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sleepingdog 06-02-2011 10:06 PM

Ineffective back exercises..
I'm having issues with my back. Not pain, not inflexibility, and I don't think weakness. I just don't feel like I'm doing ANY upper or mid back exercises right. I love my good mornings, and hyperextensions I can do all day. Anything above those muscles seems to be "numb". I have no control over the muscles, I've never been able to flex any back muscle except traps. I really feel like my arms and shoulders are doing all the work in a dumbell row, seated pulldown, pullups, barbell rows, etc.

Any advice? Why is this so awkward?

espm1000 06-02-2011 10:27 PM

I just recently overcame this problem and I'll tell you what I did. I started viewing my hands as hooks to hold the weight and began pulling with my elbows if that makes sense.

Here are a few excellent tips I can give you to make sure you feel it in your back.

1) When doing pulldowns, pullups, or rows visualize pulling the bar apart. You need a decent, deep grip to do this, but pull the bar apart. By pulling the bar apart you keep your form in check and get a tighter contraction of the muscles surrounding the scapulae (Rhomboids, Traps, and Lats). In all honesty, you should be pulling the bar apart on benches during the downward motion as well to help stabilize yourself and engage your lats to keep tension in the bar.

2) Minimize any and all leg involvement during your sets unless you're purposefully cheating and can CONTROL it. Jerking the weight up will not allow you to feel the muscles in your back doing the work and is a good way to injure something.

3) Perform your all of your warm-up sets slowly with correct form to help yourself get used to the feeling of pulling your scapulae back.

MikeM 06-03-2011 02:27 AM

Espm has good advice. Follow it. But, I will tell you a few things that helped me in addition to that.

In a row, concentrate on squeezing the shoulder blades together, rather than lifting the weight. The weight is irrelevant, it's the motion that works the upper back muscles. Also, try to set up and hit the lower chest/upper stomach because that engages the Lats more. You're pulling the weight in to your body, not snatching it towards your chest. If that makes any sense.

Also, a very good upper back strengthening exercise is to simply sit upright, draw your chest up and shoulders back in a somewhat exaggerated arch of your back, and hold that position while you breathe at least a few times, trying to draw your chest up to your chin. Work up to 45-60 sec. in that position.

You could also do some rounded back good mornings , seated or vertical. Bar on your back, slouch down rounded back, then arch back and raise body into perfect upper body positioning, and raise back up. I do these every pre-workout warmup, and a deloaded version post workout everyday, except weekends.

Good luck!

Fazc 06-03-2011 03:42 AM

Stick to heavy deadlifts, heavy bent rows and Chins if you can do them. For now forget about trying to *feel* the muscle. There's no need for a beginner to be concerned with such things, as long as your form is correct and you're progressively adding weight to the bar and to the scale then what you are doing is working.

Once a decent foundation of muscle has been built you will be better able to flex it.

Carl1174 06-03-2011 03:44 AM

I feel NOTHING in my back more than Cleans... seriously if you want upper back DOMS then do some Oly Lifts :)


LtL 06-03-2011 04:57 AM

Back muscles are hard to activate a lot of the time because you can't see them. Have your training partner or spotter lightly tap the muscles you are going to use just before you start your set. This will tell your brain what you're going to be using and help you flex and use the right muscles. Other than that it's all practice.


Abaddon 06-03-2011 05:12 AM

I feel my upper and outer lats - if the description is accurate - when performing straight arm lateral pushdowns.

Soldier 06-03-2011 07:43 AM

I'm not a fan of the whole "mind-muscle connection" thing, but when I first got back into training hard a couple years ago, I did lots of lighter weight pull-downs (not light, just not heavy). I really focussed on thinking of my hands as hooks (awesome advice, worked very well for me), allowing the weight to stretch me at the top, then pulling my elbows down and squeezing the s8!t out of my entire back. Shoulders back, chest out.

Focussing on those things made me finally feel my back after years of trying to and failing. Now I don't have to think about those things, but I still feel my back. I disagree with just throwing around heavy weights. There's nothing wrong with some cheating, but if you don't have the basics of stretching and contraction in your back, you won't get the full benefits.

sleepingdog 06-03-2011 09:34 AM

Thanks guys, I appreciate all the fast inputs. I'm on a modified West Side Barbell routine (modified to match my schedule and available equipment), so it will be sunday before I get a real chance to give this a shot. Sadly, no matter where I go, I'm the one with the interest in lifting so there is no voice of experience on hand :( .

BendtheBar 06-03-2011 09:45 AM

I have 2 pieces of advice.

First, when you pull on back exercises, start by moving the shoulder back, and then complete the lift by pulling the elbow back and squeezing the lats together. This isn't done in a slow manner, but rather naturally, with brute strength. (Think shoulders back, elbows back, squeeze.)

Second, use heavy weight. I am not a fan of mind muscle and that sort of thing. Row/pull as much as you can. Don't worry about slowing things down to feel. Practice the above while moving heavy iron. I am now up to 215 on dumbbell rows and 315 on barbell rows and can still pull using the above style.

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