Build a Strong, Healthy Back


One of the body’s largest and strongest parts, there are many benefits to having a strong, healthy back:

  • Improved Posture
  • Prevent/Decrease/Eliminate Back Pain
  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Improved Spinal Stability

The back is made up of several interconnected muscle groups, but to keep things simple, we will focus on the 4 main areas:


  • Upper Back (Traps)
  • Rear Delts
  • Middle Back (Lats)
  • Lower Back

While the rear delts are part of your shoulder muscles, they are highly engaged in multijoint back exercises so we have included them here.




The Top Back Exercises

#1 Wide Grip Pull Up – This compound movement is excellent for targeting the lats while also hitting the biceps, triceps and rhomboids. The wide grip pull up will help create that V taper while also increasing grip strength. Definitely not the easiest of exercises, you can start with the assisted pull up machine or with negatives.

#2 Wide Grip Seated Row- using a wide grip allows you to target the lats while also hitting the traps, teres major and rear delts.

#3 Close Grip Seated Row – This exercise targets the mid-back, lats and lower traps.

#4 Standing T Bar Row – this exercise is great for the middle back. Avoid jerking or using momentum in this movement for best results.

#5 Bent over Barbell Row Рanother excellent compound movement, the bent over row  hits the lats, rhomboids, rear delts, traps, and even the biceps.

#6 Single Arm Row – this is great unilateral exercise and it allows you to emphasize on the lats while also working the upper back and traps.

#7 Back Extensions – Target the lower back with Hyper extensions or my personal favorite, seated good mornings. Keep your movements slow and controlled, form is key in avoiding injury.

#8 Deadlift – the deadlift is another great compound movement and will target all of the muscles in the back while increasing core strength as it hits all major muscle groups.




Do I Need to Hire a Contest Prep Coach?

15027615_1072758956174822_1231113419248564194_n1So you’ve decided to enter a fitness competition and now your wondering, do I need a coach? Well, while I cannot tell you personally yes or no, I can offer some things to think about which can help you decide.

As a personal trainer and nutrition coach I figured I could do most of my first prep on my own while enlisting the help of friends who had competed before. Well, at about 3 weeks out I started to panic when I realized I really had no idea how to ‘cut’, when to water load, when to deplete, if I was anywhere close to stage ready and so on. Searching online, through my text books and magazines really only left me confused and overwhelmed as the information and advice is extreme and different from source to source. Plus, as you get closer to the actual competition day, things can get a little more stressful and you start to doubt yourself and your progress, making the entire process less enjoyable. So, I did some research and found a prep coach who was willing to help me at only 3 weeks out and I made top 5, qualifying myself for Provincials. Had I been able to do this without him? Most likely not.

So, with that said, unless you have the experience of preparing for a competition or just want to be on stage for the sake of being on stage without caring how you place, I highly recommend you hire a coach. Not only can they help guide you in the process, they can hold you accountable and help prepare you in what to expect on show day.

Some other important things to consider –

You are being judged in a physique competition so having another set of eyes, more so a set that knows what the judges want, is definitely going to be beneficial.

You need to consider your mental well being when prepping for a show. There is a physiological response to being in a caloric deficit for an extended period of time and the lethargy that sets in can cause a lack of mental focus and an emotional drain that can be very difficult. A coach understands this and a great coach will be there for you on those days where you feel like you just cant do it or want to give up.

Diet and supplementation are huge in prepping for a show and because everyone is different, copying a diet you found online or that a friend followed is risky. Proper nutrition before and after a show is crucial. You may believe once the competition is over you can just eat as you wish but this can have negative effects on your body, mental health, metabolism and hormones.

So, while the decision is ultimately yours to make, if you are serious about competing and bringing your best package to that stage, it’s pretty obvious, that until you gain the necessary experience, hiring a prep coach is in your best interest. I personally will never compete in a show without a coach, even with my experience and my education in fitness and nutrition as the benefits are far to vast.