Back Workout Tips with John Doe Bodybuilding

This post is the first of a new tips series here at John Doe Bodybuilding. In these posts, we will be taking an in depth look at some excellent routines to help you grow and achieve your goals.

Today we are going to cover a good workout for the back.

When working the back, you have two kinds of exercises:

  1. Exercises for back width – these exercises work your lat muscles, i.e. wide grip pull ups
  2. Exercises for back thickness (size from front to back) – i.e. rowing movements

If we had to pick only two exercises to build an impressive back, we would pick: deadlifts and wide grip pull ups. These movements will target both back width and back thickness.

Let’s start with wide grip pull ups.

While wrist straps have their place when doing a lot of reps, I recommend you start out without them to develop good forearm strength.

A good staple routine for any trainer is to do 50 wide grip pullups broken up into as many sets as you need to get to 50 while maintaining good form. If you do 10 sets of 10 reps, that’s fine. If you need to do 20 sets of 5 reps, that’s fine too.

Just make sure you get a full stretch with each pull up movement. Avoid the temptation to flail around with your weight, keep good form, and feel the stretch!

That’s how you get those “bat wings”!

When you finish your wide grip pull ups, it’s good to do a lighter, isolated movement before moving onto something more complex and demanding like deadlifts or rows.

So let’s do some straight arm pulldowns.

To get the most out of these, you want to get the maximum stretch. While keeping the back straight, take a step or two back to increase the stretch and pull on your back and serratus muscles (muscles right below your armpits).

Focus on those serratus muscles just underneath your armpits doing most of the work. You should really feel the stretch at the top of the movement.

For these straight arm pulldowns, go for lower weight, excellent form, longer reps (4-5 seconds down, 4-5 seconds up), and A LOT of squeeze.

This is the way to build a beautiful physique: do whatever you can, whether that’s more squeeze or longer reps, to increase the difficulty of the exercise.

And forget about always going to failure. You don’t always want to do that. If you’re doing deadlifts and rows next, you’ll want to save some of your energy.

Let’s finish off with some bent over rows.

Here’s what you need to know: most people are using too much weight when doing bent over rows. They’re swinging the weight, using momentum, and hurting their joints.

Another tip for bent over rows: don’t hold the bar too wide because then your biceps are doing a lot of the work instead of your back.

If lighter weight feels too easy, remember you can always make the exercise harder: hold the contraction longer, give it more squeeze.

When you add weight for a work set, aim to keep the same form, squeeze, and focus as your lighter warm up sets. If you can’t keep good form, then you know you’re going too heavy.

That’s it for today guys. Get in there, get it done, and build that strong back.

Over and out!!

-JD

17 thoughts on “Back Workout Tips with John Doe Bodybuilding”

  1. Really good video and article!
    The straight arm pulldown is a very underrated exercice for back width and good posture, we don’t see so much people putting it in bodybuilding programs nowadays…

    Reply
    • I will do a video on deadlifts soon. It’s funny you mention that because most people have the opposite issue, their back takes over for weak legs and they aren’t sitting in the position low enough to begin with. You sound like you have great leg strength but your back isn’t engaging enough. You may want to try pre-exhausting your back first with a few high rep sets of hyper-extensions w/ just bodyweight, THEN go to deadlifts

      Reply
  2. I never focused much on wide grip pull-ups. I find them hard to do but I’m sure I can easily do 10 sets of 5 reps in a short amount of time with full stretch. Also I’d focus more on squeeze on barbell rows.
    Thanks a lot for sharing the video john. You have been doing a great job.

    Reply
  3. Great post and video. John I have a question….you mentioned in a previous post about skin care and how important to you it is how your skin looks. I have to say you have great looking skin. A lot of bodybuilders just care about their body but not the skin. I would like to know what do you recommend to get rid of flat moles on the skin? I know the importance of vitamin d and how the sun is the best source however I’m very skin and when I get some sun over time I get a nice color but also flat moles or some freckles. Plus everyone tells me that since I’m fare skin to be careful with getting skin cancer from the sun…Any tips? I want a nice color and clear skin without any flat moles…thank you.

    Reply
    • My advice is to get them removed from a dermatologist if any of them stand out that much they look like a nuisance. Now, small moles will always get darker as the level of melanin in your skin increases, this is definitely more prevalent with guys who use melatonin 2, that shit actually gave me new moles when I tried it and I swore it off for good. I would just develop a good base tan and then tan once/wk to maintain it. That is what I do MOST of the year, once you get the base just do a maintenance deal once/wk. Once/wk in a tanning bed isn;t giving anyone skin cancer that wasn’t going to get it anyways, you feel me?

      Reply
  4. Thanks John Doe! ever since i started doing less weight and making the weight feel heavier, my mind connection to my muscle has dramatically improved and my joints have thanked me.

    Reply

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