Squeeze: The most important thing to do on every rep of every set of every back workout is to squeeze it. Most of the time the reason you can’t grow your back is because you can’t feel it. Hold the contracted position of each back lift for one second and if you still can’t feel your back working you are probably still performing the movement incorrectly. If you are doing pulldowns hold the bar at your chest and pull from your elbows to hold it down. If you are doing rows (cable or barbell rows) pull the bar to your midsection and hold it there pulling your shoulder blades together as hard as you can. That pump you get after a full set is your back muscles working.
Use Straps: There is one time that I have felt that straps can help, though, and that is when you are having a hard time targeting your back muscles. A lot of the time when you can’t feel your back working it’s because of the fact that your forearms and biceps muscles are giving out and getting fatigues much earlier than your back muscles are. This happens a lot more as beginners, and it can be a huge pain. When you start to use them you won’t have to worry about your forearms and biceps anymore and your back can take the brunt of the work.
Go Light: If you are training your back and swinging your body on every rep with horrible form then you are using way to much weight with your exercises. If your back is rounded on deadlifts, rows, or any of the lifts for your back then lower the weight. If you have to throw your entire body into each lift then you are using too much weight. I know that once you hit a certain weight with things, like barbell rows, you can’t help but swing a little but keep it too a minimum.
Pre-Exhaust: Pre-exhausting is a technique that has been around for a very long time and works very well when you are having a hard time feeling a certain muscle being worked. When you work out your back you are using the big exercises like rows and pull ups as the core of your back training. It can sometimes be very hard to work your back on compound exercises like these when so many other muscles can be working also. Add in an isolation exercise for high reps before you do your compound movements and you will have a much easier time feeling your back work during those compound movements. A good exercise that I use if I’m having trouble feeling my back work is a straight arm pulldown which is when you take a cable machine set on the highest positions, and grab it palms down. You keep your arms straight (as described in the name) and pull it down to your thighs all the while keeping your arms straight. At the bottom position, by your thighs, squeeze your lats. Do this exercise for 12 – 15 reps and then go onto your compound movement and feel your lats work like never before.
Improve Arm Strength: You use your forearms and biceps in every single back movement. The problem is that your biceps and forearms are a whole lot weaker than your back. Bring these body parts up, especially your forearms. Train grip exercises more than anything if your main goal is to aid your back training. By training your grip you can hold onto the bar longer therefore making your back work longer. Improve all of your forearm numbers and bicep numbers and I promise that they will translate to better back exercises.