Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Back Specialization - Bradley Steiner
by Bradley Steiner
For gaining size, power and well-shaped bulk, your efforts in training should center around developing two major muscle groups to their maximum via hard work on the basic exercises for those groups. The first muscle group is the leg-hip structure. The second is the back.
You can, and should, alternate between programs of specialization for both these key areas, until you’ve finally gained your maximum desired bulk and muscular bodyweight. But doubt if it would be desirable (or even feasible) to include a full leg AND back specialization routine in a single workout. Done properly, a back OR leg specialization program is PLENTY of work. A back AND leg specialization program probably couldn’t be done “properly” unless of course you were such a miraculous physical specimen that you didn’t actually need either!
I have chosen to present a back specialization program because I feel that the leg emphasis program is by far the simpler of the two types, and beginners needing basic information on building up are likely to be confused when it comes to setting up a back program.
Leg specialization, besides, has been covered to a large extent by me before, in previous writings. It amounts to, in essence: SQUATTING HARD AND HEAVY, three times a week.
Back specialization is not quite that simple, and in order to eliminate any confusion about the subject, I want to deal with it now.
One question: “Why is leg and back specialization so important?”
Answer: Because your hip-leg and back muscle groups are the BIGGEST and the STRONGEST muscle groups in your body. You can handle the heaviest weights in leg and back exercises, and the carry-over value of leg-back work for EVERY OTHER muscle in your body is tremendous.
Leg work will build your chest, widen your shoulders and give you an A-1 heart and lung workout that will keep you in tiptop shape and health.
A second question: “What kind of results, specifically, can I expect from following a back specialization course?”
Answer: You will develop (if you work as hard as you’re supposed to) unbelievable upper-body power, width, bulk and shape. You will build arms that are strong and look strong. You will develop your vital lower back region, and this will have carry-over benefits that will last your entire life.
You will definitely, unless there is something wrong with you organically, pack on lots of solid, muscular bodyweight, providing you eat properly.
You will have real enjoyment and experience great satisfaction from dominating heavy weights, and from watching your working poundages go up.
Some basic facts you ought to know: The back consists of THREE primary muscle substructures.
1) The trapezius
2) The latissimus
3) The erector spinae
that is: the upper back, below the neck – the bulky, central upper-back – and the lower back. Each of these three muscle groups must be fully developed. Since the average bodybuilder usually devotes most of his back training, if not all of it, to the showy lats, that point about total development bears repeating:
DEVELOP THE WHOLE BACK. To neglect the erector spinae muscles is sheer insanity. If anything, this group is MORE important than the upper back, from a health standpoint. Fully developed, the erector spinae group will DOUBLE of TREBLE your present body strength. The lower back, in short, is not showy, it is essential.
The trapezius muscles ARE showy, in a way, when fully developed. They impart a slope to the shoulders that gives the impression of great power and athletic prowess. Perhaps you’ve noticed that boxers tend to have well-developed traps. This is the inevitable result of their boxing workouts, of keeping the arms up on the guard continually, blocking fast body punches, throwing fast, hard punches. Don’t worry – there are easier ways to build up the traps than going hard rounds every day with a sparring partner!
So – we’ve established the following:
1) the back consists of THREE main muscle substructures.
2) each of the three main groups must be fully developed.
From that beginning we go on to examine the best exercises for each of the major muscle groups in the back – then we will formulate a routine, employing selected movements.
For the trapezius group I recommend Presses behind the neck, Power cleans, Shrugs, High pulls, and Upright rowing.
For the latissimus I recommend BENT-OVER ROWING – nothing else!
For the erector spinae I recommend Stiff-legged deadlifts, Regular deadlifts, good mornings, and the Snatch.
Please be sure that you understand that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you EVER attempt to employ every one of the aforementioned movements in a single program! If you do try it, be sure to reserve a bed beforehand at your nearest hospital. Just don’t do it.
A good sample back schedule that I DO suggest you try, is the following:
1) Warm up first with 2 sets of 15-20 Prone hyperextensions.
2) Do one warmup set of Stiff-legged deadlifts, then do a very heavy set. 12 reps for the warmup. 12-15 reps for the work set.
3) Do 6 light Power cleans to warm up. Then do 3 sets of 5 Power cleans with every ounce of iron you can pile on the bar.
4) Do 3 sets of 12-15 heavy Bentover rowing movements with a barbell – or alternately for each side with a heavy dumbell.
5) Do 4 or 5 sets of VERY HEAVY Presses behind the neck. 4 or 5 reps a set
6) Do 2 sets of Shrugs with a weight that forces you to use wrist straps in order to maintain your grip on the bar. 20 reps a set.
7) Do a very light set of Stiff-legged deadlifts, again. This time, stand on a solid bench or box and lower the weight below your ankles. Use only a VERY LIGHT WEIGHT and try for maximum stretch. 15 reps.
8) Finish your workout with a single set of deep-breathing pullovers lying on a bench, with a very, very light barbell. The bar alone, in fact, will be quite sufficient. 12-15 slow, stretching, deep-breathing reps.
Such a program, followed THREE TIMES A WEEK, will build for you such great back (and, in fact, overall!) power, that you’ll literally be a new man.
The most effective way to use a back specialization program is by following it for two, two-month periods, interspersed with a two-week layoff so you don’t overtrain and go stale. Work out three times a week using nothing but this program.
This is a good place to point out that a layoff need not be spent in bed. The only requisite for a good rest is that you STAY AWAY FROM THE WEIGHTS. You can swim, if you like, jog, play tennis, ride horses or any other moderately vigorous thing – so long as you don’t work out with barbells or dumbells.
After a two-week layoff go right back to your same back specialization schedule. Be sure to start in again with REDUCED WEIGHTS, because a slight loss of power is almost inevitable after two-week layoff. Don’t worry about this slight loss of power. You’ll be much stronger in the long run, after a layoff, than you ever possibly could be if you were to train endlessly, with no break in your course at all.
Work into really heavy weights where I’ve indicated heavy weights are to be used. If you take it easy and train light, then forget about gaining anything worthwhile.
I do not suggest that any trainee employ this back routine – or any other specialization routine, for that matter – for more than two, two-month periods. To do more than this would, I am afraid, simply be overtraining on your program. After all, you can get just so much from a single routine before you’ll milk it dry and require a different program for continued gains. So be sensible. Follow this course as outlined for two months. Layoff two weeks. Go back and train for two more months. Then, STOP. After your specialization, you should go right into an all-round schedule that works your entire physique evenly. Keep at this for 6 to 8 weeks before trying anything resembling another specialization program.
Although a specific leg specialization program is not being outlined here, I want to stress that the same method of training (two months’ work, two weeks layoff, two months’ work) is the best for this purpose, too.
So that everything is covered, let me mention two other essential elements that must go with the training program if it is to be maximally successful: REST AND GOOD FOOD. Nobody can make maximum gains without either of them.
If you are young and growing, or if you are generally active outside of your lifting activities, you should get a bare minimum of eight hours uninterrupted sleep. Nine or ten hours is even better.
You should eat plenty of meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, rice, thick soups, spaghetti, cheeses, etc. Drink plenty of milk every day if you’re seriously underweight. Two quarts a day for underweight teenagers is a must. In the winter months take hot milk with Ovaltine.
Plenty of spectacular routines exist, other than the one I’ve given you here. But this basic back specialization program – for all its stark simplicity – will produce spectacular RESULTS. Train very hard – CONCENTRATE - and use HEAVY WEIGHTS. Train three times a week and try never to miss an exercise period. Then, after four and a half months of hard work, sit back and be proud of what you accomplished.
You will be.
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