The Best Spinal Erector Exercises!


spinal erector exercises

The spinal erectors are one of the most important muscle groups on the body. Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman were able to dominate their bodybuilding competitors thanks to their unbelievably thick backsides.

On the other hand strength athletes such as powerlifters and strongmen competitors rely on their spinal erectors to squat and deadlift huge weights.

Introduction

  • Part 1: Anatomy Of The Spinal Erectors
  • Part 2: Muscle Fiber Composition
  • Part 3: The Irradiation Effect
  • Part 4: Exercise Selection
  • Part 5: Deadlifts
  • Part 6: Good Mornings
  • Part 7: Back Extensions
  • Part 8: Reverse Hyper Extensions
  • Part 9: Rows

In this comprehensive guide I am going to teach you the most effective exercises for training the spinal erectors.

The first part of this article will be dedicated towards the functional anatomy of the spinal erectors. You will learn about the different muscles that make up the spinal erectors family, their primary functions, and some unique characteristics of them.

Of course the heart and soul of this article is dedicated to covering the greatest spinal erector exercises of all time!

You are going to learn the best exercises for training the spinal erectors including the best deadlift, good morning, back extension, and rowing exercises.

These families of exercises each have their advantages and disadvantages. However, one thing is clear: they all deserve a place in your long-term programming!

If you’re serious about reaching your goals, whether that be in bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman, or any other physique- or strength-related goal, then a pair of thick, strong erector spinae muscles is an absolute MUST HAVE.

Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates, two of the most dominant and freakiest bodybuilders of all time, were both known for their exceptional back development.

However, it was their erector spinae that truly distanced themselves from the competition!

They say a bodybuilding competition doesn’t start until the competitors turn around. And when Dorian or Ronnie turned around on stage, it was “lights out!”

Powerlifting is no different in this regard. Ask 10 elite powerlifters what the single most important muscle group is to put up a big total, and 10 out of 10 will answer: “the lower back.”

And Don’t Even Get Me Started On Strongman Training!

I remember in the early 2000’s when I didn’t think I would live to see the day where anyone deadlifted over 1,000 pounds.

Andy Bolton came along and proved me wrong, but Hafthor Bjornson (AKA The Mountain from Game Of Thrones) just put up a mind-blowing 501 kg deadlift world record!

So what’s the lesson here?

I don’t care what your sport is or what your goals are. If you want to hang with the big boys, then you need to train for a pair of thick, strong erector spinae!

Part 1: Anatomy Of The Spinal Erectors

If you want to understand how to optimally train a muscle then you must first understand its anatomy.

So what the heck are the spinal erectors?

The spinal erectors (also known as the erector spinae) are a family of six different muscles that span the entire length of your back.

Technically they originate in the lower back region and run all the way up your backside to the base of your neck or skull.

There are six separate muscles in the erector spinae muscle family but they all work together closely to help you perform certain movements.

In fact, all six of these muscles perform the same basic muscle functions:

  1. Extending the back
  2. Sidebending the back
  3. Resisting rotational and torsional forces

Here is a good visual:

Of course this unbelievable back development belongs to Dorian Yates! The spinal erectors are the thick bands of tissue that run up the middle of Dorian’s back.

Of course the traps and rhomboids are also contributing somewhat to Dorian’s upper back thickness.

Technically the erector spinae can be broken down into three distinct regions:

  1. The lower-back
  2. The mid-back
  3. The upper-back

Without getting too technical, it is EXTREMELY EASY to shift emphasis to one or more regions of the erector spinae.

Many exercises such as the 45 degree and 90 degree back extensions do a great job of targeting the lower spinal erectors while almost completely neglecting the middle and upper spinal erectors.

For example:

This does not mean back extensions are a bad exercise. However, if your goal is to target the mid-upper back then any type of deadlifting variation would be a better choice.

If you are creative enough, you can design exercises to specifically target the upper erector spinae muscles.

For example, here is Dave Tate teaching elite powerlifter Ted Toalston an “upper back good morning” with the safety squat bar:

The “lower” portion of the spinal erector muscles tend to get all of the fame.

And to a certain extent this is justified – a big, strong lower back is essential for many reasons.

However, you also can’t ignore the role that the mid- and upper-portions of the erector spinae play for strength and physique goals.

So what do the spinal erectors do?

As the name implies, the erector spinae muscles primarily work to “erect” the spine.

That is, they primarily function to extend the lower, middle, and upper back.

Deadlifts, squats, good mornings, back extensions etc. all work the extension function of the erector spinae extremely well.

The erector spinae are also responsible for assisting with side bending motions and also resisting rotational or torsional forces.

For example, the side bending and anti-torsional and anti-rotational functions of the erector spinae are pushed to the max during squats, deadlifts, and the strongman lifts.

Some unilateral exercises such as Kroc rows also work the anti-rotational function of the spinal erectors extremely hard. For example:

Talk about a strong pair of erector spinae muscles! The torsional forces that Matt has to resist in this video are simply off the charts.

Part 2: Muscle Fiber Composition

In order to properly train a muscle, you MUST understand the fiber composition of that muscle. Specifically, you must know the ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibers in that muscle.

Research has shown that, for most individuals, the erector spinae tend to have a healthy mix of BOTH fast-twitch muscle fibers and slow-twitch muscle fibers.

They really are one complex family of muscles!

The erector spinae muscles therefore require lots of variation in terms of sets and reps. Performing low rep ranges or high rep range exclusively for the erector spinae just won’t cut it!

One of the best long-term strategies for training the erector spinae is to alternate between higher-rep accumulation phases and lower-rep intensification phases.

A great strategy would be to perform higher-rep bodybuilding style routines for 2-4 weeks and then switch to some lower-rep strength routines for 2-4 weeks.

Alternating back and forth between these phases is easily one of the best ways to train but it is especially effective for training the spinal erectors.

Part 3: The Irradiation Effect

One of the little-known benefits of training the lower back is what is known as the irradiation effect.

Researchers have extensively studied the following question: if you train muscle group “X”, does it also improve muscle performance in muscle “Y”?

For example, does training the quadriceps, lats, chest, or any other muscle group have a positive potentiation effect on strength gains in any other muscle group?

In almost all cases, the answer is a resounding “no.” If you want to improve the strength of a certain muscle group, then you must train that specific muscle group.

However, there is one big exception to this rule: The Lower Back! It turns out that the lower back DOES in fact have a meaningful irradiation effect.

In other words, if you improve the strength of your lower back, then you will also see some improvement in strength in the rest of your body.

It is not a one-to-one correlation. That is, if you improve your lower back strength by 10%, it does NOT mean that the rest of your body will also increase in strength by 10%.

But you will see some meaningful improvement.

This at least partly explains why it is the rare individual who truly dedicates himself to developing the erector spinae muscles to their fullest (Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, Hafthor Bjornsson etc.) who is able to achieve other-worldly levels of size and strength.

Part 4: Exercise Selection

If you want big, strong erector spinae muscles, then there is no getting around it: you have to educate yourself on what the most effective exercises are.

I don’t care how many sets of cable hamstring kickbacks you do – you are never going to reach your goals training this way!

It is true for all bodyparts, but especially so for the erector spinae – if you want optimal results, then you have to choose the most bang for your buck exercises.

In this article we will cover the following categories of exercises:

  • 1. Deadlifts
  • 2. Good Mornings
  • 3. Hyperextensions
  • 4. Reverse Hyperextensions
  • 5. Rows

No, this routine is not exhaustive.

For example, many Olympic Weightlifters have developed an enormous pair of erector spinae muscles almost exclusively by performing squats and the Olympic Weightlifting variations such as the clean, high pull etc.

However, if you are reading this article, then I am willing to bet you aren’t very interested in the Olympic lifts. Besides, you can’t cover everything in one article!

Part 5: Deadlifts

Deadlifts are easily the king of all exercises for the spinal erector and especially the lower back!

Seriously, there is no other exercise that recruits as many motor units throughout the entire body as the deadlift.

It should come as a surprise that very few people understand how to program deadlifts for optimal strength and size gains in the spinal erectors!

There are many pitfalls that you must avoid when programming deadlifts into your strength training. However, by far the most common mistake that people make is they fail to include enough variety into their deadlift routines!

I can’t tell you how many people I have personally worked with who have made the mistake of only performing conventional deadlifts from the floor for the same rep ranges, week after week, month after month, and even year after year.

This is a huge mistake! After all, strength training is nothing more than a biological adaptation to a biological stimulus.

If you present your body with the same stimulus, in the same manner, over and over, your body will become “bored” with the stimulus and stop responding to it.

One of the easiest but most neglected ways to incorporate variety into your deadlift workouts is to vary the exercise selection.

Let’s go over some of the most effective deadlifting variations that I have learned from strength coaches such as Louie Simmons, Matt Wenning etc.

Deadlifting Variation #1: Conventional Deadlifts

Conventional Deadlifts are BY FAR the most popular deadlifting variation in the world.

This is not necessarily a reflection of their merit. Rather, this exercise is so popular because it is convenient. It is very easy just put a barbell on the ground, load up some plates, and have at it.

In other words, most people are too lazy to learn new deadlifting variations. Yes, I am serious – most people are just too lazy to go out of their comfort zone and take the time to learn new deadlifting variations!

This is a shame, as incorporating variety into your deadlift workouts is absolutely key for not only maximally developing the erector spinae, but also preventing lower back overuse injuries.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not against conventional deadlifts!

They are an outstanding exercise for developing the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae, and are obviously a critical part of a powerlifter’s or strongman’s training leading up to a competition.

However, if you have been focusing on conventional deadlifts for longer than a few weeks, then perhaps it is time to give one of the alternatives listed below a shot.

Deadlifting Variation #2: Sumo Deadlifts

This is perhaps the second most popular deadlifting variation performed in most gyms accross the world. Again, this is primarily for convenience.

Just like conventional deadlifts, you can perform sumo deadlifts on the ground. No special equipment is required.

Sumo deadlifts are somewhat less effective at targeting the erector spinae compared to conventional deadlifts. Indeed, they tend to reduce stress on the erector spinae and increase stress on the glutes and adductor muscles.

Of course they are still a highly effective exercise.

For example, Matt Wenning is a huge fan of using sumo deadlifts in the early stages of his training programs for elite law enforcement and military units.

He found through trial and error that teaching someone to become competent with sumo deadlifts prior to progressing to conventional deadlifts dramatically reduces injury rates in the populations he works with.

You won’t find any double-blind studies to back up his claims, but I’ll take the advice of a multi-time powerlifting world record holder and elite strength coach over some desk-jockey researcher any day of the week.

After all, you can’t argue with results.

Deadlifting Variation #3: Rack Pulls

Rack pulls (and block pulls) have gotten somewhat of a bad rap in recent years within the fitness industry.

Some of the biggest complaints regarding rack pulls is that they train the posterior chain through a more limited range of motion and strength gains in rack pulls don’t always carry over well to deadlifts performed from the floor.

These are indeed valid criticisms. However, there are certain benefits of periodically performing reduced range of motion deadlifts.

They do an excellent job of overloading the top portion of the strength curve, allow your nervous system to get accustomed to heavy weights (something Anthony Ditillo really believed in), and are a great hypertrophy stimulus for the traps.

Deadlifting Variation #4: Deficit Deadlifts

Deficit Deadlifts are definitely one of the more controversial deadlifting variations. The internet gurus seem to love them or hate them.

Personally I am a huge fan of deficit deadlifts because they dramatically increase the range of motion of the exercise.

After all, motor unit recruitment is always a function of the range of motion of an exercise.

If you can find a way to increase the range of motion of an exercise then you will recruit more motor units with that exercise and increase its effectiveness.

This is why (all things being equal) full squats are more effective than half squats, full range of motion chinups are superior to partial range of motion chinups, etc.

The deadlift is no different in this regard. By increasing the range of motion of the exercise, you increase the number of muscle fibers that you are recruiting and fatiguing.

Ultimately this translates into a superior training stimulus!

I don’t care if you can’t use as much weight with deficit deadlifts as regular deadlifts. Swallow your pride and start incorporating deficit deadlifts into your long-term training plan.

I am confident you will be pleased with the results!

Deadlifting Variation #5: Romanian Deadlifts

Romanian Deadlifts (or stiff-legged deadlifts) are another excellent deadlifting variation that you should be utilizing.

They tend to maximally overload the hamstrings while giving the erector spinae a little bit of a break. However, Romanian Deadlifts are still highly effective for developing a pair of cable cords running up the backside of your body.

One of the biggest advantages of Romanian Deadlifts over other deadlifting variations is that they are easier to recover from.

You may find that your lower back recovers much more quickly following a Romanian Deadlift workout over, say, a deficit deadlift workout.

This is something to keep in mind, especially for those of you who respond well to higher-frequency training.

Deadlifting Variation #6: Snatch Grip Deadlifts

I’ve saved the best for last. Snatch grip deadlifts truly are the absolute KING of deadlifting variations for building up the erector spinae!

If you have never performed this exercise before, then you are in for a real treat (or maybe not – it depends on how you feel about deep muscle soreness…)

I’ve written about snatch grip deadlifts quite a bit in this article but I’ll cover the main points again here.

The wide grip effectively mimics a deficit as you need to squat deeper at the start of the pull. This increased range of motion will enhance the training effect of the exercise.

However, snatch grip deadlifts have a key advantage over deficit deadlifts: the wide grip forces the backside of the body to work much harder!

Seriously, every muscle from the quads, hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, lats, scapular retractors, and rear delts work harder with a snatch grip!

Make sure you use a pair of lifting straps with this exercise. Unless you have freakishly strong gripping strength you may find that the loads you can lift on this exercise are quite limited without a pair of straps.

If this is your first time performing the exercise then I recommend you grip the barbell just outside the smooth “rings” on either side of the barbell.

As you become more experienced with this exercise you can move your hands out as wide as you feel comfortable with.

Part 6: Good Mornings

Good mornings were largely popularized by the efforts of Louie Simmons and his Westside Barbell gym.

They have never really caught on in the bodybuilding universe (they are overshadowed by exercises like Romanian deadlifts), but they remain a very popular exercise in powerlifting circles and athletic preparation circles.

Let’s cover some of the most effective types of good mornings for developing the erector spinae:

Good Morning Variation #1: Seated Good Mornings

Seated good mornings are almost like an isolation exercise for the erector spinae.

Although it is not possible to isolate the erector spinae with posterior chain-dominant movements (the glutes and hamstrings will always be activated to some degree), the seated good morning certainly comes close.

This exercise is best performed for relatively higher reps during accumulation phases where increases in muscle mass are desired.

This would NOT be a good exercise to perform for triples, doubles, or singles during an intensification phase.

Good Morning Variation #2: Standing Good Mornings

Ah, the good-old-fashioned standing barbell good morning.

This is perhaps the exercise most people think of when they think of “good mornings.”

This is an excellent exercise for developing the erector spinae and overloads a *very* different point in the strength curve compared to deadlifts and back extensions.

As I am sure you are aware by now, overloading different points in the strength curve is critical to making long term progress.

Good Morning Variation #3: Safety Squat Bar Good Mornings

Out of all the good morning variations, this is BY FAR my favourite. Using a safety squat bar takes the traditional good morning to the next level!

Many of you reading this will not have access to a safety squat bar. If that describes you, then you have two options:

  • Change gyms
  • Piss and moan about your current gym

The camber in the safety squat bar moves the center of gravity downward and forward relative to a standard barbell.

This DRAMATICALLY increases the stress on all areas of the erector spinae, including the lower, middle, and upper portions of the muscle.

EMG research has also demonstrated that the safety squat bar significantly increases recruitment for the lower traps, an absolutely crucial muscle group for maintaining proper upper body structural balance.

Seriously, this exercise is HIGHLY recommended for those of you interested in putting up huge squats and deadlifts.

It is one of the best “supplemental” squat and deadlift exercises that you can perform!

Part 7: Back Extensions

Let’s face it: exercises such as deadlifts and good mornings can be very tough on the lower back.

They can be extremely taxing to the spinal erectors and place significant compressive forces on your lumbar spine.

Some amount of lumbar compressive forces can be a good thing as it can stimulate further strength and size gains.

However too much lumbar stress over many years of training has the potential to squash your results and increase your risk of injury.

The best way to counteract the compressive forces from exercises such as squats and deadlifts is to perform exercises that decompress the lumbar spine.

This is where exercises such as back extensions and reverse hyperextensions come into play.

Of course back extensions are good for more than just injury prevention. They can also be fantastic training tools to strengthen the lumbar spine!

Consider that Matt Kroczaleski broke the all-time 220 lb powerlifting world record total using back extensions as a staple in his training! He would perform heavy deadlifts one week, alternated with back extensions another week.

There are two main types of hyperextensions that you can perform: 45 degree hyperextensions and 90 degree hyperextensions. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages.

Variation #1: 45 Degree Back Extensions

45 degree hyperextensions are one of the few exercises that allows you to overload your erector spinae through the mid-range position of the strength curve.

For example, deadlifts and good mornings typically overload the lengthened position, while rack pulls overload the shortened position.

But there really aren’t many other exercises that overload the mid-range as well as the 45 degree hyper extension (deadlifts and good mornings with accommodating resistance, or bands or chains, would be another way).

Overall this is an outstanding exercise that you should be using.

The 45 degree hyper extension is much easier to perform using just your body weight than the 90 degree back extension.

Because of this you will need to find a way to add extra loads beyond just your body weight. More on this below.

Variation #2: 90 Degree Back Extensions

This is another FANTASTIC variation on the back extension.

This variation is significantly more challenging than the 45 degree back extension. This has to do with lever arms and the portion of the strength curve that you are overloading – just take my word for it, this variation is MUCH harder.

Dmitry Klokov is a huge proponent of this exercise. He has gone so far as to say that it is one of his absolute favorite exercises for strengthening the lower back.

I don’t know about you, but when Dmitry Klokov talks lower back training, I listen.

Adding Loads To Back Extensions

There are many different ways to increase the resistance on back extensions. This will become increasingly necessary as you progress in strength on these exercises.

Some of the best ways to add loads to these exercises are:

  • Holding a dumbbell at your chest
  • Holding a barbell at arms length
  • Holding a barbell on your back
  • Looping a resistance band around your neck

I consider increasing the loads on back extensions to be such an important topic that we will examine each of these methods here.

Loading Variation #1: Holding A Dumbbell At Your Chest

This is perhaps the most obvious way to add loads to any back extension exercise.

One of the biggest problems with this method is that you are limited by the amount of weight you can hold at chest level. If you are very strong then it may no longer be possible to load the exercise in this manner.

Also, as the loads increase, there is a tendency to “cheat” by holding the dumbbell closer to the stomach than to the chest.

If you are not yet freaky strong then this is a great variation to try.

Loading Variation #2: Holding A Barbell At Arms Length

This is another excellent variation that loads a very different portion of the strength curve relative most other means of loading back extensions.

Because you are holding onto a barbell it becomes much easier to use very high loads. Many powerlifters have gone so far as to load the barbell with hundreds of pounds in this variation!

if you are using very heavy loads then it would be a wise idea to use lifting straps to help you hold onto the barbell.

After the 200 pounds mark you may find your grip is a limiting factor in how much you can load your erector spinae.

Loading Variation #3: Holding A Barbell On Your Back

This variation shifts your center of gravity upwards and makes the movement significantly more challenging.

The feel of this movement is somewhat closer to that of a good morning, although the stress on the lower back isn’t quite as high and we still have a nice decompression effect here.

One of the most challenging aspects of this movement is simply getting the barbell on your back in the first place.

If you have a competent spotter to help you then this won’t be much of a problem. If you train alone then you may need to be a little more creative.

Loading Variation #4: Looping A Band Around Your Neck

Bret Contreras is an interesting coach.

On the one hand, I find it hard to take someone who calls himself “The Glute Guy” too seriously.

That being said, he has come up with some very interesting ideas in the strength training world.

Perhaps one of my favourite such ideas of Brett’s is using band tension on 45 degree back extensions.

Seriously, the band tension gives this exercise a COMPLETELY different feel! It does a fantastic job of overloading both the mid- and the shortened-position of the strength curve.

As Brett does in the above video, you may find that you need to use a towel over your neck to protect it from bruising. Even then the bands can be really hard on your neck if you are not careful.

That being said, this is one of my favourite accessory movements for training the lower back and erector spinae.

While I have no doubt that someone else probably invented this exercise before Brett, he was the first person I saw doing them back in the late 2000s, so I’m giving him credit here.

Thanks for the idea Brett Contreras!

Part 8: Reverse Hyper Extensions

If you haven’t heard of reverse hyperextensions, then you must have been living under a rock for the past few decades.

Reverse hyperextensions are the brainchild of Louie Simmons.

The famous story goes something like this:

Louie effectively broke his back squatting in a powerlifting competition in the 1970s. His doctors wanted to fuse his lower back together and told him he would never compete again.

Fat chance!

Louie invented the reverse hyperextension machine as a way to rehabilitate his back and went on to be the oldest man ever to squat 900 pounds in competition.

Reverse hyperextensions are so effective because they strengthen and traction the lumbar spine at the same time.

Interestingly enough, reverse hyperextension machines are one of only two machines that positively impacts athletic performance; the other one being the hamstring curl machine.

Not every gym has one of these incredible machines. In fact, only the most serious or hardcore of gyms will have one.

If your gym doesn’t have one, cry me a river. If it does, then I can’t recommend this machine enough.

Part 9: Rows

This is one of the areas where I really disagree with the late strength coach Charles Poliquin. I absolutely love rowing exercises for overloading the erector spinae!

In this guide we will only discuss rowing variations where the lower back and erector spinae are overloaded.

Rowing variations that do not overload the erector spinae certainly have merit, but they are outside the scope of this article.

Rowing Variation #1: Pendlay Rows

This is one of the most popular barbell rowing variations around.

The idea is to perform a barbell row while keeping the torso as still as possible throughout the movement, using only the upper back to move the weight.

While there are many men who have built incredibly strong backsides thanks to this movement, I am NOT a huge fan of this exercise variation.

If you are going to perform a 100% strict row, why wouldn’t you do so with an exercise that doesn’t tax the lower back?

The lower back is going to limit your performance

here and minimize the overload placed on the lats and the scapular retractors etc.

Simply put, there are much better exercises for overloading not only the erector spinae but the entire backside as well.

I don’t program these into my clients’ training programs, but you aren’t a bad person if you really like Pendlay Rows.

I just think there are better options.

Rowing Variation #2: Deadstop Rows

Now we’re talking! I am a HUGE fan of deadstop rows!

If you have never heard of them, dead stop rows are a hybrid between conventional deadlifts and barbell rows.

You start the movement just like you would a conventional deadlift.

Your grip is slightly wider than normal and you may change the way you use your legs for leg drive etc., but it looks quite similar to a regular deadlift.

You accelerate the weights very quickly to just below knee height. At this point you stop firing your posterior chain and use exclusively your back and arm musculature to row the weight into your midsection.

After the weights hit your belly, you slowly lower the weight back down to to the ground. Many thanks to 4 x World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw for giving a flawless demonstration of the barbell dead stop row!

Why is this exercise so effective?

You are using far more weight than you can normally use during the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement.

This means that on the eccentric portion of the movement, you are using supra-maximal eccentric loading!

Not only that, you are using supra-maximal eccentric loading for multiple reps (usually in the 5-15 rep range)!

This high volume of supra-maximal eccentric repetitions is an outrageously effective stimulus for strength and size gains in all the muscles of the back, including the erector spinae, lats, scapular retractors, and rear delts.

Fair warning: This exercise is far more taxing on your recovery ability than Pendlay rows or even traditional standing barbell rows. But the results are more than worth the effort.

Rowing Variation #3: Regular Barbell Rows

Traditional standing barbell rows are an absolute classic strength and size builder for not only the lower back and erector spinae, but for the entire backside of your body.

There are many different type of form that you can use on these.

However, over the years, I have NEVER seen someone perform these with better technique than the one-and-only Ronnie Coleman.

His reps are so smooth and controlled that you forget there is almost 500 pounds on the bar!

If you have to pick one person to model your barbell rowing form after, make it Ronnie Coleman.

Dusty Hanshaw is another individual with impeccable barbell rowing form  whom you may want to copy.

Rowing Variation #4: T-Bar Rows

I have confession to make: I have a love-hate relationship with t-bar rows.

On the one hand, this is an outrageously effective exercise for building up the erector spinae and the entire backside. The quality of the training stimulus can indeed be very, very high with this exercise.

However, there are a couple of drawbacks to this exercise that cannot be ignored.

First of all, almost EVERYONE uses SHIT FORM on this exercise!

Please watch the above video of Dusty Hanshaw using absolutely impeccable form on his two sets of T-bar rows.

Ronnie Coleman is another man who has very good t-bar rowing form, although he uses a lot more “body english” than dusty.

You must be very very deliberate with how you perform this movement to get the most out of it.

Secondly, the risk of injury is relatively high with t-bar rows.

Think about it: the stronger you get, the more plates you have to add to the end of the barbell.

And as you add more and more plates you add to the end of the barbell, the center of gravity of the barbell moves further and further away from you.

As the center of gravity of the barbell drifts further away from you, there is a dramatic increase in the stress on your lumbar vertebrae.

Not only that, one slip-up in form is MUCH more costly on this exercise vs most other exercises. You have no room for error on heavy t-bar rows!

Despite his impeccable form, Dusty Hanshaw will tell you that he has injured himself twice on this very exercise.

Despite these two drawbacks, I am still a big proponent of t-bar rows and have many of my clients perform them. But you must have the maturity level to perform them properly. I’m looking at you Mr. Gym Bro!

Rowing Variation #5: Seated Cable Rows

While not nearly effective as the various barbell rowing movements listed above, good old-fashioned cable rows certainly have a place in your long-term programming.

There are two main ways of performing cable rows: “strict” and “loose.”

Strict cable rows involve keeping the lower back and torso completely still during the entirety of the movement.

These do very little to overload the erector spinae, so we won’t discuss them further.

Loose cable rows are a little more interesting.

Like the video above, they involve using some “body English” from the lumbar spine to get the weights moving.

Much like with dead stop rows, this allows you to overload the eccentric portion of the movement which is a highly effective way to train for strength and hypertrophy.

Cable rows performed in this manner were a favorite of bodybuilding legends Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman. These are definitely recommended!

Part 8: Conclusion

spinal erector exercises

You are now fully equipped with the greatest spinal erector exercises of all time!

You no longer have an excuse for training this unbelievably important muscle-group with half-assed intensity.

So get out there and build up a backside that would make Ronnie Coleman or Eddie Hall jealous!

Always remember: the mind is more important than the body. Where the mind goes the body will follow.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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