The Top 5 Back Training Mistakes

...and how to fix them.


It’s complicated. Combining ball-and-socket joints that allow maximum arm mobility, a ribbon of snaking bones and nerves that divide the region down the middle, and a phalanx of big and small muscles spread from your butt to your neck, your back is your most complex bodypart. So it’s little wonder that many bodybuilders earn failing grades for training it. A lot of things can go wrong, but we’ve simplified the list to a top five. In this article, we examine the most frequent back blunders and lay out easy solutions for getting your back on course. Class is in session.



Because your back is such a vast and complicated muscle group, there is much confusion about how to best train various areas. Many believe you simply need to pull your hands to the area you want to stimulate — low for lower lats, high for upper lats, etc. — but it’s not that easy to hit the target.


  • For lat width, focus on chins and pulldowns with a grip wider than shoulder width.
  • For lat thickness, focus on free- weight rows: barbell, T-bar and dumbbell.
  • The key to lower lat activation is keeping your elbows close to your sides and pulling them as far back as possible. Two good exercises are underhand, shoulder-width pull-downs and one-arm low-cable rows, both performed with maximum ranges of motion at the contractions.
  • To hit your middle, upper-back muscles — especially the rhomboids, and lower and middle trapezius — do wide-grip rows pulled to your chest. Using a Smith machine or a low cable while seated, instead of a barbell, can make balancing easier when rowing to your chest.


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