By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
If building muscle and getting ripped is your goal BUT you don’t have access to a gym, you prefer to workout at home or you just prefer to do body weight only exercises, you’re in luck.
But let me be clear, building muscle is simple, it’s just not easy as they say. Simple meaning you A. need to workout consistently, B. eat a healthy, high protein diet and C. get some quality Zzzz’s every night.
In theory, if A, B and C are dialed in, you’re going to see some terrific results. But as I said, simple, just not easy.
So let me make this as “easy” as possible for you and focus only on building a better back.
Guys in particular hold a significant amount of fat in their back (especially after they hit 30) yet the back can be the most aesthetically pleasing part of the human body. Think of all the musculature in the back and how amazing it is to see definition in a man or woman.
A sculpted defined back usually translates to everything looking better and giving you that tapered look so many elite athletes have and top level physique competitors strive for.
The question then becomes: Is there any way to build the strong, muscular back you envision without weights?
Well, there is one routine in particular that I can think of that will help you get into excellent shape using just bodyweight only exercises to help you get leaned and strong with developed back muscles.
Several years ago a Dr. Frank I. Katch and his brother Victor (both of whom hold EdD, and PhD in exercise science and physical education respectively) developed a unique formula as it applies to bodyweight only exercises.
The formula is based on the Exercise / Rest principle and it goes something like this:
As a starting point you must pick out a non-apparatus exercise(s) such as the bodyweight Pull-up. I’ve chosen the pull up because it’s a compound movement targeting a large number of muscles and joints at once and is super beneficial for all people in life.
Note: You can also do this with Push-ups, Dips, Deep Squats, Pistol Squats, Sissy Squats, and Hand Stand Push-ups to name a few more bodyweight only exercises that target a large number of muscles at once.
Using the Pull-up as an example, begin by performing these exercise for as many ultra-strict repetitions as possible within a 10 second time frame. Now rest for exactly I0 seconds; after the 10 second rest, immediately begin to perform some more Pull-ups for I0 seconds, then take another 10-second rest. Continue this pattern of I0 seconds of exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest for 9 more complete cycles, for a total of 10. On each of the succeeding five days you increase the number of cycles by two.
This stage, as well as stages 3, 4, and 5, consists of 6 workout days and begins with 10 cycles of work and rest, increasing to 20 cycles by day six. The noted difference in this stage and the stages to follow are varying degrees of rest between each cycle. Within this stage (2) you will perform 15 seconds of exercise and take 10 seconds of rest per cycle,
At this stage you switch to 20 seconds of exercise and take 10 seconds of rest per cycle.
Now you do 30 seconds of exercise and take 10 seconds of rest per cycle.
In the last stage you do 30 seconds of exercise and take 5 seconds of rest per cycle.
To summarize, here are the steps for successfully completing the FIVE stages of the exercise/rest principle.
- Each individual stage (I-5) consists of 6 non-consecutive workout days in a two-week time frame. The workouts could be performed on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Rest days include: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
- Begin each new stage on Day 1 by doing a minimum of I0 nonstop sequences of the exercise/rest principle, then on each scheduled workout day thereafter be sure to add 2 nonstop sequences (as in the detailed stage 1 example).
- Always do as many ultra-strict repetitions as possible during the work phase.
Follow the Exercise/Rest Formula as described and you discover a renewed interest in performing Bodyweight Only exercises especially as it applies to Pull-ups and the development of the musculature of your back.
If you get GREAT at doing pull-ups applying the Exercise/Rest principle, here is a Challenge for you!
Learn How to Train it RIGHT for Maximum Mass, Power and Strength
Guest Article By Nick Nilsson
I’ll start off by getting this right out in the open…if you don’t train your back and train it hard, you’re an idiot. And I’ll tell you why…
You see, back training is one of THE most neglected aspects of training that, when done properly, can actually have the BIGGEST impact on your overall strength and muscle development. Quite honestly, if you’re not training your back with maximum effort, you will NEVER achieve the strength or physique goals you’re looking for. It just won’t happen.
Do NOT neglect your back…and here’s why…
Want a bigger bench press? Train your back.
You need a strong back to provide a solid platform from which to press. You can’t press big weights if your back caves in the moment you try and lift heavy. And the thicker your back is, the shorter the range of motion you’ll have to press the bar through, which will immediately increase your numbers.
Want a physique that doesn’t disappear into two dimensions when you turn sideways? Train your back.
Nothing looks worse than a guy with a massive chest and arms with a hunched-forward posture and the back development of a little girl. I can promise this will get you no respect. When you’ve got a great back and a balanced physique, you will stand out beyond 99% of the people and 95% of the people who train in most gyms.
Want to BE as strong as you LOOK or LOOK even stronger than you ARE? Train your back.
A wide, thick back conveys power and strength. It shows that you have put in the time to develop your physique properly and that you are for real. Anybody who has been around strength training for any good length of time will tell you…the back is what separates the men from the boys.
Want to have more fun in the gym? Train your back.
There are tremendous numbers of exercises and techniques you can use for training your back. There are so many angles and options available to you with back training, you will NEVER get bored in the gym. And once you learn some of these variations and techniques, you’ll find your enthusiasm for training will skyrocket!
So why do people neglect back training?
There are a few reasons…
First, it’s hard. The muscles of the back require heavy weight and plenty of effort. Because you’re reading this via Mike Westerdal of Critical Bench, I KNOW you’re not afraid of hard work. So scratch that off the list for you.
Second, the back is not a “mirror” muscle. You can’t see it when you’re training it like you can with the biceps and the chest (depending on the exercises you use). To me, that’s the worst excuse in the book, so don’t let me ever catch you focusing only on the stuff you can see while leaving the back of your body to shrivel up into nothing.
Third, it can be difficult to feel the muscles of the back working and firing properly. The biceps and the shoulders can very easily take over many movements that should be working the back. Now we’re getting into a somewhat more legitimate reason. Once you receive proper instruction on how to fire the back muscles and how to put your body into the proper positions to force them to activate, that excuse goes away.
Fourth, you may not know the most effective exercises to work the back with…and believe me, there are a LOT.
You probably know the standard back exercises already…cable rows, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, pulldowns, chin-ups, pull-ups and deadlifts.
And these are all great exercises…don’t get me wrong. They’re also just barely scratching the surface of an INCREDIBLE number of variations of these basic movements that are available to you IF you know where to find them.
I’m talking about exercises that develop thickness in the upper back far beyond what you can achieve with normal rowing because you’ll be able to use almost DOUBLE the amount of weight. Or a pull-up that targets the extreme outer lat fibers so strongly it’ll feel like your lats are going to rip as you’re doing it (they won’t, of course, but that extreme tension is incredibly good for developing wider lats).
How about a breathing technique that instantly locks in your lats during ANY back movement. I’ll tell you right now, if you’re breathing wrong when you’re training your back, you will NEVER get full development (and it’s very simple…you have to breathe BACKWARDS when training your back…inhaling on the pull and exhaling on the lowering phase. The normal breathing pattern of exhaling on the exertion will collapse your chest and relax your lats just when you’re trying to activate them!).
The bottom line is this…the back is one of THE single most important muscle groups in your body. If you’re not training it hard or you’re not training it properly and with effective exercises, you’re seriously shortchanging yourself and the results you’re truly capable of getting.
Now, if you’re interested in checking out some very unique back exercises and techniques and really taking your strength and physique to the next level, I’ve got a great recommendation for you. I’ve recently put together a book containing 145 of my BEST back exercises…these are my most unique and most INSANE back exercises that will ATTACK your back from every angle.
They will give you the back you WANT and the back you truly NEED.