Friday, March 7, 2014
Put your back into it

By Tony Wagner Citizen Columnist

Dear Mr. Fitness:

My question is a bit different than the others I read in your column. It's still about exercises, but it is about a specific program for my back muscles. I never see anyone wanting to strengthen their back. Only their lower back. I'm a 33-year-old female who likes to exercise. I have asked my friends at the gym, but the girls "don't want to get muscles."

-- Backless

Dear Backless:

I'm guessing you have been working out for some time now, so I will answer your question by furnishing you with an exercise program that will allow you to train your entire back.

Recall that your back muscles are the second largest muscle group in the human body. The back can take a multitude of exercises. Train like this and you will become stronger and look great.

Train your back once a week in the beginning. Pick a day and stick with it (I generally go with Mondays).

Train your back like this: Warm up by doing deadlifts done with a barbell. You should grasp the bar with one hand over and one hand under, grip-wise. Follow me? Your hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders. As you bend over, bend your knees slightly. Keep your head up as you perform this exercise. This will be a great warm-up and work the lower and middle back wonderfully. Try to do three sets of 15-20 reps. This means use a light weight initially. As you become more proficient and powerful, add weight.

The second exercise should be wide-grip pulldowns done with a straight bar. Bring the bar down and touch your upper chest. Almost to your neck. False-grip the bar -- that means putting your thumbs over the top of the bar when gripping it. This grip will transfer more of the movement to your back, less to your arms. Add small amounts of weight each set. Stick with three sets of 15 reps.

You should truly be feeling your back muscles by now.

Next, do seated rows. Utilize the same false-grip on this one, too. Make certain you arch your back as you pull the bar towards your belly. This arch is of supreme importance and must be maintained throughout the exercise. This will work the lower and middle back and complements the pulldown movement which works the upper back. Remember when doing this rowing move, completely straighten your arms out to get a great stretch. Try three sets of 15 reps.

The final exercise for your ultimate back program would be still-arm pullovers performed across a bench. Use a dumbbell for this exercise which will primarily hit the upper back. Keep the arms as stiff as possible. Feels pretty good when you do this exercise properly. Three sets of fifteen reps will do it.

Try this program for six weeks and see if you don't create true results. Good luck and keep at it!

-- Mr. Fitness

Tony Wagner, aka Mr. Fitness more than 30 years of fitness and nutritional expertise. A certified personal trainer and author, he has helped thousands of people get into and stay in shape. Contact him at:, Facebook us, and stop by Bodyzone Fitness Center, 2740 N. Roosevelt Blvd., 305-292-2930.