Back Training


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Posted 01 January 2017 by Alex Stuart

5 Mass Building

Back Workouts

5 Mass Building Back Workouts


Workout 1

Bent Over Barbell Rows: 3 sets x 6-8 reps
Seated Cable Rows: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
V-Bar Pull-Downs: 3 sets x 12 reps
Barbell Shrugs: 3 sets x 6-8 reps
Hyperextensions: 3 sets x 12 reps

Workout 2

Bent Over 2 Dumbbell Row: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Reverse Grip Bent Over Row: 3 sets x 6-8 reps
Close Grip Front Lat Pull-Down: 3 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell Shrug: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Stiff Legged Good Morning: 3 sets x 12-15 reps


Workout 3

Wide Grip Lat Pull-Down: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Underhand Cable Pull-Downs: 3 sets x 8 reps
Bent Over 2 Dumbbell Row with Palms In: 3 sets x 12 reps
Barbell Shrug Behind the Back: 3 sets x 12 reps
Stiff Legged Barbell Deadlifts: 3 sets x 8 reps

Workout 4

Full Range of Motion Lat Pull-Down: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Close Grip Front Lat Pull-Down: 3 sets x 12 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Upright Barbell Rows: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Hyperextensions: 3 sets x 8 reps


Workout 5

Bent Over Barbell Row: 3 sets x 8 reps
V-Bar Pull-Down: 3 sets x 8 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Wide Grip Lat Pull-Down: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Barbell Shrug Behind the Back: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Stiff Legged Good Mornings: 3 sets x 8 reps

Posted 08 December 2019 by Elsie Doss

The Ultimate

Sumo Deadlift Guide

Published: 8 Dec 2019

The Ultimate Sumo Deadlift Guide scr1.jpg


The sumo deadlift is an adaptation of the conventional deadlift. It happens to be a little more technical than others so learning may take some time. The few subtle changes causing the exercise to have different muscular benefits help this deadlift to be a bit easier, however. Just what muscles do sumo deadlifts work, you ask? Well, I will be answering that, and some other frequently asked questions soon.

The conventional deadlift is pretty straightforward. Stand with your legs shoulder length apart and keep your back straight while leaning down and while lifting it. That is, of course, is not a very detailed explanation, but it is the main idea. We will be going into a lot more detail about the sumo deadlift later.

The Ultimate Sumo Deadlift Guide scr2.jpg


First off, we need to start with the basics. What exactly is the sumo deadlift? It is just a little different than the conventional. While lifting conventionally, you put a certain emphasis on various parts of your body by standing a specific way. The bar is raised differently than it is with the sumo type, and how high the bar can be lifted is directly affected by this.

The sumo version of deadlifting is ideal for beginners. This is because there is less stress put on the back. Starting in a squatting position makes it easier as well. The lower stance allows for people with poor mobility to deadlift too. This type of deadlift is used by individuals trying to improve their strength or by some experts just trying to add more to their exercise routine.

Sumo deadlifting is accepted in powerlifting competitions and even the Olympics. Strongmen competitions are different, however. The sumo styles ease of use and the ability to lift more weight disqualifies it. If you are wondering what type of deadlifting is for you, I will walk you through figuring it out, at least when it comes to the sumo lift.

At first, you need to evaluate your exercise routine and see what fits. All of the types of lifting have different focuses and determining your weaknesses will probably be a good start. What are your reasons for going into deadlifting? If your answer has to do with building up your strength, then this is a good start. Conventional deadlifting is better for reps, which are not as easy while lifting sumo.

You do not want to confuse your body with too many various workouts. Choose the main idea to bring to fulfillment and go with it. Having clear goals helps with decision making. Also, you want to ensure that your body is flexible enough for this stance. You are going to need to at least need the flexibility to pick up the bar without letting your knees buckle or anything like that.

Body type can also help dictate what method is best for you. For the sumo deadlift, your short torso and long arms go a long way. If you are a hasty type of person who likes to grab the bar and lift, this particular deadlift style may not be for you. It requires careful, slow, and steady movements.

The Ultimate Sumo Deadlift Guide scr3.jpg


There are many advantages to deadlifting itself, let alone doing it the sumo way. I will answer the previous question: what muscles do sumo deadlifts work? This deadlift version works the same muscles as the conventional but has a new emphasis on a particular group of muscles - the quadriceps. Not only does it give your lower back a little rest, but it also targets your quadriceps and increases activity there. The backs of your lower legs will be your best friends after this exercise.

The distance you lift the bar is also a little shorter and easier than the conventional. It is even sometimes easier to teach and learn as a beginner. Keeping the spine straight is not as hard either.

If the standard style is painful because you are always hitting your knees, go no further. The space between your legs and the bar is more generous, and the path it takes is much shorter. This concept applies to the sumo deadlift in general. It is easier to learn, to pick up, and better for beginners. You just want to make sure it really is for you. Go over your reasons and goals, then decide if you want to try. I suggest that nonetheless. Trying something new in your routine is good every once in a while. Remember to keep an open mind and be willing to try other types of deadlifts to find the one for you.


1. Build Up

Make sure that you are going to lift weights you know you can handle. When starting out it is best to do this to prevent any injury. Knowing the way that you are most comfortable picking up the bar is important too. Whether you use an alternating grip or the standard, be prepared to use it and properly. The technique is especially crucial with the sumo deadlift.

Do not go into this thinking that you will be better at one style over the other. This may be true, but avoiding a type because this is not recommended. You can build up the weaknesses that are found when trying different methods.

You may also want to do somebody stretches to loosen up. When you are physically and mentally prepared, approach the deadlift bar and get into position.

2. Body Position

The position you want to stand and lift the bar is the reason for the name ‘sumo’. With your legs far apart ensure that the middle of your feet matches up to the bar. Do not spread your legs too wide, or you will risk your legs locking, making it harder to retrieve the bar.

Also, make sure your toes are pointed outward and your feet are past the rings on the bar itself. The more inward your toes point, the harder it may be on your hips. Bend at the hips and straighten out your arms, staying below and in line with your shoulders. Using whichever lift that grip you are most comfortable with, grasp the bar and begin the ascent.

3. Bringing it Up

Take a good breath, lower your hips more, and keep your head facing forward. Distribute the weight to the backs of your feet. Spread the floor with your feet and extend your body with your hips. When the bar meets up with your hips, lean back while pulling your shoulder blades together and drive your hips into the bar. This brings you to the height of the lift, and all that is left is the descent.

4. Back to the Ground

Using your hips, bend back down and slowly place the bar on the floor. Keep the weight steady on the way down and, voila! You have completed your first sumo deadlift. Your hips and quadriceps will appreciate the extra attention. Your back leg muscles get less attention than they do with the conventional deadlift. However, the glutes, hamstrings, and tour adductor muscles get the same amount of care with both types of deadlifting.

5. Bring it On… Again

You probably want to more than just one lift, right? That’s cool. Just make sure to completely place the bar back on the ground after each lift. If you do not, it is not actually deadlifting.

You will have to mix it up, by doing only one type of deadlift can overdevelop muscles and put unneeded strain on the body. It also does not have much carry over when it comes to training for other sports or lifting competitions.

If you are training for this type of lift specifically, you may still want to throw in some conventional lifts here and there, to balance your muscular composure. The Olympics accept this version as do powerlifting competitions. The only athletic institution you may run into problems with this style is at a strongman competition. Besides, strongman competitions are supposed to be a bit stricter when it comes to regulating the types of lifts allowed.

Deadlifting is an amazing way to increase your fitness. With so many different types, it can be overwhelming when choosing one to do. The sumo deadlift and the Romanian deadlift seems to be the best ones for beginners. The sumo deadlift is relatively straightforward, having a practical and helpful reference to sumo wrestlers.

This weight training exercise is suitable for most people. Since each individual person has their own needs, finding the one that’s right for you may take some time. Patience and willingness to try new things is a must.

What is your favorite way to deadlift? Has the sumo deadlift helped you in your athletic endeavors? Let me know in the comments what you think!

​Written by Elsie Doss

Posted 27 August 2019 by

Arnold Schwarzeneggers

Intense Back Workout


  • Wide-Grip Front Chins: 4-5 Sets x 8-10 reps
  • Lat Pulldowns Behind the Neck: 4-5 Sets x 8-10 reps
  • Barbell Bentover Rows: 4-5 Sets x 8-10 reps
  • T-Bar Rows: 4-5 Sets x 8-10 reps
  • Seated Pulley Rows: 4-5 Sets x 8-10 reps

Arnold Schwarzenegger back workout scr1.jpg

Posted 13 June 2014 by Team Hercules

Dwayne Johnson: Hercules

Back Workout

dwayne johnson back scr1.jpg

Dwayne Johnson 'Hercules' Back Workout

  • PULL-UPS: 4 sets x to failure.
  • ONE ARM DUMBBELL ROW: 4 sets x 12, 10, 8, 8 reps.
  • HAMMER STRENGTH TWO ARM ROW: 4 sets x 10 reps.
  • CLOSE GRIP PULLDOWN: 3 sets x 12 reps.
  • CABLE ROW: 3 sets x 12 reps with double drop set on every set.
  • ROPE PULLOVERS: Super set with rope high row 3 sets x 15 - 15 reps.
  • DUMBBELL SHRUGS: 4 sets x 12 reps 15 sec hold on last rep of each set.


Posted 09 November 2011 by Nick Nilsson

Super Intense Deadlift

Variations For More Muscle

Deadlifts are a prime mass-building doubt about it! But if you’ve been doing them awhile, it might be time to try a few different training techniques to start a whole new growth spurt...  These will definitely kick your butt!

1. Continuous Tension Deadlifts

One of my favorite techniques for deadlifts is also one of the most grueling (surprise!). It's called Continuous Tension Deadlifting - you may have encountered it or tried it before but now's a great time to revisit it!  If you want to build overall body mass (and most specifically back mass), this version of the deadlift is a great one.
It's do a set of deadlifts without EVER touching the barbell plates back onto the ground.  I first used this one quite a few years ago out of necessity - I almost got evicted from a gym I was training at in Ft. Lauderdale that was located on the second floor of a building! When I was setting the weights down, the owner was worried I was going to put the barbell through the floor!
So rather than give up on deadlifting while training there, I decided to just not set the bar down until I was done with each set (and set it down very softly at the end of the set). The owner let me do THAT at least!

It's not a NEW exercise, per se, but it IS a great training technique that can really help you mass up your whole body. Just be VERY tight with your form at the bottom of the reps.
You start like a regular deadlift, pulling the bar from the ground to the top. But as you come down, instead of setting the barbell back down on the ground, you instead reverse the direction just before the plates touch and come back up.

Your body gets NO break at the bottom, as you normally do in a deadlift where you set the bar down. This keeps HUGE tension on the entire body. It's just brutal, especially on the change of direction. You have to not only stop the downward momentum of the bar, you have to reverse it and bring it back up again!
This not only keeps great tension on the body but builds excellent strength off the bottom. Just overcoming gravity isn't nearly as hard as reversing AND overcoming it again in one movement!  When you're coming down to the bottom of the movement and reversing direction, hold your breath very briefly to stabilize the core more strongly. The moment you reverse direction successfully, breathe out again (through pursed lips, to maintain that core stability).  When you do this exercise, reduce the weight you would normally use. The continuous tension is an eye-opener!

2. High-Rep Deadlifts

If just the very NAME of this one doesn't make you both dread it and get excited about it at the same time... High-rep deadlifts are a GREAT way to send your metabolism through the roof. Sometimes, when I'm feeling energetic, I'll just pop 225 lbs on the bar and rep out with as many reps as I can get. I've hit as high as 40 reps with it.

This is a basic straight-up deadlift done for as many reps as you can. For me, this weight is about 40% of my 1 RM. You can pick anything that's around 40 to 50% and you should be able to hit a good number of reps with it.
If you've always stuck to lower rep ranges in the deadlift, this one will be an eye-opener for you.  Keep a fairly brisk pace. I found for much of the set, I wasn't even setting the bar down in between reps but just grazing the floor and coming right back up.
Now just crank out as many as possible. Towards the end, I stop for a few seconds to try and catch a little breath but that only gets me a couple of more reps.
If you like deadlifts and are comfortable with them, give this a try. It's not so comfortable by the time you're done...  One set of these is all you need - don't save ANYTHING in this're not going to be doing any more high-rep deadlifts sets after so you've got no reason to hold back.
Just be tight with form from start to finish - don't let it get sloppy - reps with bad form don't count.

3. Stiff-Legged Deadlifts to Conventional
Deadlifts - BRUTAL Superset

Basically, you're going to take a weight that allows you to get about 4 to 6 reps on the Stiff Legged Deadlift. Then you're going to do those reps on the SLDL (stiff legged deadlift). Then you will IMMEDIATELY continue with the same weight on regular deadlifts.
Just keeping until you've had enough.  If you like a challenge, you'll love this one!

One quick note with the Stiff Legged Deadlifts, I recommend you set the bar down on the floor in between reps. This is much better on the back when you're using heavier weights because it allows you to reset your spine and the support muscles of the core with each rep. If you've never tried that before, you'll notice a BIG difference.  When you keep the bar off the ground, you can't reset and it'll gradually fatigue your supports muscles and round out your lower back.

Works WAY better with heaver weight with no deleterious effects on hamstring stimulation.
So get between 4 and 6 reps on the SLDL. Then immediately pick it up with regular deadlifts:
So finish with as many deadlifts as you can get (keep the do-or-die rep in you, though). This combo is tough enough on its own!

Written by Nick Nilsson

Posted 03 October 2011 by Dre Farnell

Compound Setting: For

Rock Hard Back & Biceps

Use Compound Setting to Build Rock Hard Muscle
- Back and Biceps)

One of the most effective ways to stimulate the growth of rock hard muscle in any part of the body is to totally fatigue that muscle group. It is not enough to simply fatigue a muscle group but the key to growth is the ability to utilize as many different stimuli as possible in order to achieve this goal. If it only took one or two exercises per workout session to spark growth then training the back and biceps would be simple. In that scenario you would grow thick sweeping lats and arms with peaks reminiscent of the ski slopes in Aspen with three sets of one armed Bent over Rows, lat pulls, alternating bicep curls and preacher curls for the biceps. The fact of the matter is that muscle needs to be stimulated from many angles and in many ways to optimize growth. Compound setting enables you to fit in as many exercises for a single body part as you can in each exercise bout.

Many people utilize super sets to maximize the amount of body parts that they can train during a workout session. As you may already know super setting is the pairing up 2 exercises or more that work opposing muscle groups. Compound setting is pairing two or more exercises that target the same muscle groups. Compound setting is founded on similar principals to super setting. The difference lies in the muscles targeted in the second exercise. The second exercise should target the same muscle group. What this does is to further recruit muscle fibers that may not get recruited from different angles. Compounding the muscle fiber recruitment in a given area will further fatigue that area causing more damage and later on more physiological changes (Growth). Compound setting also allows for you to accomplish more exercises for a certain body part in a shorter period of time.

Due to the fact that compound setting adds to the length of each particular set the muscle group will be totally decimated after only 4-6 sets. This type of training will increase your muscular endurance as well. Each muscle in your body has a certain composition of either (Type 1(muscular endurance) or type 2b (power & strength) muscle fibers. Compound setting with a moderate to heavy weight targets both fiber types, thoroughly fatiguing the muscle. This also promotes maximal muscle growth and stokes your metabolism.

When choosing weights to begin compound setting, choose weights that you consider to be only moderately intense until you are familiar with compound setting. Pick a weight that you know you can usually manage for 3 sets of 12 but not 3 sets of 15. While compound setting you may only be able to complete 8-10 reps by the 3rd set. Try to use the same poundage through the entire workout. For instance, let’s take a look at the back.

First choose exercises that complement each other. For example it would be good to use two exercises that work completely different parts of the back. I will choose Lat pulls and cable reverse flies. Lat pulls will target the lats and bi’s the reverse flies will target the rhomboids and rear delts. Complete one set of lat pulls and immediately without rest complete a set of the reverse flies. The completion of both exercise sets equals 1full compound set. Rest for 30-90seconds and repeat 3 more times. Choose up to two more pairs of exercises for the back taking care to choose different areas of the back with each exercise. That will amount to 24 sets in total. Because of how the workout is structured you should complete this routine in less than 40-45 minutes. You can then do the same thing to the biceps in the next 10-15 mins. You should only use 2 compound sets (4exercises for 4 sets), as they are totally pre-fatigued. A great combo to hit is seated incline dumbbell curls and standing cable curls. If you find that you cannot finish a set please stop for a couple of seconds and complete the number that you have allotted. If you can stand the fire that will ignite in both your back and biceps and remain true to the short breaks you will feel a pump like no other workout! Build your better body with compounding one set at a time.

Compound Set Workouts

Beginners Compound Set Sample routine Back and Bi Day:


Hyper Extensions 4 sets X 10 reps X lbs ?
Bent Over Rows 4 sets X 10 reps X lbs?

Finish both exercises together, rest only 30 - 90 secs and move to the next set… try your best not to drop weight each set. Complete all 4 sets and move to the next set.

Seated Row 4 sets X 10 reps X lbs?
Dumbbell Pullovers 4 sets X 10 reps X lbs?

Burnout set to be done right after the last bicep set… 25 pull-ups


Hammer Curls 4 sets X10 sets Xlbs?.
Reverse Curls 4 sets X10sets Xlbs?
30 secs between sets

Written By Dre Farnell

Posted 05 March 2011 by Erick Ruiz Salgaldo

Get Balanced!!! Create a

proportional physique.

Being CutAndJacked is impressive, but it's even more impressive to be CutAndJacked while pocessing a proportional physique. You really don't want to look like a light breeze can knock you off balance.   Let's explore the two main reason people end up building an unbalanced structure and what it means to be Cut, Jacked,… AND Proportional.

Lower Body Neglect

I know it is easy to hide legs with clothing, but sooner or later all will be revealed.  Quit hiding them and start training them! Besides training legs has many benefits.

  1. Training legs releases large amount of anabolic hormones. Both Testosterone and Growth Hormone have been shown to significantly increase after large compound movement. Squats and Deadlifts are both exercises that utilize the legs and have been shown to increase these anabolic hormones more so than any other exercise.
  2. Training legs increased your metabolism. For every one pound of muscle on your body you burn an extra 50 calories a day AT REST! That means you can easily increase your metabolism by adding some solid muscle to your legs resulting in a more CutAndJacked you.
  3. Training legs increases libido. Not only will developed legs make an impression, for guys the increased circulation and Testosterone are sure to help you perform.

Shallow Back

If your back is as deep as the tire tread on my German engineered, rubber burning car, you need some serious work on your back. Even though you are constantly looking at yourself in the mirror, everyone else is getting a great view of your back. A strong, well developed back is paramount. Your back is the largest muscle on your upper body and there are numerous reasons to train your back.

  1. A well developed back wins shows. "Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder" but only those with an impressive back win shows. This has been proven time and time again.
  2. Training back releases large amounts of anabolic hormones. Like legs, back training requires large compound movement such as deadlifts, rows, and pull ups. Because of the back is so large, training it releases anabolic hormone levels second only to legs.
  3. Back training helps prevent injury. The number one injury any weight lifter gets is a back injury. Often these injuries could have been prevented by using proper form and developing the back adequately.

Impressive Physique 101

Now that we have discussed what makes a physique unpleasing let discuss what makes a champion. To have an impressive physique you must not only be CutAndJacked but, balanced. Every body-part should complement each other with no one body part dominating the other. When you look in the mirror and can no longer determine your strength from your weaknesses, you have built the ultimate physique. Be proud of what you have achieved. Work on your weakness to  truly build a physique that is Cut, Jacked, and Balanced.

Written by Erick Ruiz Salgaldo


Posted 08 March 2011 by Matt Weik

Complete Guide to Building

A Massive Back!

Introduction to Back Building 101

A new course is available at Weik University on building a massive back. Those interested in sitting through an easy course, no need to look any further because class has just begun. Everyone is guaranteed an “A” for the course as long as you sit through the course and pay attention (you can take notes if you wish). From there, all you have to do is take what you learned from the course and utilize it in the gym for massive back gains.

Let’s start with the basics of Chapter 1 and then get into more detail later on in the course.

Chapter 1: Anatomy of the Back

Let’s start off by explaining the anatomy of the back. It’s not very complicated and not much to it. Once you understand how the back works, you will find it easier to visualize your back workouts.

1:The Traps

Another powerful muscle of the back is the trapezius. The traps run all the way down the upper section of the spinal cord and attaches at the middle of your back. The traps have a couple main functions including scapular adduction (bringing the shoulder blades together), scapular depression (pulling the shoulder blades down), and scapular elevation (shrugging).

2:The Lats

The largest muscle of your back is by far the lats. The latissimus dorsi starts all the way up at the upper end of the humerus, and runs all the way down to the pelvic girdle. The lats function is to pull the arm down towards the pelvis.

Smaller Muscles:

There are also some smaller muscles that aid in movement of the back such as the teres major and the rhomboids. The teres major is found at the outside edge of the shoulder blade and attaches all the way up at the humerus. The main role of the teres major is to bring the arm towards your back.

The rhomboids are found on the spinal column and they attach to the middle of the shoulder blade. The rhomboids are used to bring the shoulder blades together.

There are also a whole bunch of little muscles in the back, which run along your spine. There is the erector spine, which includes the longissimus, spinalis, and the iliocostalis. The erector spinae is a group of muscles that are in and support the spine as well as extend the spine. The erector spinae muscles are actually attached to the vertebrae, pelvis, and also to the ribs.

Chapter 2: Different Parts of the Back

Different exercises hit different parts of the back. For instance, doing wide grip pulldowns targets the outer back while doing close grip rows targets the middle of the back.

It’s important to hit all parts of the back to create overall back development. The last thing you want is imbalances with your back muscles. To create a nice V-taper you need overall development. By creating a fully developed back, you can still have a waist larger than you want and still look like you have a massive upper body. Hitting the lats will help widen your back while hitting the middle of your back help pull out details. Bodybuilding is all about muscular development and creating an illusion that makes you look larger than you really are.

Look at any successful bodybuilder and you will see a well-developed back. Huge slabs of muscle popping out from every nook and cranny of their back. That is the look you want to achieve.

Chapter 3: Different Back Exercises

Chapter 4: Mass Building Back Workouts

Workout #1

Wide Grip Pulldowns 3x8-12
Close Grip Pulldowns 3x8-12
Wide Grip Barbell Rows 3x8-12
Close Grip Dumbbell Rows 3x8-12
Barbell Shrugs 3x8-12

Workout #2

Wide Grip Pulldowns 3x8-12
Neutral Grip Pulldowns 3x8-12
Wide Grip Dumbbell Row 3x8-12
T-bar Rows 3x8-12
Dumbbell Shrugs 3x8-12

Workout #3

Wide Grip Pull-up 3x8-12
Close Grip Chin-up3x8-12
Smith Machine Wide Grip Row 3x8-12
Smith Machine Close Grip Row 3x8-12
Smith Machine Shrugs 3x8-12

Workout #4

Close Grip Pull-up 3x8-12
Wide Grip Chin-up 3x8-12
Straight Arm Cable Pullover 3x8-12
T-bar Row 3x8-12
Barbell Shrugs 3x8-12

Workout #5

Assisted Pull-up 3x8-12
Assisted Chin-up 3x8-12
Barbell Stiff-leg Deadlift 3x8-12
Barbell Upright Row 3x8-12
Dumbbell Pullover 3x8-12


When it comes down to it you want to focus on the mind-muscle connection. You should really feel each rep and feel the muscle working. If you don’t feel an exercise in your back, then you are probably doing it wrong or are using a weight that you can’t handle and are using more than just your back.

Most of all have fun with your workouts. If you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point? Utilize what you learned in this course and see where it takes you.

Written by: Matt Weik

Posted by, Writer: Connor LaVallie

Bench, Squat, And Deadlift

With Perfect Form!!

How Strict Should Your Exercise Form Be?

One of the most enduring debates related to resistance training has been the subject of exercise form. How picky should you be? Should you place more emphasis on the amount of weight? Are you short-changing yourself if you don’t squeeze on the concentric portion of every rep? Does “cheating” have any benefits? What about feeling that mind-muscle connection?! Let’s examine the most commonly abused exercises often referred to the “Big Three” and how perfecting the technique on these movements can lead to substantial levels of new growth and development.

1) The Squat

The Squat: If there is any one exercise that separates the serious gym rats from the recreational- abs and bicep enthusiasts, this is it. It would be a rarity to find a gym-goer doing heavy “glutes-to-calves” low bar squats just to “stay in shape for the summer”… that’s because it’s not easy. However when the squat is executed correctly, it becomes a movement that can easily change a person’s entire physique. In addition to building the whole lower body, the barbell squat is a movement that forces the entire body to work and thus, grow!

Correct common mistakes:
I often hear people say “squatting below parallel will destroy your knees!” However this all-too common utterance usually comes from ill-informed trainees because it just isn’t true. When your knee joint is fully extended or completely contracted it is at its strongest. Squatting above parallel places your joints in a semi-compromised position compared to full-squats. Furthermore, full motion squats strengthens your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, and knees. Comparatively, partial squats only build up your quadriceps and knees which can cause imbalances and eventually lead to injuries.
Fix it: If you have knee pain from Squats, make sure you start light while perfecting your technique and work on developing hip flexibility. Squatting deep with correct form will not be the cause of knee pain!

Rounding your back in an effort to hoist too much weight is counterproductive and dangerous. Therefore, I recommend a slightly wider than shoulder width stance while squatting. This will give you a stable base to execute the movement with maximum intensity. You will be able to maintain proper form without relegating yourself to lower weights and your entire body will be working to lift the weight.
Fix it: Make sure to keep your chest up, always push from your heels, and find a focal point to help place your head in position. Keep your eye on that spot you pick out and do not force your knees inward, it is OK to extend with your knees out if it is comfortable for you. Just like anything worth developing, learning to squat with the correct from takes a great deal time and patience.

Variations: Front Squat, Overhead squat, high bar squat.

2) The Bench Press

The Bench: The most common question asked in gyms everywhere has been “Hey, How much you bench? Many of you have probably been asked this at some point in your life, if not, you probably will. Consequently, the bench press has become the premier ego exercise in gyms all over the world causing athletes to sacrifice their form for a boost in pride. Little do they know they’re also sacrificing new muscle and delayed strength progression for a possible “personal record” to tell all their friends about.

Correct common mistakes:
In an effort to push as much weight as possible, athletes will use their entire body (legs included) to try and lift the load - doing this decreases the distance needed to complete the movement, but it does not help develop your chest.
Fix it: Always remember to keep your butt on the bench and heels on the floor. This will automatically place more stress on the pectorals and correct any potential cheating.

Don’t use too much front deltoids and triceps - the bench press is a primary exercise for developing the pectorals. Therefore, you should pay attention to the width of your grip and give yourself a solid base to push from.
Fix it: Find a place on the bar that is narrow enough to allow a full range of motion but at the same time places maximum tension on the chest. Contract your upper back and keep your shoulder blades down in order to further emphasize the target muscle group.

Having a little arch in your back is fine during a heavy attempt on the bench press. However, some lifters might end up exaggerating the arch in their lower back in an effort to use their lower body to help push the weight. Competitive powerlifters going for a 1-rep max may do this continuously, but for anyone else the risks of injuring your lumbar spine aren’t worth it.
Fix it: Use a spotter to assist you so you do not have to jeopardize your lower back in order save your own life during a heavy set!

Variations: Close-grip bench press, Incline bench press, decline bench press, floor press, reverse grip bench press.

3) The Deadlift

The Deadlift: Second only to the barbell squat, the deadlift is another high risk-high reward exercise that can dramatically improve your overall physique. However, as your technique gets better, your risk of injury goes down and the potential for growth increases substantially. The deadlift allows you to use almost every major muscle group in your body to perform the movement. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain control of your form and make sure you’re getting the most out of your time in the trenches.

Correct common mistakes:
Deadlifts are primarily a back builder, but the one offense most commonly seen while performing the deadlift is rounding the lower back. The deadlift should teach you to keep your lumbar spine straight while lifting a heavy weight straight off the floor in order to avoid disc injuries.
Fix it: Pull your shoulders back, lift your chest up, and focus on making sure your looking straight ahead. As you come up you should push from your heals and bring your hips forward… this will make it very hard to round your lower back.

Emphasizing a shrug at the top of the lift. - This is not needed because the proper execution of the deadlift will help yield enough trapezius development without any extra shrugging. In fact, it is easy to slip a disc while hoisting the heavy barbell into a forced shrugging position.
Fix it: Be mindful about which muscles are getting the most stimulation during the lift. You should feel plenty of tension placed on your upper back and traps. If you need more stimulation, try an isolation movement like power shrugs or cleans after your working sets to further develop your traps.

Variations: Power cleans, rack pulls, trap bar deadlifts (more of a squat-type lift)


Executing these three major exercises ultimately comes down to patience and focus. Perfecting your form on any exercise automatically adds another level of concentration to your training. Don’t just go through the motions. Be honest with yourself and make sure you are making the progress you should be. Tom plats once said of the Austrian Oak, “The gym could have burned to the ground in the middle of his set and [Arnold] would not have noticed.” You probably don’t need the greatest bodybuilder of all time to validate how crucial focus and concentration is in your training. But it helps to be informed, and some possible caveats to your focus may be those subconscious thoughts… Are you thinking about events in your life outside the gym? That upcoming exam? The parking meter about to expire? That girl in the corner on the standing leg curl machine?! I know from talking with many successful strength athletes and through my own personal experience that lacking absolute focus during a brutal session in the gym can have a significant hindrance on your progress. Harnessing the highest levels of concentration and intensity during each set will lead to less injuries and ultimately yield the greatest results in the end.

Written By: Connor LaVallie



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