Christmas Tree Back Training
Cory Gregory is the Co-Founder of MusclePharm.
When it comes to bodybuilding, the Christmas tree isn’t just about gifts, wrapping paper, fancy bows and hoping you’re grandma didn’t buy you yet another reindeer sweater.
The Christmas tree is a definite game-changer when it comes to show time or photo shoots, and a defined, thick lower back – in a distinctive Christmas tree shape – can separate you from your competition.
The big question is: how you develop this area? It isn’t exactly the easiest to target.
With a lot of experimentation and trying a lot of different things, I’ve managed to chop down some killer methods for building a “Christmas tree” lower back.
Killer Methods for Developing a Christmas Tree Lower Back
I’ve had a lot of different people comment on my lower back when I did my own prepping for photo shoots and bodybuilding shows, wanting to know the secret for etching out that tree.
The point I always made to beginners and young lifters who were quickly frustrated was the benefit of multiple variations of pull-ups. That means different grips (overhand, neutral, underhand), different accessories used (V-Bar, ropes, etc.) and then really focusing on squeezing and arching your back at the top of the movement.
That squeezing and arching at the top of a pull-up certainly isn’t easy – and takes some impressive control and overall back strength – but nobody said it would be easy to bring out that Christmas tree.
Of course, I’ve always preached to clients about squeezing big and squeezing hard at the end of any back exercise, but that especially holds true when it comes to pull-ups and lower back development.
The best cue I came up with when training these back movements is imagine trying to hold a pencil up between your shoulder blades. Once you picture that, you can really dive into that mind-muscle connection, which is a big key in learning how to squeeze and arch those back muscles.
V-Bar Pull Ups
Going back to exercises, and specifically the pull-up in this instance, it’s an incredibly beneficial exercise and one we throw into our back workouts usually twice a week. Our mainstay – the Rocky or V-Bar pull-up – was made famous by Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Venice Beach golden era day.
As far as execution of the movement, the focus is on squeezing and arching the back, almost trying to perform a seated row to the bar when doing the pull-up.
One Arm Dumbbell Rows
Another crucial exercise to lower back development has been one arm dumbbell rows. When doing these, we try to really pull them into the hip pocket and not shoulder-width or higher up along the back.
This is big in activating the lower back muscles, stimulating that musculature in that area. Again, squeezing and visualizing the lower back muscles working on this exercise is incredibly important.
Band Good Mornings
Lastly, we finish up with some high-volume back extension work or band good mornings. We actually do this movement about 4-5 times per week and it’s great for targeting your lower back and getting an awesome pump in that area.
The key here is really “high volume.” When we say high volume when it comes to back extension or band good mornings, we mean some extreme high volume, doing anywhere from 25-50 reps for 3-4 sets.
Before you know it, a “Christmas tree” may just appear on your lower back.
If you want to take the first step in getting a defined Christmas tree, check out these go-to exercises but make sure and key on the mind muscle connection.
Umm... This is the best thing that I've seen all week.
I'm just starting to get back into working out and a big goal of mine is develop a thick lower back. This just gave me plenty of ideas on how to structure my workouts on my back days.