Looking to build a broad back? Of course you are. While the back might not be one of the standard go-to "show muscles" or have an international day named after it—ahem, chest—a wide, muscular back is essential to a well-rounded physique. It's the key to looking dense, thick, and powerful.
This upper-body workout will help you lift your way to larger lats, stronger traps, and a muscular middle back. Some of the movements will even hit your biceps and shoulders. Follow my directions, and you'll be well on your way to a barn door back in no time.
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Ready, Willing, and Abel
This hypertrophy workout is a high-volume, muscle-building assault. It will most definitely help you build the solid, thick back musculature you're after, but it won't be easy. You'll need to put in some serious work. Get your head ready, because this bomber back session includes a hearty helping of dropsets, trisets, intraset stretching, and good ol' heavy lifting.
Lift to failure on all your sets, but stay focused on form. Keep your rest periods to a minimum and don't waste time. During my hypertrophy workouts, I keep my own rest between sets to roughly 60 seconds, and I never exceed 80 seconds.
All of these movements emphasize the lats, delts, and traps while throwing in a good amount of midback and shoulder work. Let's get started.
1. Wide-Grip Bent-Over Barbell Row
When I do a bent-over barbell row, I like to start by standing up with my back straight. I then hinge at the hips and lean forward into a 45-degree angle. This is the ideal starting position. For each rep, I let my lats and arms achieve full extension before pulling the bar up. Make sure you use a heavy yet manageable working weight for the first 4 sets.
On the fifth and final set, you'll perform a triple dropset. That means you'll drop the weight after the fourth set and go as heavy as you can for as many reps as possible (AMRAP). Then you'll strip more weight and repeat that two more times. Make sure you hit failure with every single set.
2. Wide-Grip Weighted Pull-Up
Pull-ups are an essential lat-strengthening, back-building exercise. On these, I squeeze my back on every rep, and at the bottom of each rep I release my lats fully before pulling myself back up.
Even when using weight, I try to make sure my form on every pull-up is as perfect as possible: hands shoulder-width apart, chest out, torso angled back slightly, shoulder blades back and contracted on the way up, and arms extended and fully stretched at the end.
As always, scale as necessary. If you don't have weighted pull-ups down just yet, bodyweight pull-ups are fine. Just make sure you hit the 8-12 rep range.
3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
For standard, single-arm dumbbell rows, I really focus on extending my arm all the way down and then squeezing at the top, trying to get my elbow as far back as possible.
For swinging rows, my form is a little different. For these, it's important to focus on the mechanics of the movement and leave your ego behind when choosing a proper weight. I go down in weight for this one, instead focusing on the second half of the rowing motion.
Doing so allows me to pause for a split second at the top of the movement and then release, targeting a different part of the back. Trust me: When you have this one down, you'll really feel the difference.
4. Reverse-Grip Lat Pull-Down
Underhand pull-downs really target the lats. For them, you want to keep your hands about shoulder-width apart, really focusing on maintaining a straight back while pulling your elbows down as far as possible.
During this part of the workout, you should really start to feel it in your lats. Keep your end goal in mind, and push through any perceived fatigue.
5. Close-Grip Seated Cable Row
When I do cable rows, I make sure to really focus on pulling my hands outward and squeezing my shoulder blades back. I emphasize this by holding the contracted position at the top of the movement. This pause helps me get the most out of every rep in every set.
6. Prone Dumbbell Incline Bench Row
I'm a big fan of prone bench incline rows. It's one movement where you really can't cheat by using your body weight to help propel the weights. This means the entire lift will work your back—specifically, your lats and traps.
On the third set of this exercise, you're going to do a triple dropset with some intraset stretching. After completing your 8-12 reps, you'll hold the weights in the bottom position for 30 seconds. You'll then drop the weight, grab a slightly lighter set of dumbbells, bust out 8-12 reps, stretch for 30 seconds, and then drop that weight once again before reaching for a lighter set of dumbbells.
For this last set, do as many reps as you can before holding that 30-second stretch. Finish strong!
7. Triset: Wide-Grip Lat Pull-Down, Straight-Bar Cable Pull-Down, Standing Low-Cable Row
We're going to wrap up this workout with a triset. The rep range for each exercise is 10-15 reps, which is about as many as I can do, so I will be going to failure on each one. You should too. Don't cheat yourself on your final set—go hard or go home.
A triset means you'll complete all three exercises back to back before resting. You'll start off with wide-grip pull-downs, where you'll want to focus on keeping your back straight and squeezing your lats, then progress to straight-bar pull-downs, where you'll want to keep your arms straight and just squeeze during the entire motion. You'll finish with low-cable rows, which are all about squeezing and pumping as much blood as possible into the muscle possible.
Knock out three trisets to finish off the session, and your reward will be a giant back!