4 Steps To A V-Shaped Back

Do you have a muscular and broad back that's noticeable both inside and outside of the gym?

You know, a back that gives you the impressive "v-shape" look that lets everyone around know you take your weight training seriously?

If so, congratulations! In this week's tip you'll discover how to take your back training to the next level.

On the other hand: If your back could use some work, you're also in luck because I'm about to reveal an intense back routine to get you on track fast! 

But first, here are the basics of my entire routine to help you plan your back workout:

Workout frequency: Train your back once every 5-7 days.

I personally workout 5 days in a row (Monday - Friday) and take weekends off. Each workout is typically devoted to 1-2 major bodyparts (chest, back, legs, etc.) plus one minor bodypart (abs, calves, or forearms).  This way, my muscles get a direct hit once a week, but I also incorporate exercises so each major muscle group gets and indirect hit once a week (more on this in upcoming articles).

If my schedule permits, I will do a 3 on - 1 off, 2 on - 1 off instead of 5 days in a row. I find that I build muscle faster and work out more intensely if I make that extra day to recuperate. (If you're not making steady gains with your program, try adding a few extra rest days each week. You may actually gain more by training less!)

Okay, Here's how my typical workout schedule looks:
Day #1: Shoulders/Triceps /Biceps

Day #2: Quads/Calves/Abs 

Day #3: Chest/Forearms 

Day #4: Hamstrings/calves/Abs

Day #5: Back/Traps/Brachialis

Days #6 and #7: Rest

Then repeat

Now, you can certainly adapt this workout schedule to fit your specific needs. For example: If you want to train 3 days a week instead of 5, your split may look like this:

Monday - Quads, Calves, Chest, Biceps, Upper Abs

Wednesday - Back, Brachialis, Soleus

Friday - Hamstrings, Delts, Triceps, Lower Abs

With the above split, you will have to eliminate some sets to prevent extended workouts and overtraining.. This workout allows you to have Tuesday and Thursday off along with weekends each week. (The 2 extra days of rest may be good for you!)

Moving along, here are 8 things which you must do to make your workouts as effective as possible:

1. Use a training log. 
2. Use as much weight as possible for the number of prescribed reps. 
3. Work each set to failure. 
4. Strive to increase your training poundage slowly each week. 
5. Length of workout should not exceed 75 minutes (including initial warm-up.) 
6. Use strict form on all exercises.
7. Minimize stress and rest completely on days off. Try to get 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night. 
8. Follow a proper nutrition and supplementation program.
Got it? Good. Now here comes the nuts and bolts of the back program!

Back Exercises:

  • Use a controlled tempo (two seconds to lower the weight to starting position, one second pause at top of movement, and two seconds to raise the weight). This is important!
  • Take 1-2 minutes rest between sets. 
  • On drop sets, after reaching failure, without rest, you will need to drop the weight by 20-30%, then continue to failure one more time .
  • If you're a beginner, drop one set from each exercise, do not do dropsets, and concentrate on form instead of going for the heavy poundage.
Exercise #1: Front Pulldowns or Pull-ups: 

Pullups are a tough exercise, so do them first!

  • After warming up, perform 3 sets of as many repetitions as you can. Once you can go past 10 reps, you should add weight with a weight belt. 

Tip: Use an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. At the bottom of the pull up or top of the pulldown, allow your shoulder blades to rotate outwards (you will feel a stretch in your lats) then contract your lats to pull your body towards the bar. Touch your chin (or chest) to the bar for best contraction.

Avoid: Cheating or swinging throughout the movement, or taking too wide a grip, as this shortens the range of movement and inhibits full back development.

Exercise #2: Bent-Over Barbell Rows: Thee #1 Back Builder.

  • Perform 2 drop-sets of 4-8 repetitions.
  • On the each set, pick a weight where you reach failure around 8 reps, drop the weight and do another 4 reps without rest. 

Tips: Take an over-hand grip that is a few inches wider than your shoulder width. Bend at the hips while keeping your back straight. Bend your knees slightly. Bring the weight up to a point near the top of your abdomen. Lower the weight slowly and repeat. Try an underhand grip with your hands spaced about 12-16" apart for variation.

Avoid: Bouncing the bar at the lower end of the movement as this could result in injury. Stop just short of locking out at the bottom of the movement.

Exercise #3: Low-pulley rows: 

  • Perform 2 drop sets of 6-8 repetitions. 
  • On both sets,  pick a weight where you reach failure around 8 reps, drop the weight by 20-30% and do another 6 reps without rest. 

Tips: Arch your back and draw your upper arms back and down in the final position of this movement, to minimize arm and lower back involvement. At the beginning of the movement, lean forward a little to stretch the lats.

Avoid: Flaring your elbows as you pull the weight towards you. Instead, keep them next to your body and pull straight back and slightly downwards. Do not jerk the weight back, as this can cause lower back injury.
Exercise #4: Dead lifts or Shrugs (alternate everyother workout): 

The Traps and Lower Back are mistakenly overlooked by many fitness buffs. Dead lifts, in particular, are one of the very best back exercises around. They tax virtually every area of the back.  Because they are so taxing is why I recommend them only once every other week.  Coupling them with Squats on your leg day can be too much to do every week.

  • Perform 2-3 sets of 6-8 repetitions.
  • When doing Shrugs, do dropsets (just as you did for low pulley rows). 

Deadlift Tips: Place feet about 18 inches apart. Start with barbell on the floor. Take an over/under grip just wider than your thighs. At the bottom of the movement keep your rear-end down, knees bent and back straight. Pull the bar up from the floor, bringing your torso erect. (As you come up, keep your torso straight and bring your hips forward to the lock out the position.)

Avoid: Letting the barbell swing away from your legs as you bring the bar upwards. Keep the bar as close to your legs as possible. 

So there you have it! Follow this program along with my quality nutrition and supplementation program and you'll be on your way to a muscular and v-shaped back!

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James Cipriani
71 Commerce Drive
Brookfield, CT 06804
Cutting Edge Personal Training

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