The PERFECT Back Workout (Sets and Reps Included)

What's up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, ATHLEANX.


Today I’m bringing you the perfect backworkout, continuing the perfect series here.

We have to face the facts right away.

The back is not a single muscle group.

We know the back is made up of many, manymuscles.

Which is a lot more difficult to piece togethera workout that is going to hit all these areas.

Remember, it’s not just the lats we’reworried about.

It’s all the other things we often timescan’t even see unless we know we have to train them and focus on them.

With that in mind we’re going to piece togethera game plan.

A plan of attack.

To do that we want to make sure we hit thedifferent areas.

Number one: let’s address the lats.

We know we’re going to need to hit them.

We can do that with specific exercises thatdo that well.

We also know that the traps take up a majorportion of our back.

Both the upper traps and lower traps.

One of the most important parts, I think, for posture and for the proper function of your shoulder, we’re going to have to hitthose as well.

So, low back, again, no less crucial, guys.

It’s very, very important to how we feel, to how we function, and to making the entire kinetic chain work well, we need to make surewe’re addressing that as well.

We have other muscles, too.

Like the rotator cuff.

Yes, those muscles all reside on the backof our shoulder in our upper back.

Which means, if you’re going to developyour back entirely you need to focus on those, too.

Even something like the terres major.

We want to make sure that muscle – becausewe can hit that preferentially a little bit more by altering the way we perform a popularexercise.

That’s something that we’re going to wantto address, too.

But of course, we’ve got to make sure wedo this within a reasonable amount of time.

To do that we always start with a big, compoundmovement that’s going to accomplish and hit a lot of these areas at once.

With that being said, let’s get started.

Let’s kick off the perfect back workout.

So, we kick off the perfect back workout herewith a compound lift, like I said.

The deadlift.

A great foundational exercise that’s chosenbecause it hits a lot of those areas that we mentioned in the opening.

We’re going to hit the traps, we’re reallygoing to work the spinal erectors, it’s going to help us train the lats, it’s goingto help us train the scapular strength.

Something we’re going to get into specificallyhere in a second.

More importantly, what we can do is realizethere are some compressive effects on the spine when doing the deadlift.

We can pair this up with another great compoundmovement, the weighted chin-up, and allow us to get a decompressive effect when pairedup together.

The way we break it down is, two sets of thedeadlift paired up with the weighted chin.

Two sets of a deadlift paired up with a bodyweight, wide grip pullup for a different purpose.

Let’s get to the deadlift first.

What we want to do is, as we work our wayup – because we’re working with heavier weights here today.

8, 6, 4, and 4 for our four deadlift sets.

What we want to do is make sure that we’readequately warming up.

So, we’re going to have to perform a fewsubmaximal, light warmup sets along the way.

Do this one thing for me as you do.

Incorporate a straight arm pushdown when youdo.

Why? I love the straight arm pushdown.

I think it’s one of the most underutilizedback exercises.

It’s one of the ones most helpful to ingrainingone of the most critical elements of the deadlift and that’s the ability to perform straightarm scapular strength work, to provide and reinforce the stability of your shoulder blades, to keep that upper body tightness when you do the lift.

Do one set here.

Not to failure.

Each time you do a warmup set.

Now when you’re ready to go and your firstset is 8 reps on the deadlift, you want to make sure you pair it up, as I said in thebeginning, with a weighted chin-up.

We’re going to do that compressive and decompressiveeffect.

As we do that, we do 2-minute reps after thefirst set.

We go over and perform the weighted chin-uphere.

I’m trying to go on the heavier side.

So, for me, I’m looking for about 4 reps.

Then we go back to the deadlift once again, increasing the weight a little bit to 6 reps.

Here, we go back to the weighted chin.

What I’ve done is tried to cut the weightin half so now I can get about 8 to 10 reps.

For me, again, I’ll strip one plate andkeep going.

Now we come back, we go back to the deadliftagain for our two heaviest sets.

A 4 rep and a 4 rep.

The rest time, however, is going to continueto decrease.

Here, I’m going straight bodyweight up tothe bar with the wide grip pullups.

Why are we doing this? Because the wide grip will allow us to hitthe terres major a little more than it will the lats.

We’ve already hit the lats really well withthe underhand chin-up because it points to the lats on greater stretch based on theirattachment.

Out in front of the body gives us a betterstretch at the top, than it would with our arms out to the side.

We shift the focus now to the terres majorfor these last two sets.

Again, the rest time is decreased becausewe’re going to straight bodyweight here on those wide grip pullups.

From here we go and make sure we train somethingexplosively.

One of the rules of training athletes is, what you slow down, you should speed up.

So, if we can do something explosively forthe back, we want to take all opportunities to do that.

For me, my favorite exercise for this is thebarbell dead row.

It builds off the same movement pattern usedfor the deadlift, allowing you to train explosively, priming the performance on this move becauseit shares similar biomechanics, and we stop there at the knees, continuing to drive up, and perform the rest of the row.

It’s an explosive movement.

Again, we don’t go to failure here.

We’re looking for ‘how quickly can weexplode this off the ground?’ You’re not going light, and you’re notgoing super, super heavy.

Choose about a 10 to 12 rep max, and perform8 to 10 reps.

The next exercise is an opportunity to createsomething I believe is incredibly important, and sometimes overlooked.

That is the value of focused tension.

I just laid this out in a video on bicepsand how you want to compliment your heavier compound training with focused tension andoverload on the muscle you’re trying to develop.

Then we go back to the lats here with twoexercise options.

They’re two of my favorite.

You get a choice between the two.

What you want to do if focus on how you dothem.

The first one is a one-armed alternating highcable row.

I do it in an alternating fashion to keepthis workout moving along.

So, I can go right to left and save an additionalset in the process.

The point here is, this exercise is perfectfor taking the lats through their entire range of motion.

I’m able to get my arm out in front of mybody, like I just said, on the chin-ups and why that’s a superior exercise.

It gets my lat out in full stretch and stillgets it all the way back behind my body, into extension, but also adducted tightly to myside, hitting all the major functions of the lats.

Even getting a little bit of rotation on theback to really get into more extension.

I could do that here as my exercise option, or I could choose to do this variation of the pulldown that I covered before, whichis probably the best way to do a pulldown.

It’s the rocking pulldown.

What we’re getting here is the same idea.

We’re not just staying here in this frontalplane and getting our arms adducted and limited to how much we can adduct them into our side.

We’re getting down and then because of therock, we’re getting it down closer to our sides, more adduction, and also back behindour body, more into extension.

A better lat contraction.

If you haven’t tried this, all you haveto do is give it a try and I promise you, you’re going to see the results.

And you won’t have to sacrifice the weightyou’re using to do this.

You can use the same type of weights, maybedropping down just a plate or two.

But you’ll be able to get a much bettercontraction.

Again, this focused tension has a place.

Especially when you’re looking for moreof the aesthetic benefit on top of the athletic performance you’re already building on, and the strength we’ve already built on in the workout.

Moving on from here, you know that no perfectback workout for me would be complete without addressing the smaller muscles.

The ones that people don’t really care about.

The corrective exercises, as some would say.

They always have a place in here because weknow that we’re only as strong as our weakest link.

If we can fill in the gaps with our correctiveexercises, hitting the areas that don’t get hit enough, you know we can fortify theentire area much better.

We do that here with our hyper Y-W combo.

What’s the purpose here? You can do this in a glute-ham raise, or youcould do this on a physio ball like I’m showing you.

The purpose is, I really want to work my lowertraps.

I realize and understand the importance ofthe lower traps.

Especially when it relates to shoulder stabilityand proper mobility and function of the shoulder.

Especially as I raise my arm overhead.

So, the lower trap’s function is to makesure that happens right.

We do this with our Y.

When I get my arms up and over my body inthis Y position, I’m really activating the lower traps and training them how to fireproperly, and in the right sequence.

But we can go right from there into a W.

The action of the W is to create externalrotation at the shoulder, which is going to incorporate the muscles of the rotator cuff.

Again, if you’re not doing rotator cuffat least two to three times a week you’re not doing it enough.

We can build it right into our workout, again, training the muscles that are int eh same location and area, working with other musclesthey prefer to work with.

So, get the external rotation from the W, get the Y for the lower traps.

Alternate them one by one, from 14 to 20 repshere, alternating every, single rep.

Finally, talking about the traps, we’regoing to finish this workout with the area you probably focus on more often.

That is the upper trap.

We can do that with a standard barbell shrug.

You can take a slightly wider grip that putsthe angle of the arm more in alignment with the orientation of the fibers of the uppertraps, or you can go more narrow if it’s more comfortable for you.

But it’s the performance of this and howyou do this that makes all the difference.

What we’re doing here is a finisher.

It’s a ladder.

We’re going to work our way up from 1 to10.

For the sickos out there, I’m going to giveyou guys a way to work your way back down from 10 to 1.

But you perform a single rep, then you performa contraction at the top of the shrug for a second.

Then you perform 2 reps and perform a 2 secondshrug at the top and hold.

Perform 3 reps, and then a 3 second shrug, and hold.

If, at any time, you can’t perform the hold, or you can’t perform the rest of your reps, you put the bar down and rest momentarily.

Pick it back up again and work your way through.

It’s a burner.

It’s a killer, but it’s going to giveyou just enough work and volume in addition to what you’ve already done here with thedeadlifts to finish off the traps the right way.

So, there you have it, guys.

There is the perfect back workout.

I’m laying it all out for you here, stepby step.

All sets, all reps for you guys to follow, copy down, and try yourself.

I promise you, you’re going to see and feelthe difference.

When we put together the workout you haveto realize there’s a lot of stuff going on here.

There are a lot of things we can do differentlyhere, but if you could only do one, this is what I think you should invest your time intoand try because I think you’re going to see the most results from that.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for otherworkouts in the perfect workout series make sure you check them out here on our channel.

If you haven’t already done so, click thesubscribe button and the notification bell so you never miss a video when it’s published.

And if you’re looking for step by step programs, every day, laid out for you, rep by rep, set by set, I have them all laid out for you, all selected and chosen by putting the science back in strength.

We have those for you over at ATHLEANX.


All right, guys.

I’ll be back here again in just a few dayswith another video.

See you.


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