Workout of the Month: January 2017: “Back” After the Holidays


Your back is the largest group of working muscles in your upper body, so it only makes sense to prioritize their training. Point is, if you want to look muscular and in great shape, you will need a well developed back. There are two types of muscles on your back, true back muscles and appendicular. True back muscles are arranged close and parallel to your spine, and are important for mobility and stability during movements. While these muscles will not be addressed in this workout, they should not be ignored for optimal health. Appendicular back muscles have attachments to your arms, and are the muscles that you would work to grow and strengthen. These muscles vary by angle, size, and strength, and should be addressed in that manner.



  • Cardiovascular warm-up: 5-10 minutes: on a cardio machine (or jogging).I typically use an elliptical, because of the moderate upper body  involvement.
  • Resistance band internal/external rotation: 2×30 reps each direction: Focus on slow and controlled movements throughout your entire range of motion. int-and-ext-rot
  • Light warm-up sets: 1-2 sets x  6-10 reps: You should perform a light warm-up set for each exercise, despite how warmed up you feel. This will not only warm up certain parts of your back that have not been directly stimulated through other angles, and will also help to familiarize you to the specific movement.


I. Deadlift: 4 sets x 5-12 reps: 2-4minutes rests.

Set-up: You will need adequate room, a flat and firm surface, and a barbell. For a conventional deadlift the set-up is broken down as follows:

FEET: should be slightly narrower than a squat stance, so about hip-width. The bar should be directly above your mid-foot (remember the shoe lace its above for consistency), and toes pointed SLIGHTLY outward (10-15 degrees).

ARMS: Close to the outside of your knees, grab the bar with two overhand grips (over under can be used if experienced). Your arms should be locked, do not lift with bent elbows. Think of your arms as pulling ropes tied to the bar.

CHEST/HIPS/LOWER BACK: Chest should be up so that you could see it in the mirror. Lower back should be straight/neutral/flat. Hips should be at the height most ego-heads stop their half-rep squats at, do not go so low that you’re squatting your deadlifts.

KNEES: Your knees should be naturally set at this point, assuming you have properly aligned everything else. If not, they should be at a 115 degree or so bend.

HEAD: Head should be neutral, look at the floor about 2-3 feet in front of your toes.

Execution: Begin by contracting your core. Then, pushing through your legs like a leg press  to lift the bar off of the ground with straightened arms, and upward chest, and a lower back remaining in a neutral position. Once the bar reaches about knee height you may use your glutes and hamstrings with SOME assistance from your lower back to straighten up. Lowering the weight should be done with the same force in a pattern of hip bending before knee bending. You should properly set-up before moving to the next rep, this may take some time as a beginner, but will speed up with practice and repetition.


  • Do not bounce the bar into the next rep, instead, reset properly.
  • Stay within your weight limit, push yourself only as hard as proper form allows.
  • Do not jerk or lean back to lockout, use your muscles and strict form to straighten upward and stand tall instead.

II. Close-grip Lat pulldown: 3 sets x 10-12 reps; 120s rests

Set-up: You will need a cable machine and a narrow grip handle. Set the leg pad to a height that will keep you snug and secured to the floor. Grab the handle with a firm grip, head narrow-handleshould be neutral, and chest should be slightly “inflated” in result from engaging your lats. Your body should be SLIGHTLY leaned back (look at example pic).

Execution: After contracting your core, pull the bar down until it reaches the peak of your upper chest. Aim for a strong muscular contraction/squeeze in your lat muscles, without excessive scapular retraction (shoulder blade pinching). Your elbows should be tight to the  side of your ribs, and your chest/upper back should still be upright with proper form. A controlled return should be almost half the speed as the pulldown with an emphasis on a controlled closed-grip-lat-pulldownlengthening of your lats. Stop just short of lockout to maintain tension on the muscles.


  • It helps to take a large inhalation of air to engage your lats on the return.
  • Momentum may be minimally implemented in a manner that doesn’t feel necessary to move the weight, but helps to create a rep rhythm or better contraction.

IIIa. Wide Grip Low Row: 3 sets x 10-12 reps; superset with next exercise.

Set-up: You will need a low cable pully designed for low rows and a neutral grip lat bar (see pic). You want to have your knees slightly bent, hips at about 90 degrees, and lower back neutral before beginning. I-2


Execution: Pull the bar to your body until you reach the point 1 inch in front and below your nipple line. The pulling motion should begin with your scapulae slightly retracting, then arm motion starting at your shoulders NOT your elbows. The bend at your elbow should be last, and created secondary by the shoulder motion. Aim for a tight contraction in your upper back at the area between both your shoulders and elbows.

wide-grip-low-row Your arms should be raised about 75 degrees from your sides (see picture), much like they would be for a push-up. The return should be controlled at half the speed, and stopped just short of lockout to maintain tension; repeat.


  • If you feel your arms are doing most of the work, lower the weight and focus more on the order of pulling movement discussed in the execution.
  • I typically exaggerate the contraction of this exercise for 1-2s seconds.
  • Keep your chest erect and your elbows up, if you find they’re dropping, you should lower the weight.

IIIb. Incline Bench Reverse DB Fly: 3 sets x 10-12 reps; 120s rests.

Set-up: You will need an adjustable bench set 2-3 clicks below completely vertical, and a pair of DBs. I would suggest starting with 5-15lbs and working your way up from there, no matter your fitness level. You will straddle the bench backwards, with your head just above the top, and arms with a slight bend hanging straight down.

Execution: Raise your arms up and out to your side while maintaining the same bend at your elbows and keeping your palms facing downward. Upon contraction, your arms should be either directly out to your side or slightly in front of your shoulders. The contraction should be focused just slightly higher than the previous lift with a slight db-reverse-flyretraction of your shoulder blade. Control the return until just before the starting position; repeat.


  • Unlike the low rows mentioned earlier, the motion should begin at your shoulders and end at your scapulae.
  • If your elbow angle increases or you fail to reach a good squeeze at the peak of the rep, the weight is too heavy, bro.
  • Do not expect to increase much in weight with this exercise. I have not seen clients increase more than 10-15lbs over their initial weight, no matter the starting fitness level.



The picture below has some recommend stretches to do following this back workout.

Do each stretch for 2-3 sets of 10-20 second holds.

Back stretches
Back stretches (click to enlarge)


Kyle Blair, BS Exercise Physiology, CPT, SPT


God gave you another day, and another healthy workout.



Workout of The Week 4.19.16-Foremost Forearms


A good lifter will implement all of your typical body parts- chest, back, quads, biceps, etc.- but a great lifter will implement EVERY muscle group. There are some muscle groups that are overlooked, at least in regards to direct work. The forearms are a prime example. This is why I have made conscious effort to hit them much like any other muscle. This doesn’t mean 1-2 sets at the end of an arm workout.This means several sets of several workouts, emphasizing  each muscle and each angle. I’ve actually fixed wrist pain with clients and myself, by implementing direct work. In addition to strength/functionality, I have received more compliments on my forearm muscle than any other group (100% serious).

The forearm is made of 2 primary muscle groups, the extensors and flexors. These groups are fundamentally opposing groups, and therefore, should be treated as so. In this weeks workout, we will attack each and every point.



Typically when working forearms, I would suggest following a larger upper body muscle group, so a warm-up is not really needed. However, I would suggest the lifter to perform a lighter set of each movement before getting to it.

Working Sets

Standing DB Wrist Curls: 3 sets x 20 reps; 60s rest

Set-up: You will need a pair of dumbbells that you would normally bicep curl with moderate ease.


Part-A: Stand and hold the dumbbells at your side,  and slowly unroll your grip until the handle rolls to the middle joint of your finger. Then, in a somewhat explosive  manner, curl your fingers and wrist back up until you can no longer. – 10 reps

Part-B: After completing the first 10 reps, immediately begin this step. Instead of opening your fingers, keep your grip tight. With the tight grip, curl your wrist inward, much like the top half of the first part– 10 reps

Tips: This is not an ego lift. So grab a pair of dumbbells you can control efficiently. Due to the high rep nature, its easy to just go through these curls mindlessly, but you should avoid that. Instead, make each and every rep count!


Barbell Forearm Preacher Extensions: 3 sets x 15 reps; super-set with next exercise

Set-up: you will need a preacher curl, or a bench. I would highly suggest the preacher curl in a busy gym. If you use a flat bench during busy hours, EVERYONE WILL HATE YOU lol. You will also need a barbell with non-rolling plates- this is crucial. I usually use those pre-set bars most decent gyms have. You should place your forearms so that there is as little wrist overhang as possible, but still allowing the fist to move completely up and down.

wrist ext.gif
Preacher wrist extension



Execution: Grab the bar with an unwrapped thumb grip. Allow your tightly gripped wrists to drop as low as possible. Then, extend them until neutral or SLIGHTLY above. Repeat

Tips: This does not require much weight at all. Even at my strongest, the most I would ever use is 40lbs, and even that was a struggle. To crank the intensity, pause for 1-2 seconds at the peak of each extension.

DB Wrist Twists: 3 sets x 30 second bouts; 90 seconds rest

Set-up: You will need a lighter pair of dumbbells. Usually somewhere in the 5-20lbs range. You want to stand with your arms bent at 90 degrees, and elbows tight to your sides. Your thumb should be tight to the top of the DB for maximal results.

Execution: While keeping your arms at 90 degrees, twist your wrists inward and outward as if you were continually showing someone the top and bottom of your wrists. Emphasize the squeeze in each direction, do not just haphazardly spin around.

Tips: This exercise is more so for the inward twist, than the outward. I find it more beneficial if I focus on that direction to a much greater degree. Your biceps will also receive some indirect work, so expect it.


Pipe 2-Way Roll-ups: 2 sets of both direction; 90s rest

Set-up: This is a trickier set-up, and may not even be possible for some. You will need a bar/pipe and a rope/string of some sort (I-1). Ideally, you should thread the rope through a hole in the center. If not possible, you can just tie it around; you will just need to pre-roll to keep it from slipping. You would be surprised with how many gyms have these set-ups, so ask first

pipe and plate.jpg

(if they think you’re crazy, sorry in advance). This may sound ridiculous but it is my absolute favorite forearm exercise.



Part-A: With your arms straight out, begin winding the rope up in the same direction as the preacher extensions. Continue to wind it until the top. Then, reverse the direction in the same controlled manner.


Part-B: With your arms straight out, wind the rope up by curling your wrists inward. Control it all the way up, and all the way down.

pipe roll-up

Tips: When rolling it up, do not simple “shuffle”. Instead, each wind should be done by grabbing as far as you can, and twisting back as much as you can. Imagine an “X” is drawn at the top of the bar, and each wind should bring the “X” all the way around.


This concludes the forearm workout. If the pump is so great that you can only feel your fingers; you’re welcome. This is a great workout to pair with back, biceps, and calves.



Perform each stretch 2-3 times for 10-20 seconds.

forearm stretch
Click to enlarge



God gave you another day, and another healthy workout.


Kyle Blair, BS Exercise Physiology, CPT, SPT