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Your back comprises several different muscles. The trapezius, which works to move the shoulder blades, is located in the upper back; the rhomboids in the middle; the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum at the bottom; and the lats run from your hips up to your armpits. Because there are so many regions, it's important to break your back training up into different kids of exercises.
Vertical pulls involve pulling a weight toward you and mainly work your lat muscles. Chin-up and pullup variations using different grips, along with rope climbing, are the best vertical pulling exercises, claims strength coach Nick Tumminello. These are fairly advance however, so if you're new to training, lat pull-downs are a viable alternative. When training at home, use a resistance band tied around a door frame to replicate lat pulldowns on a gym machine.
Horizontal pulls also involve pulling a weight toward you, but with your body in a prone position. They also target the rhomboids and traps more than the lats. Coach Todd Bumgardner of Beyond Strength Performance recommends making chest supported rows, inverted rows and bent over rows with dumbbells or a barbell staple moves in your back routine. Whatever exercises you choose, pull hard with your elbows and use a full range of motion, starting with straight arms and finishing with your hands in at your sides. For beginner horizontal pulls, pick cable rows, seated machine rows or resistance band rows.
Your lower-back is worked slightly with vertical and horizontal pulls, but you need isolations to work it fully. Start with back extensions, in which you lie on your front on a stability ball and lift your torso up by flexing your lower-back muscles. From here, try more advanced variations such as weighted or machine back extensions. Compound lower-body moves also work your lower-back. Deadlift variations are particularly effective for this, so perform regular, hex bar, stiff-legged or deficit deadlifts as part of your program.
How you split your back exercises up depends on your goals. When aiming for muscular strength and growth, perform an equal number of vertical, horizontal and lower-back exercises. Train your back twice a week, pick one of each kind of exercise and complete four to five tough sets of six to 12 repetitions. If you suffer from lower-back pain or have had an injury, you may wish to place more of a focus on lower-back exercises. You'll need to start off very light and should consult your doctor or a qualified fitness professional to construct a program that's appropriate for your level.