Why I program 2 times the number of back/glute exercises for my clients more than front body exercises.

All of my program designs for my clients are based around movement patterns.  What does this mean?

Rather than developing a program like a body builder would (chest day, arm day, leg day etc), I program for my clients to spend part of one day a week doing each movement pattern (squatting and pressing, pulling and hinging, rotating and stabilizing).

More often than not I put 2 times the number of pulling and hinging exercises than I do squatting and pressing.  That’s because 99% of my clients sit in a desk all day and have become very tight through the chest, biceps, quads and hip flexors.  What they need more than anything is to stretch through those muscles of the front body, and strengthen through the back body (glutes, lats, back, hamstrings).  When we focus more on chest exercises and continuously do chest press, push ups etc. then it’s almost as if we are strengthening our body to be in a tight rounded position.  When we strengthen our upper back, we instead begin to pull ourselves open into a taller, broader chest position.

Many injuries, accidents, and aches and pains occur from this muscle imbalance.  Often when I am meeting with Active Rehab or ICBC referred clients, these issues have become aggravated from a car accident.

I suggest to you, that if you are more interested in building a strong, functional, balanced body that you should take a look at your average week, and ensure your program incorporates more back exercises than front.

Some of my favourite back exercises (which EVERYBODY should be doing on a weekly basis) include:

Seated Row

–       After pulling your cable from the machine/your resistance band, sit tall with a slight bend in the knees. Your shoulders should be over your hips.

–       Hold your shoulders back in good posture (with straight arms).

–       Using your LATS and rhomboids row the cable closer to you. Keep your elbows tight to your side, and stop the motion once the elbows peak behind your back.

seated row 1

–       Muscles working: Lats primarily, also rhomboids. Don’t let your traps engage!

–       3 sets of 12

Angel Slides

–       Stand with back, butt, shoulders, elbows and wrists against the wall at a 90 degree angle (or less than 90 degrees if you can’t maintain contact with the wall.

–       Exhale, and maintain all points of contact on the wall, raise the arms up over the head.

seated row 2

Muscles working:

–       Rhomboids and lower traps on the way down, abdominals.

2 sets of 15

Shoulder Blade Retractions (Type 1)

–       Either standing or laying own, grab a resistance band shoulder width apart.   Keep your elbows straight and pull the band down to your chest by engaging the muscles through the back and shoulder blades.

–       This exercise only works if you are aware that your upper traps aren’t firing.

–       Use a very light resistance for this one.

seated row 3

Muscles working:

– Rhomboids and Traps

2 sets of 15, holding for 3-10 seconds at the mid point of the exercise

Shoulder Blade Retractions (Type 2)

–       In a staggered leg position, grab on to the band handles, with straight arms (but shoulds in a good posture).   Pull your shoulder blades together, keeping your elbows up at shoulder height.

seated row 4

Muscles working: primarily rhomboids

2 sets of 15, holding for 3-10 seconds at the mid point of the exercise.



Great video resource: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZkGazuoVGM


  • Learning the hip drive movement: Stand a foot away from a wall. Look straight ahead. Hinge at the hips and push your glutes back towards the wall. Then contract the glutes and squeeze the hips forward.
  • deadlift
  • The upper body movement: Draw the shoulders down adeadlift 1nd back. Contract the core, engage the back and knee the neck in neutral by looking down and a few feet in front of you. You can use a broomstick, as seen in the picture, to get the right back and hip position (everything should be flat and straight).
  • To do the full motion with a barbell:
  • – You want the barbell to be off the ground so that the bar runs along your mid shins. This can be done by securing the appropriate height bumper plate, or by setting the bar on 2 stacks of risers.
  • Your feet should be hip width apart, and the bar should be over top of the mid part of your foot. You then should lower your knees down so that the bar is making contact with mi shin.
  • Grab the barbell a thumb length outside of the hip.
  • Sit the hips back so that the shoulders are stacked over top of the bar vertically.
  • Engage the core. Ensure the shoulders are rolled down and back. Widen and engage the chest. Look straight ahead.
  • Drive the heels into the ground and bring the hips forward and extend the knees after the weight has passed the knee joint. DO not shrug the shoulders up. Remember that the motion isn’t a pulling motion of the back, but a pushing motion from driving the heels into the floor and bringing the hips forward.
  • Place the weight back down on the floor gently by hinging at the hips first until the weight has passed the knees, and then bending the knees.

Things to look out for:

  • Watch that your shoulders and torso angle stay constant until the bar reaches knee height, and then the hips come forward.
  • The bar should always be in contact with the legs as it travels up and down the body. If the body is too far in front you will end up hurting your back.
  • When you lift, inhale and create tension throughout the core, and maintain this tension as you perform the movement. At the top of the movement release your breathe while maintain tension to lower down.
  • Keep your back neutral, and your chest preoud/wide.
  • Squeeze the glutes to ensure your knees do not cave inwards.
  • If you don’t have a barbell, you can perform the motion the same with dumbbells deadlift 3
  • Always keep your back flat and straight.   The lifter in the picture to the bottom left has allowed his spine/back to round.
  • deadlift 4
  • Here is a good resource for how to deadlift: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpbgoFSoWOI

I hope that this blog briefly shed some light on some exercises you can do for the back side of your body to improve your posture, decrease muscles imbalances, and prevent injury.

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