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Workout 18: Back 

Back Exercises

1. Scapular Pull-up

  1. Begin in a normal pull-up position with a palms-away grip and hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. From a full hang, with just slightly shrugged shoulders, you want to draw the scapula down and together, thus raising your body slightly but without bending your arms and pulling as in a regular pull-up. The best learning cues are: Try to “bend the bar” and think about doing a reverse shrug (i.e. shoulders drawn downward). Do this, and you’ll feel your head shift backward and your chest raise upward, as your scapular pinch together.
  3. Hold the top position for one second, then return to the starting position. The range of motion is only a few inches to a foot or two (when you get really strong!).

2. Bent Over Barbell Row 

  1. Holding a barbell with a pronated grip (palms facing down), bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward by bending at the waist. Ensure that you are keeping the back straight until it is almost parallel to the floor. This is your starting position.
  2. Keeping the torso stationary, lift the barbell towards your torso. Keep your elbows close to the body and only use the forearms to hold the weight. At the top contracted position, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a brief pause.
  3. Slowly lower the barbell to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Do not bounce up and down to get the bar up and down, and do NOT perform this exercise if you have back issues!

3. Single Arm Smith Machine Row

  1. Set the smith machine bar low. Bend over so your back is at a 90 degree angle and lift the bar out of its place so that your arm is hanging down freely while holding the bar.
  2. Remaining with your back at a 90 degree angle, pull the bar up, driving your elbow to the ceiling. Keep your elbow tucked into your side as you pull.  
  3. Slowly let the bar back down and repeat.

4. Reverse Grip Seated Cable Row

  1. Sit down at a cable tower with a row attachment. Grip the handle underhand at shoulder width. Brace through the core before beginning the movement.
  2. Pull the handle to your chest, keeping your back upright and tight throughout the movement.
  3. Focus on bringing the shoulder blades together at the end of the range of movement. Return to the start position under control, maintaining the same braced position in your torso.

5. Straight Arm Pulldown

  1.  Attach a wide bar at your shoulder-level on the pulley of the pulldown machine. Grab the bar with an overhand grip with your palms facing downward, and make sure your grip is wider than your shoulder-width.
  2. Take a couple steps back and make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Slightly hinge at the waist so that your torso is leaning forward. Keep your arms fully extended so that they’re parallel to the ground. Your arms can have a slight bend at the elbow.
  3. Pull the bar down while keeping your arms straight. Continue pulling down until your hands are beside your thighs; you should feel a contraction in your lats. 
  4. Reverse this movement while keeping your arms fully straight.

6. Cable Lat Pulldown On Knee

This lat pulldown variation gives a little bit of a wider range of motion that really allows for a good contraction of the lats.


  1. Place the pulleys and handles at the top of the cable machine so you have full range of motion.
  2. Grab the handles and get on your knees while leaving your arms straight.
  3. Keeping your back straight pull the handles towards your body and contract the lats as if  you were trying to touch your elbows together behind your back.

7.  T-bar Row

  1. Load an appropriate weight onto the end of the T-bar.
  2. Stand over the bar so that it’s in between your legs and your chest is resting on the pad. Keep your back flat and make sure you have a firm grip on each side of the V-grip handle. 
  3. Remove the bar from the rest. Keep your chest up, your hips back, and your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Lead the movement with your back, your arms should follow. The focus should not be on the angle of your arms, but on the contraction of your back.
  4. After your back reaches its maximum contraction and your shoulder blades are retracted, slowly let the weight of the bar pull your shoulder blades down to stretch your back. 
  5. Let your arms follow naturally until the T-bar is returned to its starting position.

8. Rear Delt Cable Fly

  1. Adjust the pulleys to the appropriate height and adjust the weight. The pulleys should be above your head.
  2. Grab the left pulley with your right hand and the right pulley with your left hand, crossing them in front of you. This will be your starting position.
  3. Initiate the movement by moving your arms back and outward, keeping your arms straight as you execute the movement.
  4. Pause at the end of the motion before returning the handles to the start position.