Frustrated about your back not growing?
Building muscle is no easy task.
It's a long, tough process, and there are always lots of little things that you could be doing better.
However for the back, it seems to be especially tough to get the muscles to grow.
Even when the chest is continually growing, the arms are getting bigger, and the legs are finally starting to catch up, the back often seems to be lagging behind.
And there's a reason for this.
With the way our popular back exercises are done, it's very easy and common to cheat.
It's easy to cut the range of motion short.
It's easy to use momentum.
It's easy to turn the movement into a full body exercise.
And for this reason, most people aren't getting the most out of their back training.
In this post I'll get into why this is, and some fixes that you can implement to get your back gains back on track!
Why Isn't My Back Growing?
Everybody understands that in order to build muscle, you need to be utilizing a full range of motion and really thinking about activating the target muscle and getting it to do the work.
It's Much Easier to Cheat on Back Exercises
With the way that our exercises such as pulldowns, pull ups, barbell rows and cable rows are designed, it's extremely easy to let those two things slip away.
Think about it.
When you're doing a pulldown, how easy is it to just swing your torso a little bit and help bring the weight down?
Even if you do it just a tiny bit during the toughest point of the exercise, you're going to easily make it seem like you can use weights that you're really not strong enough for yet.
Or how easy it is to round the shoulders forward and hunch at the upper spine just to get your chin closer to the bar?
I've noticed myself that I do it all the time!
Or on a pull up, how easy is it to just kick a little bit of swing the legs even just a tiny bit and help pull yourself that much closer to the bar?
Casual ego lifting.
How easy is it to swing the torso during a barbell row, or cut the range of motion short by not rowing into your torso and using heavier loads that way?
The point is, with the traditional and popular back exercises we like to use, it's extremely easy to get carried away and use loads that we're really not strong enough for.
Now compare that to other exercises such as the bench press, or the seated shoulder press, or the barbell squat.
It's nowhere near as easy to cheat on these other exercises.
Aside from lifting your glutes off the bench (which is easy to notice and prevent), there's no real way you can cheat the bench press once the bar's on your chest.
Aside from not going deep enough in a barbell squat, there's no real way that you can cheat the exercise.
Nowhere near as easy as it is on your classic back movements.
That's the problem that many of us have, and that's the reason why so many of us are struggling to see significant progress in our backs.
So how do you fix this issue?
Use Lighter Weights
Obviously, the first step to approaching this problem should be to use lighter weights.
When you lower the weight that you're lifting, you're going to be able to replicate real, controlled and proper reps that you should be aiming for, even when you move up to heavier working weights.
Here's a good thing to remember:
Try to perform the perfect rep with the lightest dumbbells available, or the lightest stack on the machine.
Then, only go as heavy as you can whilst still achieving the same reps.
If you find yourself needing to adjust your technique at all when using heavier weights, it's probably too heavy for you.
Your lat pulldowns should have minimal swinging.
Your pull ups should have minimal swinging.
Your barbell rows should be done with control, and rowed properly into your torso.
Do it with light weight first, and then only go as heavy of a weight that allows you to replicate these reps.
Make Sure You Utilize the Stretching Part of the Exercise
The eccentric (lengthening or stretching) portion of the exercise, and in specifically the loaded stretch at the end of the range of motion, is extremely important for you to make use of if you're wanting to maximize hypertrophy.
With the back, you need to make sure that you're stretching your muscles fully on your reps.
Allow the weight to pull your arms forwards in a seated cable row.
Allow your body to fully relax and stretch your lats at the bottom of a pull up.
The stretch is just as important as the contraction, and it should be treated as such.
Train Closer to Failure
With hypertrophic goals in mind, you need to make sure that you're training close (or to) failure.
This is extremely important as you're going to need to be able to stimulate proper muscle growth.
This is only maximized with training close to failure.
Now even if you think you are training to failure, you might not be.
Think about it.
If you're swinging your reps and cheating every single one of them, reaching failure on those reps is not going to necessarily mean your back has reached failure yet.
Your whole body might've reached failure on the heavier weight, but on a slightly lighter weight your back might still have lots of fuel left in the tank for that set!
So once you've cleaned up your reps and are training with intent behind each rep, make sure you're taking the back, and not the other muscles you're using to cheat, to proper muscular failure.
When you're trying to build muscle, you need to be patient.
It's going to be a slow, long journey, but you need to maximize what you're doing, stick at it and just trust the process.
The universe is very rewarding!
If you genuinely put in the hard work, and you're working smart and eating right, you're going to see results.
Fix all your mistakes and be patient!
To Wrap Things Up
All in all, the back is a tough muscle group to train but there are certainly things you can do to improve the work you're doing and maximize what you get out of the exercises you're doing.
Be careful of casual cheating, whether that's from generating momentum and bringing in some other muscle groups, or cutting the range of motion short by stopping early.
Doing this, and taking your training closer to failure is going to allow you to optimize your training and get your back back in line with the rest of your body!
Do YOU like the progress you're seeing with your back?