5 Moves For A Cobra Back

Cavino Johnson October 21, 2014 Training Articles
5 Moves For A Cobra Back

You here a lot about a nice chest. You hear a lot about “broad” shoulders. There’s always talk about big arms and huge legs… But, if you watched this year’s Olympia, and saw Kai Greene get into, now 4x Mr. Olympia, you may have heard Greene say, “Shows are won from the back…” What he was saying is, when you turn around, and you are facing away from the judges and the audience, you want to hear them gasp in disbelief and amazement. There’s something about a massive back. Lats that make it look damn near impossible to scratch your own ass. Lats that overhang your standard dining room table chair. Lats that make it difficult to get a full hug from anybody.

Cobra Back Attack

You ever see a cobra when it flares it’s “hood”? It goes from slim to wide, warning any opposition that it is deadly, and that that opposition might want to reconsider a confrontation. The Cobra Back. What I have done is listed 5 of my most favorite back movements that will add thickness and width to everything from the upper and lower lats, lower back, middle back and traps. Enough with the introductions. Check this out.


I, secretly, have a love/hate relationship with deads. Deadlifting can be one of the most humbling moves anyone can do… and one of, if not, the best, move anyone can do. Not only does it work nearly every muscle group on the human anatomy, it is one of the highest calorie burning moves you can do. The mechanics of a deadlift are kind of simple… step up to the barbell. Squat down, head up, chest out, pushing through your heels and with a tight core, pull. Pull the bar up till you’re standing upright. Then, put it down. Seems simple enough, right. No. It’s not. It takes practice. Many who have not elevated to the level of deadlifting heavier weight, tend to ego lift. In turn, they can do serious harm to their spine, and more. I, typically, use the conventional pull versus the “sumo” pull. Check out the video where I demo the conventional. (Target Muscles—Lats, lower back. Secondary: Hamstrings, glutes, traps, arms)

Bent Over Barbell Row

The variations in this move range anywhere from hand position (overhand, underhand, wide or close grips), degree of your bend, and target point of execution. One thing remains the same, though—barbell rows are a beast worthy of respect as it takes its place next to its big brother, Deadlift. Execution is, somewhat, simple to explain, but the video and actual execution will be your best teacher. (Target Muscles: MIddle Back; Secondary: Lats, Biceps, Rear Delts)


Oh, yes. The Pullup. I know many big bodied muscleheads who can push and pull double their bodyweight…but struggle to do one bodyweight pullup. It’s a strength factor. Compound and difficult. Hanging from a bar, full bodyweight, attempting to pull youreself up then lowering yourself, only to do it again in succession, is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, calisthenic moves one can do. Gyms everywhere supply you with an assisted pullup aparratus. Although it is not the same as a free pullup, it allows a person to gradually progress to the ability to pull up their own bodyweight by using a counter-weight weight stack. Basically, a 200 pound individual can set the weight stack to 100 pounds, making the total weight they are pulling up only 100 pounds. It’s easier, but can thwart the desired result by not engaging enough effort in the movement, nor enough of the working muscle fibers. Accept the challenge of the pullup. (Target Muscles: Lats; Secondary: Biceps, Middle Back)

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

This one. I have seen this one done so many different ways- leaning on the dumbbell rack, leaning on the back of an adjustabe bench, leaning over with the non-working arm on the knee, hand and knee on a bench, cable rows, etc. But the truth of the matter is, if you aren’t using this move, then you are short changing your back’s thickness, especially through the middle back. I am that guy who posts up on the heavy end of the dumbbell rack and rep the heavies. If you need to get by me, you’ll have to wait. Other times, you will find me down on one hand and one knee on a flat bench, rowing rep after rep. This is a go to move where you can crank out a lot of reps… or, at least I have to since my gym’s dumbbell range stops at 100 pounds. Nonetheless, the back gets thick. (Target Muscles: Middle Back; Secondary: Lats, Biceps, Shoulders)

Lat Pulldowns

Ok. Let’s be honest. If you’ve never used the lat pulldowns, whether it be on a machine or the pulley cable system, then you’ve never had a back training day. I don’t think I have ever spoken to an avid gym goer that has never done lat pulldowns. In fact, I think it safe to say that, lat pulldowns are about as universal as the barbell bench press. It’s that one move every one will do. This move has more variations than a set of Legos. I’ve used the wide grip, standard grip, and close. I’ve used the neutral grip and underhand grip. I’ve used the rope, and I have used the single arm pulldowns. I have even bought specialty grip attachments that I haul into the gym every week for my back training.

The Lat Pulldown- we’re talking the upper and lower lats, middle back, rhomboids, rear delts, biceps… all of them gets hit. My favorite at the moment, although I do use a wide range of grips and methods, is the standard pulldown. Keeping my hands and arms relaxed, and pulling with the lats, I feel the blood flood the muscles, and I’m instantly wider than the door frames in the gym… Ok, give me a break. No, not really that wide, but it feels that way. I like to let the weight stretch my lats all the way up before I pull down with contraction. I see a lot of people like to swing and sway to get the weight up and bar down… I think some are too extreme, which takes a lot of focus away from squeezing the shoulder blades and lats and hitting the lats properly or effectively. I try to stay as strict in my form as I can, and when the weight gets heavier or I become more fatigued, I may break my form slightly. I use the pulldown in the beginning and at the end of every back training session. (Target Muscles: Lats; Secondary: Forearms, Biceps, shoulders)

There you have it. My top 5 picks. I know, perhaps I could have gone scientific and broke down the full on mechanics of each move, each muscle of the back, the whys, whens and wheres… I could have. Maybe even should have. But, I included some video clips for you guys and girls to refer to when you set up your next big back day. Maybe next time, I will get into the logistics, but for now, go get all Cobra Back on these fools!

About The Author

A decade into the sport of natural bodybuilding, Cavino has won many competitions and currently holds a pro card. He also has personal training, group fitness and sports nutrition certifications that allows him to own his own private training service.

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