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The Ultimate Back Workout for Advanced Lifters


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Man Does Back Squat Exercise

Shutterstock

Our backs take a beating in today’s sedentary culture. We spend much of our time seated at desks, behind steering wheels, and wedged into airline seats. No wonder most of us complain about back pain at some point in our lives.

That’s why an effective back workout not only develops the muscles that give us a broad, V-shaped back, but also counteracts the effects of sitting. That way we improve our so-called pillar strength, which gives us stability throughout the hips, midsection, and shoulders—the broad area covered by the back, in other words. If we don’t do that first, we’re setting ourselves up for back pain.

The solution? We can strengthen and stabilize our backs with the same effective workout. Along the way, we’ll build the pillar strength that serves as our internal equivalent of those bulky leather belts guys wore in the gym in the 1980s (you know the type), or the belts Home Depot workers still don today when they load vehicles.

How it works

To build a bigger, stronger, more stable back, this workout will challenge you with a rapid-fire barrage of moves. Instead of simply hammering the back muscles over and over with rest breaks in between, this workout will alternate pushing and pulling exercises—but with no rest. By alternating between a push and a pull, you can move continuously between movements with no rest.

Directions:

  • Do 10 reps of each exercise in one circuit. Do not rest between exercises.
  • Do three circuits total. You may take a one-minute water break between circuits.


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1. Pullup

Man doing pullup in park

Getty

A lot of us struggled in grade school with the five-rep pullup requirement of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Now that you have years of hardcore lifting under your belt, there’s no excuse not to embrace this move—the foundation of a broad, V-shaped back.


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2. Goblet Squat

Man Performing A Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Beth Bischoff

A full-body maneuver that takes the pressure off your back, the goblet squat is more accessible than a traditional barbell squat. The counterbalance with the weight in front of the body allows you to sit back more easily, encouraging proper form.


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3. Lat Pulldown

Man Doing A Lateral Pulldown

GCShutter/ Getty Images

Though best known for targeting the upper back, the lat pulldown also improves stability in the lower back and core. In other words, this familiar move is perfect for our parallel goals of building a bigger, stronger back while also making us more resistant to injury and the back-related ailments brought about by sitting.


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4. Pushup

Man In Plank Position

Jay Sullivan

This is more of a chest exercise, of course, but, in the interest of alternating between pushing and pulling to move along without rest, we’re inserting it here. To test your form and the stability of your spine, place a dowel rod or broomstick along your spine to do the pushups.


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5. One-arm, One-leg Bent-over Dumbbell Row

Renegade Row

Edgar Artiga

A variation on the traditional one-arm row, this move is made slightly more challenging by raising the leg on the same side as your lifting arm. (So when you row with your right arm, lift your right leg.) This switch-up will not only challenge you to work each side independently (as with a traditional one-arm row), but also work your hamstrings while inevitably lowering the dumbbell deeper—almost like a Romanian deadlift.


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6. Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

Medicine Ball Throw

Ahmed Klink

This move generates rotational power while working your lats and overall back. If a concrete wall isn’t available, sit on the ground and rotate the ball side-to-side.


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7. One-handed Cable Rotational Lift

Man Using A Cable Machine

Westend61/ Getty Images

If you’ve ever battled with a lawn mower that refused to start, this movement will be familiar. Begin in a half-kneeling position in front of a cable machine, one knee on the ground and the opposite hand grabbing a low pulley. Rotate your trunk away from the machine as if starting the mower, drawing the handle toward your chest and rotating as far back as possible. Try not to bend your arm too much—keeping it almost completely extended will make this move as challenging as possible.

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