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

Intro

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.

 

Warm-up

  • 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.

Workout

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.

deadlift-pullTips:

  • 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.

Tips: 

  • 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.

Tips:

  • 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.

Tips:

  • 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.

 

STRETCH

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

PRAY

God gave you another day, and another healthy workout.

 

 

Workout of The Week 5.16.16: Core-geous

Feature Photo:
Model: Lindsay Blair
Photographer: Dylan Fox

Intro

The word “core” is a collective term used to describe the muscles of your midsection. They include, but are not limited to the rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques, transverse abdominal, quadratus lumborum, and spinal erectors. While these muscles have their own individual functions, they also work together in almost every movement you make.

I’m frequently asked which exercises you should be doing in order to get a great looking core. Unfortunately, my answer is not what you want to hear, because a sculpted core is not built in the gym, but in the kitchen through dieting (not crunches on the counter lol). In fact, athletes with some of the most aesthetically pleasing mid-sections you’ve ever seen, may not even directly work them. This common misconception derives from the belief of “spot-training”, or the act of burning fat in a particular area by simply training it. While there may be some metabolic improvements caused by increased muscle, it’s far too inefficient to be the sole path to a shredded 6-pack.

Before you completely write-off that 10 minute abdominal workout you do at the end of your workout, you should be aware that core work still has great value. Remember, the body is not designed to look good- its designed for function. These functions include stability, strength, balance, etc. Therefore, the better your core, the easier it is to maintain good form and prevent injury. Most say you should train legs because it’s your foundation, I would disagree, your core is.

 

Warm-up

  • Abdominal bracing- while lying on your back, contract your midsection. This does not mean suck them in, this means squeeze as they are. Hint: tighten your midsection as if someone were going to punch you there.
  • Warm-up sets: perform 1-2 easier sets of the exercise so that you can become more familiar with the form and movement.

Working Sets

 

Oblique Kayaks: 3 Sets x Perform reps as your fitness level allows; 60s rest

Set-up: You will need a weight bar and a decline bench. Sit normally on the bench, as you would for a sit-up.

Execution: Lean back until your hips are at a 90 degree angle, you should feel the tension of your core holding your body up at this point. Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip, and your elbows tight to your sides. Using your core, and not your arms, twist your core to resemble paddling in a kayak. Remember, your core does all the movement, not your arms!

Tips: I typically do these until I have about 20% of my energy left, at that point I use the remaining energy to perform Russian twists until just before failure.

 

Decline Bench Reverse Crunch: 2 sets of 10-20 reps; superset with next exercise

Set-up: You will need a decline bench, much like you did with the first exercise. You will need to lay the opposite direction.Hold on to bench above your head to keep yourself from sliding down. I typically grab the leg pads. (see pic for set-up)

Execution: Begin by contracting your core and raising your legs; knees slightly bent. Then, using your core, bend your knees and bring them to your chest until you reach a tight contraction. Then, slowly extend your legs back out to the starting position without touching the ground; repeat.

Tips: To ensure you are working your core and not just your legs (which may burn), make sure you slightly roll your hips as you crunch. This movement should be subtle, but it should be done for a quality contraction.

decline reverse crunch.jpg
Reverse crunch. Notice hips

 

 

Exercise ball DB crunch: 3 sets of 15 reps; 60s rest

Set-up: You will need a dumbbell (usually 5-15lbs will suffice), and an exercise ball. Begin by sitting on the ball, then in a controlled fashion, roll your body down until you are on your back. I typically like to position the ball so that I feel I am holding my head and shoulders up. Your feet should be wider than shoulder width for a solid base. You should hold the dumbbell behind your head, but not touching. Keep your elbows flared outward.

Execution: Begin by bracing your core, and picking a spot on the ceiling to stair at (look at head position in example). I typically like to pick one about 10 feet in front of me. Now, perform a crunch. This is not a

ball crunch
DB held behind head (not shown)

sit-up, so your hips should remain still. All the movement should be made between your chest and your hips. After you have crunched up into a solid contraction, slowly control your way back down until just below the starting position.

 

Tips: The particular exercise is best described by looking at the example picture. Stay on top of the ball, keep elbows wide, and only crunch at the stomach.

Back Raises: 3 sets of 15 reps; 30s rest

Set-up: You will need a lumbar extension pad, and possibly a barbell plate. Adjust the pad height so that it rests just below the crease of your hips.

Execution: Begin by contracting your core. Drop your torso using your hips until just before your back rolls. This is important, as the movement should be solely in your hips. Then, keeping your core braced, use your lower back to raise up to a straight position. A common

back raises
Straight back, movement in hips

mistake is to hyper-extend (over raise), this is unnecessary and unhealthy-avoid it.

 

Tips: If using weight, hold the plate firmly against your chest with a crossed-arm grip. Remember, you should avoid excessive rolling of the back. This may take practice, and may be limited to the individuals flexibility range of motion.

 

 

 

Last note:

  • Core workouts are funny, because a particular exercise may work greatly for one person, and not at all for another. It all comes down to the person’s body and their balances or lack there of.
  • Also, if you are new to working out, don’t be alarmed if you feel a burn in your lower back. This is usually fatigue, and will improve as you continue with future workouts.
  • Core should be done at the end of a workout, you need them for stability, so it wouldn’t be wise to fatigue them first.
  • Core should also be done every other day. Doing them daily can lead to overworking, and that can cause issues.

 

 

PRAY

God gave you another day, and another healthy workout.

 

Kyle Blair, BS Exercise Physiology, CPT, SPT