RNT Body Part Series, Part 1 – Two Tips To Double Your Back Gains

Read to learn some immediately actionable tips to maximise your training.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 14 Nov 2017

Training Intermediate
4 Mins

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Our training philosophy when developing any body part typically revolves around three key principles:

  1. Progressive overload over a wide variety of rep ranges
  2. Perfect form at all times
  3. Using exercises that you can feel and suit YOUR mechanics

In this ‘RNT body part’ series, we’re going to go through each major body part and give a few immediately actionable tips to maximise your time training them.

One thing you’ll notice throughout the series is I’ll rarely specify a particular exercise as being the most ‘optimal’, because of the individual differences in everyone’s mechanics, injury history and what they feel best in the target muscle.

Instead, the tips will focus on specific movement patterns to bring about maximum stimulation, which can be applied across the board.

To kick things off, we’re going to start with my favourite body part – the back.


Let’s assume that your form looks good from the outside, your ego is in check, and you’re using the right amount of load.  But you still can’t feel your back…

This is more common than you think. So our focus in this piece will be on how to optimise your mind-muscle connection while still being able to move heavy enough loads required to build muscle.

1. It’s All In The Elbows


This is THE number one rule of all back training.

If it’s a row, think about driving your elbows back behind you hard.

If it’s a pulldown or chin up, think about driving your elbows down to your sides into your pockets.

Whichever direction you’re pulling, imagine the weight is behind your elbows, and you’re using your elbows to push the weight back behind you (any row), or push it down (pulldowns or chin ups).


You want all your focus to be in your elbows. Your hands should act as nothing more than hooks.

Now, the biceps will get some work from your back work – that’s completely normal. But if you’re using your arms to yank the weight on every rep, all you’ll get is fatigued arms and zero back development.

From now on, for every rep of every set, think elbows, elbows, elbows.

2. Master the ‘Back-Muscle-Recruiting’ Position At the Top


During weekly client video critiques, the number one ‘correction’ I reply back with on back exercises is ‘shoulders back and down!’

If you want to recruit your back when training, you need to be doing the following at the end of every rep:

–       Keep your chest up

–       Get your shoulders back and down

–       Keep a slight arch in your lower back


By doing so, you’ll ensure it’s your lats and mid back being worked, instead of your upper traps and biceps picking up most of the slack.


To reinforce this, add a slight hold at the contracted position of every rep while maintaining this position.

BONUS Tip – Stretch! 


The lats and shoulder girdle can get tight and ‘knotted up’ from a lot of heavy training, creating adhesions that prevent the muscles from functioning optimally, and limiting any further growth.

If you’re someone who lacks shoulder flexibility and struggles to lift your arms above your head, try these two strategies:

1)   Add an exercise where you can really emphasise the stretch component, like a ‘Stretcher’:

2)   Add hangs to the end of your workouts. Simply hang from a pull up bar with an overhand grip, just outside shoulder width and allow yourself to completely relax, breathing deeply as you feel your shoulders relax into the stretch. Once you can complete this for 60-90 seconds with bodyweight, add weight.


Spread Those Wings


Mind-muscle connection tends to be the biggest limiting factor in back development.

If you can’t feel your back when training, no amount of progressive overload with perfect form will work.

So next time you train back, think elbows, maintain proper positioning and once you’re done, stretch it all out!

Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-sellilng book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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