The Importance Of Perfect Form When Performing Back Muscle Exercises By Rob Carbo
This is the first segment of my powerbuilding series entitled Building the Beast. Remember powerbuilding is a combination of bodybuilding and powerlifting. I feel the best way to kick this series off is to start with the BACK muscles. Now most novice weightlifters start off first by working their biceps and their chests. The reason for this is these muscles are the most obvious. It's the first thing you see when you look in the mirror and in your eye's it's the first thing the opposite or the not opposite sex sees. In fact when I was younger, back on the east coast. I remember these guy's, we used to call them pump monkey's. Going down to the basement and working their bicep's before a night out on the town. They wanted to look good for the ladies.
The first question asked of anybody that even looks like they lift weights is. "Hey! How much can ya bench??? Again this goes back to the first paragraph of working the muscles that are obvious. While your back muscles may not be so obvious to you.They are to others, also your back muscles are the antagonist muscles and just as important in building a huge bench press. While you are using your chest, shoulders and triceps in pressing the weight. The back muscles are the prime work horse in lowering the weight......and I feel people don't work their back muscles as much as the obvious muscles, for the simple reason: ya can't see um.
I feel my back is what I neglected most and not merely for vanity reasons but also because my form was horrendous. I was doing the old...lift as much weight as I can and just yank thing. In back as well as any other exercise the key is three little words....form, form, form. so first off you want to make sure your form is perfect.
So what is good form?? The key to form in back exercises is.....
1) always start with perfect posture. I know this sounds like a ladies finishing school statement but get in position do your little shimmy, shake, take a deep breath and put your mind into the exercise regardless of the movement. Head up, chin up, back arched now you're ready to go.
2) Pull with your elbows. Now you may be saying ...what the heck does that mean. Let's use lat pulldowns to the front as an example. Visualize a straight line from the top of the cable to the end of your elbow, pull straight towards your elbow. This will ensure that your back muscles are doing the work and not your biceps.Sure your biceps are involved in the movement but we want your back doing the bulk of the work.
3) Control the negative portion of the lift. You should alway's do smooth deliberate repetitions but as you get stronger and more experienced, you may do the positive portion of the lift a little more explosive. This is fine as it will help your fast twitch muscle fibers which is needed in developing brute strength. However...as previously stated you must always control the negative portion of the lift. In all exercises you are always stronger in the negative than you are in the positive and we don't want to lose the benefit of this.
Deadlifts: Yes deadlifts........I know what you're thinking. Deadlifts aren't a back exercise! Many people think of deadlifts as a lowerback, hamstring and glute exercise. Your lats, traps, rear delts and rhomboids are also heavily worked doing deads. Heavy squats and deadlifts also kick your hormones into overdrive causing a GH release.
There are two different styles of deadlifting: Conventional or sumo. Conventional style is where the lifter has their feet shoulder width or narrower.Your hands are on the outside of your knees. Bend down reach the bar keeping your head up, chin up. Start the movement with leg drive, by trying to push your feet though the floor and then pull with your upper body.
Sumo on the other hand is when your legs are wide. Resembling the sumo wrestlers that we se on T.V. Your hands are inside your knees, head up, chin up. Drive with your legs again pushing your feet through the floor and then pulling with your upper body. Conventional style is used more by bodybuilders and athletes because the longer range of motion works more muscle groups. Sumo style because of it's shorter range of motion works your legs a little bit more and would be more suited for powerlifters or those working on brute strength.
I would recommend doing your deadlifts in a 12 week cycle. Doing 10 to 12 reps for 3 weeks as a conditioning period and then cycling down doing......8 to 10 for 3 weeks, 6 to 8 for 3 weeks and finally 4 to 6 for 3 weeks. unless you are competing in powerlifting these rep ranges will fill your needs while not getting to close to a potentially dangerous single maximum lift.
In addition to deadlifts I would also do a width movement: for example lat pulldowns or some kind of machine pulldown such as Hammer Strength. Then do a back thickness movement such as bent over rows, one arm dumbell rows or a chest supported seated row machine. When doing bent over rows position your body at a 45 degree angle, again keep your head up, chin up, back arched and pull(with your elbows) the bar into your lower abdomen. In the old days this exercise was done at a 90 degree angle with your head down pulling the bar into your chest. This is both dangerous and plain old not as efficient. As the old saying goes " if ya look down...ya go down"..
I would also recommend a rear delt movement such as a rear delt machine or bent lateral raises..again keeping your body at a 45 degree angle and raising your arm to a 10 o'clock 2 o'clock position rather than straight across your body.. This really stimulates the rear head of your deltoids. The reason I work rear delts on this day instead of on a shoulder day is you're already working your rear deltoids on your pulling movements. To work them either the day before or the day after on a shoulder day would lead to overtraining them. Follow the rep ranges listed above for your deadlifts and do the assistance back exercises in a three set 8 to 12 reps neighborhood and you'll do just fine.
The key points again are form, form, form.. Head up, chin up, arch your back. Pull with your elbows, as alway's lift with your head, not over it. Feel your way though each exercise, rather than think your way through it. Put your mind in the muscle. If it doesn't feel right it's not right.
Conceive, believe, achieve!!!! Yours in power!!! - Rob Carbo