Accessory Work for Your Back
Written by Holden Rethwill
Let’s be honest, there’s a reason people always talk about having a strong back…why we talk about athletes putting the team on their back…and why 99.99999999% of the population at some point talks about having a SORE BACK!
It’s because the back is arguably the most important component of the human body when it comes to exerting force against an object in order to move it in the direction you are intending. Don’t agree with me? Go try to lift something out of your league and let’s watch that back bow up like the Gateway Arch.
Now, what do I mean by “back”? I mean everything on the posterior side of your body that has a origin or end point somewhere on your trunk. The back is composed of a multitude of different muscles, both large and small, and each one plays a role when it comes to bracing before lifting an object!
Unfortunately, we live in a society full of WEAK backs…people sitting at a desk all day, driving all day, texting all day, poor posture, hunched over, inactive, and the list goes on. It’s an epidemic if you ask me, and anyone who comes to me saying they’re having back pain, I can – the vast majority of the time – pinpoint it to lifestyle choices. So, that said, why don’t we all make a pact here to get on the right side of this, start building stronger backs, and live our lives pain free in the posterior!
Let’s get into some specifics…
Big Muscles of the Back
Ever seen someone walking around with what looks like shark fins on their low back? Those would be the erector spinae…and if you’re someone who doesn’t know how to properly hinge, or use your glutes and hamstrings to ASS-ist you, then you’ve got good odds of having your own set of shark fins. But have no fear, I’ve come here to help you.
First…what actually are they?
“Erector spinae, a deep muscle of the back; it arises from a tendon attached to the crest along the centre of the sacrum (the part of the backbone at the level of the pelvis, formed of five vertebrae fused together). When it reaches the level of the small of the back, the erector divides into three columns, each of which has three parts. The muscle system extends the length of the back and functions to straighten the back and to rotate it to one side or the other.”
Now…how do I make them SAFER?
REVERSE HYPER…if you could have one end all be all movement for strengthening your posterior chain, it’s the reverse hyper…I’ll do an entire post on this machine, but let me just say…when it comes to spine strengthening, rehab, and prehab, it’s got your BACK (puns all DAY).Back ExtensionsJefferson CurlsSeated Good MorningsPower Arch Good MorningsStraight-Leg Band Pull Throughs
I know… abs are on the front and it’s what we all want…and yes…the abdominal muscles are VERY important…but I’m here to talk about a specific area of the abdomen, the obliques.
These are the bees knees here, and when it comes to the back, they’re about the best thing since sliced bread for keeping you safe. Louie Simmons believes the obliques are some of the most important muscles to develop, and are THE most important muscle in the midline.
What are these muscles?
“There are three muscular layers of the abdominal wall, with a fourth layer in the middle anterior region. The fourth layer in the mid region is the rectus abdominis, which has vertically running muscle fibres that flex the trunk and stabilize the pelvis. To either side of the rectus abdominis are the other three layers of abdominal muscles. The deepest of those layers is the transversus abdominis, which has fibres that run perpendicular to the rectus abdominis; the transversus abdominis acts to compress and support the abdomen and provides static core stabilization. The internal oblique layers run upward and forward from the sides of the abdomen, and the external oblique layers, which form the outermost muscle layers of the abdomen, run downward and forward. The internal oblique layers act in conjunction with the external oblique on the opposite side of the body to flex and rotate the trunk toward the side of the contracting internal oblique (‘’same-side rotator’).”
Want to get stronger? Train your obliques…plain and simple.
Side Bends…you’re welcome strength class, see I wasn’t just making sh*t up during our warm-ups!Single-Arm DeadliftsPallof Presses and HoldsChainsaws both with weight and bandedSide Plank variations
I personally like to keep it simple when it comes to training my obliques. If you’re lifting correctly, you should be getting them plenty of work through proper bracing anyways! Want a stronger back? Stop using the belt as a crutch until it becomes completely necessary (for me that becomes around 85%).
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Red Bull gives you wings!”, but I say nah bro, lats give you wings!
“Latissimus dorsi, widest and most powerful muscle of the back. It is a large, flat, triangular muscle covering the lower back. It arises from the lower half of the vertebral column and iliac crest (hipbone) and tapers to a rounded tendon inserted at (attached to) the front of the upper part of the humerus (upper-arm bone).”
Bad at pull-ups? Build up your lats. Can’t deadlift worth a darn? Put some meat on those lats! They can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to pulling movements so I’m here to tell you, DO NOT NEGLECT THEM!
Lat Pull-Downs, weight or band
There is a pulley system in the gym, USE IT!Wide Grip Pull-UpsAny pull-ups to be honest, just stop relying on your biceps, we have curls to do thatHorizontal RowsChest supported, single-arm, gorilla, banded, seated, landmine, meadow’s, ring, inverted…any kind of row you can think of…my go to is the chest supported barbell rowSingle Arm Plank Horizontal Band Pulls…mouthful, but these are money for both your obliques AND latsRope pulls…again, stop with the biceps
You know…that muscle we always tell you to avoid during certain movements, because it seems to be the muscle we ALL always use…yeah, that one.
“Trapezius muscle, large, superficial muscle at the back of the neck and the upper part of the thorax, or chest. The right and left trapezius together form a trapezium, an irregular four-sided figure. It originates at the occipital bone at the base of the skull, the ligaments on either side of the seven cervical (neck) vertebrae (ligamentum nuchae), and the seventh cervical and all thoracic vertebrae. It is inserted on the posterior of the clavicle (collarbone) and on the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade). Its chief action is support of the shoulders and limbs and rotation of the scapula necessary to raise the arms above shoulder level.”
I know we always say to “pack down your shoulder” or insert whatever coach phrase you want, and to avoid using too much trap when you’re doing things like rows and whatnot, but that’s just because we want you to focus on other muscle groups during that specific exercise. That does NOT mean that we don’t want you to have trap muscles that properly function though…they’re just used so often that we don’t put a huge priority on them.
Upright RowsPower CleansPower SnatchesBanded Upright RowsRack PullsBanded Face PullsDeadliftsShrugs
BOOM BOOM…there you have it…see, the back deserves its own day because if we all want to reach our true potential, we NEED to train to have a strong back!