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Toning Up With Angles and Reps: Back Edition

January 31st, 2012 No Comments

Sorry this post is a day late…but better late than never, right?!

I was so happy to hear that you guys enjoyed this perspective and incorporated into your workouts last week!

Today, I’ve got back exercises for you.  Anytime you’re pulling you are also working your biceps, so they will get some tone out of these movements too. Feel free to grab some light weights and do 30 bicep curls in between sets if you’d like! (No, don’t say, “Yeah, right.” Say, “Absolutely!”)

Remember, the philosophy is less weight, more reps, at several different angles.

Remember, you can click the pictures to make them bigger!


I’ll start with this machine because I’m sure you’re all familiar with it.

The yellow circles here indicate our target area, your lats.  The red arrows indicate groups you need to be aware of during the exercise.  Here, we want to keep our core engaged and traps, the muscles joining your shoulders and neck, relaxed.

Make sure you choose a weight that is easier than you would normally use.  On this machine, the higher the weight, the easier the pull because the weight is off-setting your body weight.

As you’ve seen there are three handle grips you can utilize.

You want to do 10 pull ups on each grip for 30 total.

Make sure when you lower your body down, you go all the way down for a full extension.  Yes, it’s harder this way.

Please note the lateral pull-down machine has grips 1 & 2 as well.  To utilize “Angles and Reps” there, turn your palms away from you as you grab grip 1 for 20 reps, then turn your palms towards you when you grab grip 2, for 20 reps.


For this exercise, you’ll need to find a cable machine where you can attach the appropriate handle (see above).

You’re working your rear delts and lats here.

Here’s what you do.

  1. Attach the handle and choose 2-3 plates (go easy to start).
  2. With the handle in hand, move away from the stack of weights so your arm is fully extended almost pulling you forward.
  3. Place one foot out in front of the other to create a wide base.  Engage your core.
  4. Turn your palm towards the floor.
  5. Using a twisting motion, turning your palm inward, pull the handle to your chest line.
  6. Release for a full extension.
  7. 20 reps each side.

Row + Lunge

Immediately following the above set, lower the handle to the ground for this exercise and add 2 plates of weight.

This movement is basically a row combined with a stationary lunge.  I thought you should see it clean before I go into the breakdown.


Here the target is your back, rear delts, and butt, but you need to be aware of the other elements involved.

In the left picture, the red arrow directs you to my shoulder that is being pulled forward by the weight of the handle.  Yellow arrows point to my legs, the back is straight, the front slightly bent.  In the blue circle, you’ll notice my palm is facing the ground.

To preform the movement:

  1. With your abs engaged and most of your weight in your front food, lower the back knee straight down until your front quad is parallel to the ground.
  2. While you lower, pull the handle back with a twisting motion, turning your palm inward until your elbow is at a 90 degree angle.
  3. Push up through your heel as you extend your arm.
  4. Do 10 reps on one side then switch to the other, twice.  40 reps total.

Additionally to mix up my exercises, I do the the squat with a row I posted a few weeks ago.  Click the link for instructions, here is the pic.

**Remember you can click the pictures to make them bigger!


Again on this machine it’s all about your grip.  Your position stays the same:  arms almost fully extended and straight posture.

The red arrows again indicate areas to focus on:  relax your traps, engage your core.


  1. Move the position of the machine arms to the first notch.
  2. Add “medium” weight to the stack (10-40 lbs)
  3. Sit upright with your face and body against the cushion (yes, it’s uncomfortable) with your arms extended in front of you.
  4. Relax your traps and pull backwards, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  5. Slowly release your arms back to the starting position.
  6. 20 reps at each grip.

The first and last grip are a little awkward, but I feel like my rear delts have gotten a lot stronger since I’ve been working these new angles.


Exercises to strengthen your lower back from Mary Rambin on Vimeo.

I posted this video last year to give you three options to strengthen your lower back.  Afterwards do a counter stretch that rounds out your back: cat/cow yoga movement, lay with your tummy on the ball, or lay flat on the ground and hug your knees into your chest.

You’ll also notice I recommend a dead lift here so you might as well use the angles and reps approach I suggested last week!


So now on to the fun stuff, your workout!

Now, when I work out my back I also combo it with another muscle group, either legs or biceps.  If you didn’t notice, I’m wearing the same outfit in this week’s post as in last week’s Gluts Edition (that one’s for you Alice) because I did two groups on the same day.  IT’S KILLER!! But that’s the point isn’t it?!

I’ll give you both options here.

Back Only

  • 20 minutes cardio
  • 30 pull ups light weight (10 on each angle)
  • 60 Rear Delt Flies (20 reps each angle)
  • 40 Overhead Rows (20 each arm)
  • 40 Lower Rows (10 each arm and leg, 2 times)
  • 50 Back extensions on the ball
  • 40 Pull downs 30-60 lbs, challenging weight (not shown but referenced in first section – 20 wide grip, 20 inner grip palms facing you)
  • 20 Rows + Squat
  • 30 Dead lifts with 10-15 pound weights
  • 20 Regular Rows (not pictured) or a Bent Over Row (MTM video instruction here) – USE A CHALLENGING WEIGHT!

Back and Legs

  • 10 minutes cardio (StairMaster or Elliptical)
  • 40 walking lunges with 10 lb weights
  • 30 pull ups (10 reps at each angle)
  • Complete all three leg exercises (presses, deadlifts, Abductor) from “Glutes Edition” here
  • 60 Rear Delt Flies (20 reps each angle)
  • 40 Overhead Rows (20 each arm)
  • 40 Lower Rows (10 each arm and leg, 2 times)
  • 50 Back extensions on the ball
  • 20 Rows + Squats
  • 20 Leg Extensions (not shown here) with challenging weight
  • 20 Leg Curls (not shown here) with challenging weight
  • 30 Pull Ups (10 at each angle) removing at least one plate of weight
  • 20 Regular Rows or Bent Over Rows (MTM video instruction here)
  • 40 Lower Row + Lunge (10 each side, 2 times)
  • 50 lower back extensions on the ball

Ok, I think you’re all set.  As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments because if you are wondering about something, someone else is too. Let me know how it goes!

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