T Nation

Big Back


Hello everybody, I was hoping to get some help with my back work. I do deads, bent over rows, knee on bench rows,seated cable rows, and standing cable rows.

My problem is I can not get it to hit my back exclusively. I have talked to people in the gym and they said go heavier and make your back support the weight, that seemed to do the opposite and I was working other muscles more than my back.

I was told to go light and hit high reps. When I did this I did over a hundred reps per exercise but it did not even feel like I was working my back.

Kind of at a loss here on how to create that connection between my mind and my back so I can focus the tension there. If anyone else has had this problem and overcome it, or just thinks they can help your advice would be appreciated.


First thing, any reason you aren’t doing any vertical work (chins or pulldowns)?

I did a 3 part series on youtube about pulling with your elbows, which seems to be the issue many trainees have. See if it helps you.


As far as cues… “pull with your elbows”.

As far as implements… you can use wrist straps on back work to take your hands and forearms out of it, which can help you learn to use less of your arms to pull. There are also “ab straps” that you can use for pullups/pulldowns that force you to use your back, since you literally can’t use your arms to pull.

For one-arm work, you can reach across your body and touch your back muscles with your opposite hand, and learn what it takes to make the muscle you touch contract.

Mostly though, once you learn to feel your back, it still takes plenty of practice to do it on demand. Get that practice in, and it’s pretty easy from then on out. You can develop enough control so you can do the same movement, but change the focus from your back to your arms and vice versa, just by using your mind.


T3hPwnisher- I appreciate the videos, thanks for your reply. I actually do pulldowns but forgot to list them. I believe pulling with my elbows is my problem, I am always feeling it in my biceps and shoulders. I am heading in to do back right now I will focus on what you demonstrate in your videos and see if I feel a difference.


LoRez- I may start using my straps on my back work, I got away from it for the extra grip work. What is the Ab Strap you mention I have never heard of it? I definitely plan on using your advice to get active control over the contraction of those muscles, thank you for your advice!


“Pulling with your elbows” is the right advice. It’s not the problem. If your biceps and shoulders are giving out first, then either 1 of 2 things is true:

  1. Your biceps and shoulders are much weaker than your back, and any weight that wears them out is waaaay too light for your back. (this will improve as those muscles catch up)


  1. You aren’t pulling with your elbows.

The cue to pull with your elbows is intended to get you to NOT be involving your biceps or forearms to try and replace your back work in the movement. Think of your hands like two meathooks that do nothing other than dangle there.

I’m guessing it’s a combination of the two since you note that your shoulders are feeling it too.


Sevendragons- I meant not pulling with the elbows was my problem. I worded it dumb in the earlier post. But, you are correct my shoulders and biceps are weak right now as I am coming back from some shoulder issues. Nothing too serious just some constant pain, I have horrible shoulder issues from years of abusing them.


Yeah, that did the trick. I could only find one of my straps but I think it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I focused on single handed exercises. I did seated cable rows with one hand and used my strap and imagined pulling from the elbow, I have never felt something hit my back and lats so cleanly. I absolutely loved it. I did some other work and got the same feeling thanks guys!