For building the back bigger and stronger, there is usually only one path prescribed to young lifters; lift heavy, lift plenty, and lift often. The early back muscle training of athletes should mostly consist of heavy compound movements, completed in a safe and controlled manner, for a lot of sets with a fairly low repetition range. Movements such as deadlifts, barbell rows, dumbbell rows, pull-ups, T-bar rows, and lat pulldowns are the foundation of a successful long-term muscle building plan for the back which will leave to increased strength, greater muscle group separation, increased lifting stamina, and greater overall muscle mass. This is a tried and true combination of the right kinds of movements, completed with free weights and lots of blood, sweat and effort. And while it’s the most effective and popular way, it’s not the ONLY way.
There are going to be times in your training career where you encounter a situation where heavy free weights simply aren’t the best solution for your training needs. Maybe you’re recovering from an injury. Perhaps you have been battling some lingering joint or tendon soreness. Sometimes the central nervous system just needs a break from heavy iron lifting. Or dieting for a show has left your strength levels low, but you really wish to etch out some detail into your back muscles. For times like these, a cable-only workout for your back is preferable and can deliver some terrific results. Ready to learn more?
Start your workout with four sets of wide grip cable pulldowns, targeting the entire upper back. Work to keep a continuous amount of tension upon the back muscles as you complete each repetition. Never “lock out” all the way, which will force your back muscles to maintain a level of control and flexion over the workload for the entire workout. You should utilize this practice for all exercises on this twenty set cable training session.
Now it’s time to simply reverse your hand grip from wide to underhand narrow. Instead of focusing on the outer (wide) portion of the lats muscle group, you will be targeting the inner area of the lats. Your biceps may also come into play, so you’ll want to flex the back and much as possible in order to take the biceps out of the movement as much as possible. Your hands should simply be ‘hooks’ throughout this movement, holding the weight tightly while your back muscles do the actual work!
Using a split rope, you will stand facing a cable attachment set at about face level. Slowly pull the weight toward your face, activating the upper back muscles in a new and unique way they may never has experienced before. Using only a moderate weight to keep the shoulder joints safe you will actually split the weight on either side of your head as you pull the cable back to a comfortable position.
Targeting the lower back is an essential part of any complete back training workout. Free weights deadlifts are very effective, but not always practical or available. Using the cable attachment to mimic the deadlift motion can be comparable in terms of lower back stimulation. You won’t have as much stabilizer muscle recruitment taking place, but you will have an added level of safety and support which may otherwise not be possible when training heavy. Protect your back with a belt just as you would with any standard deadliting day, and focus intently on every repetition to prevent injury.
At this point, you’re 16 sets in and your balance and control are probably beginning to want. Never fear. When your control starts to fail, you can opt for seated cable rows, allowing you to carefully move the weight in a manner to stimulate most of the back with very slow and deliberate repetitions. Burn out that back, aiming for 12 to 15 to 20 repetitions and beyond as you push your back to the point of maximum muscular failure.
Most of the time, training the back with heavy, compound movements is going to be your best bet. However, when you’re ready to change things up, your lifting toolbox should be on the ready with movements such as cable-only workouts to target the entire back with a continuous tension blast of sets to saturate the fibers of the back with blood and deliver a unique workout much different from that which you’re used to utilizing. Mix things up from time to time, and your body will thank you for it. Good luck!