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Articles > Weight Training > Building A First-Class Back
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Q: I want to build a big back with details I have an incline/flat bench, a 300 pound set of Olympic weights, a chinning station and a rack of dumbbells from 5 to 50 pounds. Can I build a big back with the equipment I have? Would you recommend a routine that will give me results?

Q: I'm 26 Years old 5'8 and weigh 165 pounds. I've been training for about a year. I do a lot of pull-ups, and I've recently added dumbbell pullovers to my back day. I would like to know if I'm doing the pullovers correctly. Should I keep my hips up, or let them sink down?

A: I'm going to tackle these two questions in one page because the bottom line for both is building a first-class back. Before getting to the specifics of the dumbbell pullover, let me deal with the first question: The equipment you mention is more than sufficient to build a big back, although as you get stronger, you may need to purchase more weights to continue your growth. If I had your equipment, this is the routine I would construct.

Begin your back training with dumbbell pullovers, an exercise that is often mistakenly placed in a chest routine. Initially, this movement was done as a chest exercise because people used to think they could expand their rib cages by doing pullovers on a bench. That's a fallacy, pullovers won't expand your rib cage. Instead, dumbbell pullovers are quite a good lat exercise, and much better for back development than for chest. Of course, the pecs are involved, but only to a very small degree.

As the second question anticipates, correct form is an important aspect of getting the most from dumbbell pullovers. To perform this exercise correctly, lie crosswise on a bench with your back parallel to the ground, your upper back making contact with the bench. Place your feet a comfortable distance apart, and square up your body so that your butt doesn't sag down. Grasp the upper head of the dumbbell on the underside with your thumbs encircling the handle to avoid dropping the weight. Hold the weight directly above your chest and lower it behind you in an arc, taking the weight as low as is comfortable. Raise the weight through the same arc to the starting point above your chest.

Exercise
Sets
Reps
 
Dumbbell Pullovers
2
8-10
 
Chins
2
8-10
 
Barbell Rows
2
8-10
 
Deadlifts
2
8-10
 
Note: A warm-up set of 12-15 reps should be included for each exercise.

Note: A warm-up set of 12-15 reps should be included for each exercise.

These are the basics, but there are a few variations on this movement you can try. You can lower your hips a few inches to get a greater range of motion, but this is a more advanced move, so I recommend starting with your hips squared. Once your body has grown accustomed to the movement, you can add the variation of sinking your hips as you lower the weight. This stretches your lats from two directions and increases the stress. Another variation is to lie on the bench so that your entire back is supported. This reduces the effectiveness of the exercise but allows for more back support.

Dumbbell pullovers are an underutilized and misused exercise, and are ideal for training at home or at a gym. They are an excellent first exercise for lats because they pre-exhaust your lats without involving your biceps. Almost all back work involves the bending of your arms, which recruits your biceps. Pullovers are an exception, and thus a terrific complement to other back exercises.

Once you finish this exercise, you can move on to the rest of the workout. I recommend installing chins as your second exercise. These are great because you can use your own bodyweight or add weight, depending on your strength. They're also a challenging exercise, and in this back workout, they will be the first to involve the use of your biceps.

You can then perform barbell rows and deadlifts. That's four exercises, and that's a great workout for the whole back.

In terms of sets, I recommend that you do two sets of pullovers, performing your heavier set last. Eventually that 50-pound dumbbell is going to become too light and you'll need to use a heavier one. For chins, do two sets, keeping the reps in the eight to 10 range. If you can perform more reps using just your bodyweight, then add dumbbells with a weight belt so that you reach failure in this rep range. Barbell rows are third, for two heavy sets, then finish off with two sets of deadlifts.

 

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Building a Thicker and Wider Back
Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown
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