Strong Men got Strong Backs…
“There is no such thing as a weak man with a strong back.” Ed Coan
A strong back, from the fifth lumbar vertebra to the first cervical vertebra, is the base for maximal progress and success in training. No other muscle group has such a big effect on the rest of the body as the back. The stronger the back, the bigger and more sustainable the progress on all other exercises, the better the posture, the lower the vulnerability to injury, the faster the hypertrophy of muscle mass and the higher the maximal strength, jumping power and sprinting speed.
In particular, the strength of the lower back is the best indicator of sprinting speed from 0-5m.
To build an overall strong back there exercise groups are crucial:
1. Pullups/Chinups – One of the most effective upper body exercises that trains not only the latissimus dorsi, but also scapular retractors, stabilizers and rotators and elbow flexors . Pull-ups are one of the best indicators of upper body strength and one of the two most effective exercises to train your upper body muscles in strength and mass quickly. If you still can not do pull ups, its time to learn pull ups.
2. Rows – Especially the variations where the elbow is on shoulder or ear height in the contracted position are ideal to recruit fibers of the rhomboids and the middle traps, repositioning the shoulder blades to improve posture. Rowing variations to the belly in contrast recruits more latissimus dorsi and are used at the YPSI with our clients and athletes only at an advanced stage were primarily rhomboids and the middle traps are already very strong.
3. Deadlifts - … is not a back exercise. Its a leg exercise, as the two primary joints – hip and knee – belong to the lower body. However, because of the high isometric contraction of erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and traps, deadlifting is a crucial exercise to build a strong back.
All 3 exercise groups are crucial. None replaces another. Integrate all three exercises in your programs to get maximal progress. Here is an example of the progression of the back exercises in 4 phases of 6 workouts each. Pull-ups/Chin-ups and Rows are part of the upper body workout. Deadlift is part of the leg workout.
Phase 1 – Pull-up, close, neutral – Seated Rows with rope, to the neck, pronated – BB Romanian deadlift, shoulder-width, pronated grip
Phase 2 – Chin up, supinated, shoulder width – Seated Rows, with rope, neck, 4 fingers up – BB Deadlift, from the rack, shoulder-width, pronated grip
Phase 3 – Pull-up, pronated, shoulder-width - Seated Rows, with rope, to the neck, pronated, Fat Gripz – BB Deadlift from the floor, shoulder-width, pronated grip
Phase 4 – Pull-up, mixed grip, supinated/pronated, shoulder width – Seated Rowswith, with a straight bar, to the upper abs, pronated, shoulder-width grip, 1 1/4 in the back – BB Deadlift, from the floor, wide, pronated grip
The strongest back I’ve ever heard of is Ed Coan, the most successful powerlifter ever. Bent over BB Rows with 260kg, pull-ups with wide, pronated handle at 105kg body weight plus 90kg extra weight for 5 repetitions and 409kg BB Deadlift at 99kg bodyweight redefine standards. You will become stronger and faster, coach your back – with these three exercise groups …
Picture: Sven Knebel’s 18 week Transformation from the backside More about his transformation here.