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All Out Back Training!

The back as a whole is the biggest asset of the upper-body. The width of the lats alone tend to set the difference between someone who is just muscular, and someone who has the look of a freakish-monster, commonly known as a 'bodybuilder'.

The back as a whole is the biggest asset of the upper-body. The width of the lats alone tend to set the difference between someone who is just muscular, and someone who has the look of a freakish-monster, commonly known as a "bodybuilder". They offer an immediate impression to anyone that sees them because they are visible from all angles. A decent set of lats can be seen poking out under the armpits, but an awesome set will fill in the space between your upper arms and your torso, making it look as if you have wings ready to burst out from underneath your shirt. Take a look at Franco Columbu or Dorian Yates hitting a rear lat spread and you'll see what I mean…their lats are so big that if either one of them hit a spread and bent over you could use him as card table, or maybe even a dinner table depending on the size of your family.

From whatever perspective you view the big picture, whether you're a leg person or a chest person, you cannot overlook your back. It's a very good idea, and an almost mandatory one in my opinion, to learn about the muscle structure and kenesiology of any muscle group before (or during- it doesn't matter as long as you do!) beginning to train them because you'll have a better understanding of the muscle and how it works. These things will inevitably lead to better training through a more thorough mind-to-muscle connection. With that said, I'll take you a step further with a brief look at the anatomy and kenesiology of the back.

Anatomy and Kenesiology

In addition to the large muscle groups like the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and the spinal erectors of the lower back, the back is made up a number of small muscle groups such as the teres major and minor, the rhomboids major and minor, the infraspinatus and supraspinatus, the longissimus dorsi and spinalis dorsi and the levator anguli scapulae (I know- where do they come up with these names…), just to name some of the more commonly-known ones. These muscles together constitute five layers in all, making for a truly complex muscle structure. I'm not going to bore you by going over every function of every little muscle that resides in the back, but I will go over the basic functions of the three large muscle groups of the back.

  • The trapezius is a large, almost kite-shaped muscle mass that is positioned on your upper back. It inserts into the neck, then flares out to both sides inserting into the shoulders, and then sweeps back down to about the middle of your spine. The primary function of the Traps is to pull the entire shoulder girdle up and to the back. As a secondary function, the traps also contract to help arch the spine.
  • The latissimus dorsi muscles are triangular and extend from a few inches under the shoulders down to the lower back, and sweep back up to the upper-middle of the back. The primary function of the lats is to pull the shoulders down and to the back.
  • The spinal erectors are two thick columns of muscle on both sides of the spine that originate from just above the hips and extend to a point about halfway up the back. These are very important muscles as far as the spine is concerned. They are responsible for straightening the back from a bent position, they protect and guard the nerve channels, and they are the primary muscle responsible for arching the spine.
The Upper Back

The lats are the showcase of the upper back. In order to achieve maximum upper body mass, size, width, thickness, and V-taper, the lats must be fully developed. These are the largest muscles of the upper body, and they shouldn't be overlooked simply because they aren't visible in a mirror. I mean, a good portion of a big chest is your back, just as 2/3 of an arm is your triceps. So if you're goal is to be wide, thick, massive, and intimidating, the lats are the place to start.

In addition to the lats, there are, as I mentioned earlier, many tie-ins throughout the upper back. Every area needs to be developed in proportion to the next to constitute a truly balanced back. Other than the lats, the biggest and most noticeable muscle of the upper back are the traps. These are the centerpiece of back upper back development and need to be hit from two main angles in order to develop the upper and lower portions. The first being the shrugging motion, or the shoulder blades moving up, and the second would be a kind of backward shrugging, or the shoulders rolling backward to the spine.

Focus and Visualization

It's true that a lot of the cases where people have huge chests and biceps, but tiny little backs stem from them just not being able to see it in the mirror. This often leads to a lack of motivation to train it, in addition to a lack of focus and mind-to-muscle-connection. You have to be able to visualize the muscle you are training, whether it is something as small as the rear deltoid or something as massive as the quads. It doesn't matter- you absolutely must be able to feel the muscle working- literally and mentally.

So how do you go about doing this? Well, the best way gain total control of a muscle is to flex it and mess with it. The first step would be learning to flare your lats. Before I knew how to flare them, every time I would go into the bathroom I would try look in the mirror and flex them. Eventually I learned how, but the habit never left, so I still flex whenever I look into a mirror. I might hit a double-biceps or I might hit a front lat spread, but it's something that works great for me. This is just what worked for me though, you have to make habits like this is if you ever want to have full control and focus over a muscle, especially one as complex as the back. If this seems weird to you or whatever, then find another way. And if it seems pointless, think about this: imagine not knowing how to flex your biceps…or your chest. What would you do if a girl asked you to flex, you rolled up the sleeves, and nothing happened? The back is easily the most difficult muscle to gain this kind of control of, but for you it could be the most important. Everyone is born with certain muscles that are better than the rest. The back may be yours. I mean the back is the biggest muscle of the upper body, so why not treat it like it is and start blasting it like everything else. Hey you never know, maybe one day you'll be able to fly with those wings, or at least glide…that's always a plus.

The next step is learning to get the feel on the exercises themselves. This is a completely different ballgame because now you're not just standing and flexing, your holding heavy friggin' weights. The best thing to do is use a fairly light weight at first and just get the feel and the form down. Then when you're ready, start to bang out reps with the big weights. When I first started doing bent over rows, I set up the mirrors so that I could hold the weight at the point of contraction, turn my head around a little, and see my back. This helped me more than anything to get the full feel when doing these. And to this day, I still have a mirror right at my side so I can look over and make sure my back I straight and I'm pulling the weight up to the right place or all the way up. The same thing applies here- find a trick like the mirrors or something to help you until you are so comfortable that you don't even need to concentrate on form, it's just natural.

Training the Upper Back

Like I said, the upper back is the hardest muscle to gain a full visualization of when training. So you would hope that that's the tradeoff for it being a piece of cake to actually train. Well, sorry but that's hardly the case. In fact, when it comes down to training, the back is the most grueling muscle group out there next to legs. Since the exercises for the back are heavy, basic compound movements, none of the exercises for it are easy. A good back workout should leave you totally drained- that is considering that you've done it properly.

When it comes down to it, there are two main features of the back, and they both require a different training approach: width and thickness. Thickness is developed by rowing exercises, such as bent over rows, while width is developed by pulldown movements, such as chins or lat pulldowns. Both are essential for possessing a balanced back, and it is a frequent problem for one to be better than the other. Common reasons for this can be things as simple as exercise selection or a lack of training focus in one area. Best thing to do is make a point of training both equally from the start, so you don't have to fight to keep one up to par down the road.

One of the biggest and most common problems with back training is the use of weights that are too heavy. Yeah I know it's great to get done with a set and look at the bar and see lots of weight on it…but make sure the weight you're using is allowing you to execute proper form with a full range of motion. Otherwise, get used to that weight you have on there now because it'll be on there for a long time before you can handle more. I see people in the gym that, judging by their form, are using way too much weight. I mean, here they are, at a bodyweight of about 160, doing shrugs with 315 for "reps". I hate that! Doesn't it make more sense to use less weight, so soon you can do with perfect form what you're cheating with now, and then down the road a little more you can do with perfect form weights you can't even cheat reps with now? I guess some people in the gym have different priorities than me…maybe I'm weird for wanting to go there in order to shock my muscles into growth by training effectively. My point is, use a weight that you can handle. If you don't, you're just wasting your time, and even putting yourself at risk.

Exercise Selection

The back will not build evenly by being trained with one exercise like some other muscle groups will. In general, it takes at least two different exercises to hit the back adequately: one for width, and one for thickness, as I just talked about. In addition to this, you'll need an exercise to hit the lower back extensors directly, but I will go over that in the lower back section that follows. While a beginner might get great gains from doing just bent over rows and chins, the deeper you progress the more you'll have to incorporate movements to hit specific weak points you might have built up over the course of your training. So when you start out, don't worry about devising some complex program, with movements you've never even seen anybody do. Just stick to the big, basic compound movements, and build up a solid frame of mass, then, when you're ready, start sculpting out the cuts and striations that define champions. Just to help give you a guide, I'll include a few sample routines for the beginner and intermediate trainer in a section at the end.

Sets and Reps

I like to do whatever works for me when it comes down to sets and reps, and for upper back, I like to go high on both. I generally do about 5 sets of a pulldown type movement, and about 8 sets of rowing exercises. I generally favor thickness over width because at this point, I'm a little thin, and I don't want to make myself seem any…well, flatter than I already am. My plan is to build that "backpack of muscle" look before I really try and widen myself out. But that's not to say I don't want any width, just not as much as I want thickness. To me, you can't go wrong with heavy-ass friggin psycho-style rows. Sometimes, I'll just go into the gym and do set after set of bent over rows til' I can't even think straight. So I actually kind of have to hold myself back as far as rows go, so I made the rule of them consisting of about 66%, or 2/3 of my total sets. And I always finish with the rows, because that's where my real power comes from in my back. I like to keep the reps high because I like to do cheats and partials in addition to what would already have given me a pump, and for me, about 8-12 reps on the rowing motions and 15-25 reps on the pulldown motions accomplishes that perfectly.

The Lower back

The lower back is very unique when compared to the other major muscle groups. It's sole purpose is to act as a stabilizer, holding the body steady rather than contracting through a full range of motion. Therefore, when you do work it through a full range of motion with good mornings or hyperextensions, it can become so overwhelmed that it can take a week to fully recover. Now, on deadlifts you really aren't "isolating" it through the full range of motion like you are on hypers or good mornings, but you're using a hell of a lot more weight, so it still tends to get even more fried from deads than anything else. Aside from that, its also one of the most neglected bodyparts out there. A very wrong move by anyone who dares though because its an absolutely vital area that should definitely not be ignored. The lower back comes into play heavily on key power movements such as squats, cleans, bent over rows, and of course, the deadlift (come to think of it, one of the only big movements it's not involved in is the good ol' bench press, and that figures, because that's anybody cares about it seems…). And I assure you, if you ignore it, these lifts will suffer- no doubt. You gotta train your lower back- its a must.

Training the Lower Back

The best way, and only way for that matter, I've found to train the lower back is hard and heavy. And that means, oh yes- deadlifts. The one and only baby. Second only to squats, these are the most exhausting and grueling exercise out there. They are my primary, and at this point the only, exercise I do specifically for my lower back. For my first 8 months of training, I didn't do deads. This is still haunting me, and will for a long time. It has hurt my squat tremendously. All I did for my lower back during that time was bent over rows, where they aren't even directly hit, just merely involved, and stiff-legged deadlifts, which I thought was a lower back exercise. Oh well, you gotta learn from your mistakes right? They say "smart people learn from their mistakes and geniuses learn from other peoples' mistakes." Very true. Now I want you to be a genius here and learn from me- don't neglect your lower back! Do deadlifts until you can't even stand up straight without leaning on something, a condition I'm becoming accustomed to very rapidly, and will be for years to come, especially for the next year while I'm trying to bring my lower back up to par.

Sets, Reps and Exercise Selection

As I said, for me, all that my lower back seems to respond to are power movements, therefore low reps, and a moderate amount of sets work best. I like to stick to pure deadlifts, because at this point, it doesn't really matter what my lower back looks like, as long as it's strong. Although some definition and detail are inevitable even through power training, I'll worry about the real stuff later, when I plan to enter a comp. So my recommendation would be to stick to deadlifts with low reps, 4-6 sets total. And if you insist, good mornings are a decent mass-builder, but don't expect much from them other than detail. Bottom line: train for power until competition stages.

Back Exercises

As I said before, all of the exercises for the back are compound movements, so there typically gonna be heavy and grueling. So when it comes time to hit the back you better be ready for a longer-than-usual workout that's tough from start to finish. That is, unless you want to just skip training your back altogether, because maybe you're just not into flying. The choice is yours, I'm just showin' you how…

Also, I must note that I'm not going to go over every back movement, but I won't leave out anything that is important. As for variations, they're pretty much self explanatory. I mean, the difference between regular bent over rows and wide-grip bent over rows is, if course, on the wide-grips you use a wider grip…you get the picture.

Upper Back Exercises

Bent over rows- In my opinion, this is the best exercise for your back as a whole. It work your lats, your lower traps, lower back, and just flat out add serious size and thickness to your back. I have never taken these out of my routine, and probably never will. I mean, I've done a few workouts without them, and I must say that afterward I'm not as fatigued as when I do my 5 or 6 sets of them.

Execution- Load a straight bar up, and stand over it, feet about shoulder width apart. Bending your knees, lean over and pick the bar up, with a grip a few inches wider than shoulder width. Now you are basically in the top position of a deadlift. At this point, with a slight bend in your knees, bend at the waist until your torso is at an angle anywhere from 15 to 45 degrees to the floor. The range in degree is purely for personal preference. I use about a 15 degree angle or less sometimes, going as low as 0 degrees, or parallel to the floor, while my cousin (partner) uses about a 35 or 45 degree angle. And from this position, with arms hanging down, you simply pull the weight up to your lower abs, then let it back down slowly. Make sure you really squeeze at the top, as this will help to really carve out the dense ripples in your back and help to create that "Christmas tree" look down the back. Now, when a lot of people start doing these, they find them very hard because not only do they have to focus on keeping their back erect, but they find it very hard to "feel" the back working. One of the biggest reasons for this is they use to much of their arms, and not enough of their back. So to correct this, in addition to using a light weight, try focusing on pulling your elbows back, not your hands. Think of the hands as just a link between the weight and your back. The elbows are all that need to move, and the hands will inevitably follow.

This is one of those exercises where you have to find your groove, and it may take long but don't be discouraged, because when you do find it- you'll have the ability to build a truly awesome back. However, one thing I must stress is that you keep your back very straight when performing these. DO NOT ever let it hunch over as this can result in very serious injury that can take months or years to heal, or possibly even never heal. The spine is a very fragile structure and you must be careful. I can't stress this enough. Throughout the entire movement, you should maintain a slight concave arch in your back, this will assure you will be out of harm's way.

Bent over dumbbell rows are performed in the same manner, with the exception of using dumbbells. They are a good variation, and excellent for working each side equally, thus making them a good weak point method if one side is stronger than or out of proportion to the other.

Chins- These run a very close second to bent over rows as far the best overall exercise is concerned. When done with a wide grip, these will do wonders for your width, that's for sure. However, they can be especially hard for beginners, particularly when done with a wide grip, because the lowest possible weight available is your own bodyweight. Because of this, the majority of beginners tend to use the lat pulldown, which work well as a temporary substitute, but not as a permanent one. I totally understand using these as a temporary substitute, or a complement to chins, but don't ever let them replace wide-grip chins as the primary width-builder for your back.

They can be done either to the front of the back. To the front is the more common variation of the two, being that it is much easier and you can cheat a lot better. Doing them to the back will work wonders for width, but they are much harder, and therefore are used more commonly by advanced lifters. The wider you go the more you hit your outer back, making you look wider. However, it also gets harder the farther out you go, so don't be intimidated when you can only do a few. What I did when I was a beginner, something I learned from the Oak, was to pick a number of reps I would complete for that workout, 30 for example, and do them with as many sets as necessary to complete them. Sometimes this would take me 10+ sets, but soon it will be down to 5, then 4, and so on. When I can do it in 4 sets, I'll raise it to 40. This will be a long process I know, but I know I will have a great feeling of accomplishment when I can do 20 in a row, weighted. By then I will be friggin huge, so I just stay focused with that thought in mind.

Execution- Hang from the chinning bar with your desired width, preferably with a thumbless grip (your thumbs on the same side as your fingers), as this will keep your biceps out of the movement as much as possible. Keeping your elbows back as far as possible, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, or if you're doing them to the back, until your neck touches the bar. Hold for a count and really squeeze, then begin to lower yourself, very slowly, never just dropping down. Make sure you go down until you feel a deep stretch in your lats, as this will lead to a better contraction at the top.

T-bar rows- Awesome for adding thickness to your back, particularly the inner area. These will have your lower traps screamin' like you wouldn't believe. I like to do them before bent over rows, but after chins. They are very demanding, so I would recommend whenever you hit them it be early in your workout.

Execution- Assume the same form as with bent over rows, with the exception of a little higher angle of your back to the floor. On these try and really focus on bringing the weight all the way up until it touches your chest. One thing I don't understand is when people load these up with a few plates when they could just use 25's instead and get a lot better ROM. Sometimes, on days when the gym is pretty empty, I'll even load it up with nothing but 10's. This way, you can bring your elbows way back, increasing the amount of inner-back recruitment tremendously.

Lat Pulldowns- These are basically a chins mimicking movement, that will help to widen the back. I must say again they should not replace chins, but be used as a complement to them. They are great for beginners when they are unable to develop a pump working with chins, and also for intermediates and advanced lifters as a chin finisher. They are great for doing drop sets, supersets, or stripping sets.

Execution- With these, basically what you are trying to do is mimic chins and isolate your lats to the best of your ability. Sit down, grab the bar with the desired width (same rules for width on chins apply to these), and again try to use the thumbless grip. Pull the bar down with your elbows back as far as possible until it touches your upper chest, or back of your neck when doing them to the back. Hold and squeeze at the point of contraction, and let it back up slowly, and be sure to get a good stretch.

One-arm dumbbell rows- Using a dumbbell, and working each side by itself gives you the chance to really focus and hit each side with awesome intensity. Don't go too crazy on the weight here, as I see a lot of people do.

Execution- Grab a dumbbell, lean forward and place your free hand and a knee on a bench. Let the dumbbell hang down, felling the lats stretch to the fullest. Begin by pulling the weight up as far as possible, usually this about level with the torso. Try and focus on pulling with the elbow, not the hands.

Seated cable rows- These are one of the best movements available to hit your lower lats, causing them to look as if they run all the way into the waistline. They're also pretty good for working your inner back, as you're able to bring your elbows back pretty far, if you use separate handles.

Execution- Attach the desired handle to the low pulley, preferably something allowing you to grip it so that your hands are only a few inches apart. Place your feet against the bar or platform near the bottom of the weight stack. Keep your legs slightly bent throughout the entire movement, not only for comfort, but to avoid putting harmful stress on your lower back. Also, make sure that you are positioned far away enough from the machine so that when you are fully stretched, the stack doesn't touch the bottom. Start with your arms stretched out completely and lean toward the machine to get a full stretch in the lats. Start to sit upright when you start to pull, but make sure you keep your elbows close to your sides. Bring it back so it touches your upper abs and ribcage, and while you arch your back at the top, really try and squeeze to get a maximum contraction of the lats. And be sure to return slowly to the starting position, and always go for the full stretch.

Barbell Pullovers- These work the lats in addition to the serratus, chest, and abdominals to a slight degree. Actually, I think I'd be lying if I didn't mention the fact they work your neck too. Every time I do these, the front of my neck is sore the next day, but hey, I'm not complaining.

Execution- Lie on a bench and either have a partner or someone hand you the bar (you can use an EZ bar), or leave it behind you on the floor. Once the bar is in hand, keeping your arms bent, start with them behind and below your head and feel a deep stretch in the lats. From there, pull the weight until it is over your chin, or right around there. When going heavy, Arnie would have his partner put pressure on his knees, so that he wouldn't fall over and could really focus on only the lats.

Machine pullovers are also very good because the motion is actually circular- notice that I told you to stop above your chin. Anything past this point and the weight starts to descend back down, and this shifts the pressure onto the chest, tri's ad delts. You really don't want to give the lats a chance to rest, so just stop where the weight stops traveling upward, or at an angle, or just use a machine.

Lower Back Exercises

Deadlifts- It's one of the three big Olympic lifts, and for a very simple reason: no other exercise in your routine involves as many muscles. Direct stress is placed on the spinal erectors, butt, quads, traps, forearms, back, and hams. Therefore, you'll work up to very heavy weights and a lot of intensity. Trust me on this- you cannot leave these out. I know they're hard and all that, but you gotta do what you gotta do if you want the prize.

Execution- To start, load up a heavy bar and stand over it, with feet about shoulder width apart, and toes pointing straight forward, or very slightly out to the sides. Bend over and grab it with a reverse grip (one hand over, one under), keeping your back straight the entire time. This is key- you MUST keep your back erect the entire time. Failure to do this could result in permanent injury. A good rule to remember is to always have your shoulders above your hips, and your hips above your knees. Begin to lift by straightening your legs (remember to keep your back straight!) and then when the bar is around knee level, start bring your back up, all the while pushing with the legs. Now, I don't mean like two different movements though, it should be one fluid motion, but I'm just trying to break it down a little so you can understand it better. The finished position should leave you standing up straight, arms down at your sides, and the bar across your upper thighs.

These are a particularly tricky movement to master, but a critical as well. Again, most important thing you can do is keep your back straight. A lot of people complain about the bar bumping their shins…this is common, you just have to get used to it and learn to prevent it. In a way though, it's a good thing though. That means that you aren't leaning too far forward, increasing the chances of your back rounding over. And in the case of a movement like this, where you'll be working up to extremely heavy weights, it's very important to learn everything correctly from the start. Trust me, it's a lot easier to learn something the right way and apply the techniques involved from the start, than trying to unlearn something later that you've been doing incorrectly for a long time.

Stiff-legged deadlifts- Although the main intention of this movement is to hit the hamstrings, it does involve your lower back to a degree, so I fell I should include it here. Because you do not bend your knees, you will find that you will not be able to use the same amount of weight as for regular deadlifts. Overall, a very good hip, hamstring, and lower back movement.

Execution- Generally, people will do these on some kind of box or something, as long as its a few inches above the ground, in order to increase the range of motion. Your feet should be a few inches apart, somewhere between shoulder width and together. And again, in this movement it is extremely important to keep your back straight throughout the entire movement. Your arms should be kept straight throughout the entire movement. Pick the bar up with a shoulder width reverse grip (one over, one under), and stand up straight, arms at your sides Your legs should be straight as well, but not locked. Begin by bending forward at the waist until you reach the point just before your back begins to round (if you are using Olympic weights, this point is usually the where the bottoms of the plates a few inches below ground level, hence the block you are standing on). Slowly bring your back up until you are in the starting position again.

Good mornings- An isolation movement for the spinal erectors. These are great for really bringing out definition and cross striations in your lower back. Also a very good pre-exhaust for deadlifts.

Execution- Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart with a moderately-weighted barbell across your back, or basically the same position as squats. In this movement, you keep your legs straight the entire movement. Bend forward at the waist until your torso is at a level slightly below parallel to the floor. Then slowly return to the starting position.

Hyperextensions- Another isolation for the lower back. Again, great for detail.

Execution- Climb onto the hyperextension bench, facing the ground, and locking your heels under the supports. Position your hands either crossed in front of you, or behind your head (just like sit-ups or crunches), whichever you find more comfortable. Bend forward slowly and controlled, don't just let go and let your body fall over, and feel a deep stretch in your lower back. Form there, raise yourself back up until your upper body is just above parallel. Don't go any higher than this or you risk hyperextending your back.

Training at Home

One of the greatest things about the back is how easy it is to train at home. With just a simple bar, a decent amount of weight, and something you can hang from (something as simple as a tree branch), you can hit your back from every angle necessary for complete, overall growth. With the bar, you can do bent over rows, including all of its variations, t-bar rows (I'll explain how in a minute), deadlifts (you'll need a good amount of weight for these though), stiff-legged deadlifts, and good mornings. And with the hanging device you can do, of course, chins, including most of its variations as well.

About the t-bars- all you need is a bar, and something to wrap around it, preferably something with handles. I used to use a towel, but because you have to hold on to something that is over 100 pounds with your wrists bent awkwardly, after many days of grueling t-bar sets I had to fight the pain in my wrists harder than in my back. So I had to improvise…I took this thing with two handles and tied a rope around it close to the two handles (that sounds totally confusing…sorry). OK essentially what I have is a strap (a rope will do just fine) which is roughly 1 foot long with a handle at each end. With this you can hold the bar up with handles that are parallel, not perpendicular to the bar like the towel so your wrists are normal, not bent. Anyway, to do them you just fill one side of the bar up as would the t-bar machine, put the side without the weight into a corner of some kind, as long as it can't move, and wrap your strap thing around the end with the weight, and start pumpin. The work great, trust me.

Sample Routines

As a guide and reference, here are some sample routines you could do for back. The reps are based on my particular style for back: lots of full reps, then come the cheating and partials. Other rep/set schemes may work better for you so adjust if necessary.

* = Pyramid


Wide-grip Chins x sets of 15-20 reps (using the pick a number method…see "chins" under exercises)
*Bent over rows 3 sets of 10-15
*Deadlifts 3 sets of 8-12


At this point, you have completed at least a year of training, and feel you aren't working to your maximum capacity. By this time, not always, but usually either the width or the thickness are lagging behind the other. Therefore you need to start applying your first installments of weak point training, focusing on the areas that lagging behind in an attempt to create a balanced physique. So for this area, my advice would be to do 10-15 sets, 66% of which will be devoted to the lagging area. Or, if you happen to be one of "gifted" people, and the thickness and width of your back are growing at an even rate, then I would recommend doing either a 50/50 workout, or a 66/33 workout, but switching the dominant muscle each week. So for example:

Using the 66/33

If you lack width:

Wide-grip chins x sets of 30-40
Lat Pulldowns 3-4 sets of 15-25
*Bent over rows 4-5 sets of 15-8
*Deadlifts 4-6 sets of 12-6

If you lack thickness:

Wide-grip Chins x sets of 30-40
*T-bar rows 3-4 sets of 15-8
*Bent over rows 3-5 sets of 15-8
*Deadlifts 4-6 sets of 12-6

If you are proportioned:

Using the 66/33
Switch your workouts between the width routine and thickness routine.

Using the 50/50

Wide-grip chins x sets of 30-40
Lat Pulldowns 1-2 sets of 15-25
*Bent over rows 4 sets of 15-8
*T-bar rows 1-2 sets of 15-8
*Deadlifts 4-6 sets of 12-6


Just as with any other bodypart, the back has to be fully developed and in proportion to possess a totally balanced physique. Do what you have to do to visualize what you want to look like…maybe finding a picture of your favorite bodybuilder and hanging it on your refrigerator. You have to know what you want, otherwise you're just wasting your time. Hopefully after reading this you have the basic necessary tools to start building a champion's back. It's not everything you need, but it's a combination of everything I've read and experienced, and that should be enough to get you started. There's still an enormous amount of things to learn, things I can't even tell you because I don't know them. These are the things that can't be written in a book, or a magazine, but must be discovered through personal experiences and trials. But the sooner you start, the sooner you finish, so get out there. You know what you have to do- now do it.

Keep Pumpin'