Not absolutely necessary, but if you’re going to use this great strength and agility exercise, this is a good place.
The high intensity upper back workout starts here.
The first exercise I’m doing is a bent over two arm row with one end of a barbell. Keep in mind, the important thing is to do them until you feel near failure.
Be sure to set your back when doing these to avoid injury. Don’t allow yourself to sway or allow your back to raise and lower when performing the rows.
When concluded, without delay pick up your dumbbells and do some heavy one arm dumbbell rows. Keep in mind, heavy means what is heavy to you. It should dig in deep to the lats with a full awareness based on feeling the depth of effect.
After the fatigue of the barbell rows, these allow you to focus tightly on your lats without being inhibited by your weakest link which is your lower back. If you have access to a fitness center, you may be able to use a chest supported rowing machine.
The final exercise, without resting, are resistance band pull downs. Seated at an angle under the straps, back straight, keeping your arms high grip the band while positioning yourself so there is beginning resistance on the bands. At no point during this exercise should the band(s) go limp.
Note: Today, for a moderate cost, you can purchase resistance band systems that with a little imagination will rival the weight resistance of a high end gym cable machine. Mine can be used individually or combined for resistance up to 210 lbs.
Pull the bands back smoothly as far as possible. Return to the beginning position. No jerky movements should be used. The return back to the beginning position should be slow ans smooth.
IMPORTANT: On the resistance band moves, there should be no relief on the muscle, up or down, until the exercise is completed – almost to failure. Also the elevated position of the bands is important to hitting the full range of muscle fiber in the lats.
Alternately you can duplicate the rowing exercises very effectively by lying under a barbell elevated on a squat rack or Smith Machine. This provides a very solid platform for pulling yourself up in a rowing motion. It can also be modified pretty significantly to add challenging elements to the exercise.
After these are complete, you should have done somewhere around 50-70 total reps between them all.
Now is time to rest for two minutes.
Alternatives or additions to the exercises above: Full bent barbell rows, straight bar inverted pullups, chest supported dumbbell rows.
How to use it.
Then repeat this intense set of back exercises again. Or use them as a one-time element added to your heavy strength training. Use it however you need it to accomplish your strength training goals.
Keep in mind that once you perfect the performance of these upper back exercises, you can use your imagination to add challenging elements to them.
As you progress through your workouts, the only limit to the number and ways of doing exercises to add challenge and effectiveness is your imagination.
Write down the details of this high intensity upper back workout. While nothing should be cut in stone, having a record of how you do each exercise accompanied by changes you make will go a long way in providing a long list of options going forward.
NOTE: In most articles I write from the perspective of what you can use at home, outdoors in your yard, in the woods, at a park, etc. While I use a fitness center periodically throughout the year, I never want to get dependent on it to maintain a high level of fitness and strength.