Exercises for Building a Bigger and Better Back
A lot of guys have pumped up pecs as a result of training their chests every time they go to the gym. But how often do you see a guy with a bad-ass back?
I'm talking about round traps, wide lats and deep spinal erectors. It's a rarity because most people don't know how to train their backs properly, or worse, they completely the ignore the importance of doing so.
We're going to fix that: I'm going to show you exactly what you need to do to build a physique that makes you stand out from the crowd.
The upper back can tolerate a lot of work, so you'll train it twice a week, directly on upper-body days and once a week on lower-body days with deadlift variations.
How to Create Imposing Traps
The best way to get big traps is by doing a variety of Olympic lifts, but since those are too complex for a lot of people, I'd stick with deadlifts and shrugs.
Deadlift variations can be done once every 7-14 days for sets of 3-10 reps. Work up to a heavy top-end set, but stay further away from training to failure than what you would do for other exercises.
Deadlifts take a toll on your ability to recovery, so you can't train them too hard or your other workouts will suffer.
Shrugs can be done on the same day you do deadlifts or they can be done with lighter weights on upper-body days. Three to four sets of 8-15 reps will get the job done.
Mix it up between ultra-heavy sets and lighter sets where you get a full range of motion and hold the weights at the top for two or three seconds.
How to Achieve Mid-Back Thickness
For mid-back thickness, you need to row. One-arm dumbbell rows, seated cable rows and chest-supported rows will be your best options.
Do two to four sets of 8-12 reps, and be sure to squeeze hard in the fully contracted position. If you can't hold the weight for a second at the top, it's too heavy — check your ego and drop some of the weight.
How to Get Wider Lats
To widen your lats, you need to do chin-ups. Neutral grip (palms facing each other) is my favorite option since it's the least stressful on the elbows and shoulders.
Initiate each rep by driving your elbows down and contracting your lats. At the top, your chest should be out and your shoulders pulled back. Do two to four sets of 6-15 reps.
If you can't do sets of six perfect chin-ups (which most people can't once I show them the perfect form), then do pulldowns. Just do them until you're strong enough to do proper chin-ups.
How to Sculpt Monster Upper Back/Rear Delts
To keep your shoulders healthy, I recommend adding in face pulls or rear delt flys, also called bent-over lateral raises. This is pump work to get blood into your muscles and help achieve the hypertrophy (aka, growth) you want. Do two to four sets of 12-20 reps.
How to Strengthen the Lower Back
The spinal erectors will be trained on lower-body days with back extensions or reverse hyper extensions. These should be done for sets of at least 15 reps, and you can go as high as 30 or more.
Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) are another great lower-back exercise that can be done on lower-body days. Don't go ultra-heavy on these; focus on getting a good stretch in the hamstrings for sets of 5-10 reps, on average.
If you're advanced, with perfect technique and the ability to hold a neutral spine under load for a longer amount of time, you could work up to sets of 15 reps on these. Very few exercises cause as much soreness as RDLs, so ease into them and keep the volume fairly low. One or two top-end sets will be enough.
How to Put It All Together
On upper-body days, your back work might look like this (along with some pressing, of course):
Rows: 3 x 8-12
Neutral Grip Chin-Ups: 3 x 6-15
Rope Face Pull: 2 x 12-15
Dumbbell Shrug: 2 x 12-15
On lower-body days, your back work might look like this after you've finished squatting:
Barbell Romanian Deadlifts: 2 x 6-8
Barbell Shrugs: 3 x 8-10
Back Extensions: 2 x 20