How To Build A Better Back

November 14, 2021 0 Comments


Back training in general is not seen as “sexy” by many gym goers. A lot of people train the muscles that are more visible  frequently and with more intensity than the back muscles. However, this is a big mistake. A big, thick back is a symbol of power and masculinity. There are many people that develop their chest and shoulders but when they turn sideways they become invisible. In this article I will explain how to build a better back. I will also discuss how a better back is a function of both good width and thickness. The picture below is of my back, my back has always been a strong point. 

my back

Importance Of Both Width And Thickness

In order to build a better back it cannot be understated that you need to develop both width and thickness. If one of these is missing then your back development will always be lagging. In general, width is a lot easier than thickness to acquire. It takes many years of heavy back training in order to develop a lot of thickness. This is the reason why many people who have only trained for a few years haven’t added much thickness to their back. 

Exercises To Add Width To The Back

The best exercise in my view to add a lot of width to your back is just basic pull ups. If you can’t do many pull ups, you can do lat pulldowns and progress with that, then move on to pull ups. Pull ups are one of the best back exercises you can do for back development. They will work your lats really hard and help to add a lot of width to your back over time.

Over the years I have done weighted pull ups for a long time, but I found that as the weight you are adding gets more and more it is easy to tweak your lats and is a poor risk-reward ratio. Instead it is better to focus on bodyweight pull ups and work that in a progressive manner. Lets say one day you manage to do two sets of 8 reps with your bodyweight. The following week you can aim to add another rep and get 9. You can keep doing this until eventually you hit 12 reps. Once you have hit 12 reps you can make the pull ups harder by doing a 2 second pause on each rep at the top. Then you can progressively overload your 2 second pause pull ups. When you have exhausted this you can then do a 3 second pause at the top of each rep. 

This way it is a lot safer but you are getting incredible rewards for your efforts. You can alternate pull ups with heavy lat pulldowns as well. The great thing about lat pulldowns is there are so many attachments that you can use, you can even make it harder by adding fat gripz. Last week for example I was doing 2 sets of lat pulldowns with the V bar attachment and fat gripz attached to it. I squeezed and held the contraction for a few seconds on each rep and the pump that I got in my upper back was insane!

In addition, seated cable low rows are a fantastic way to add width to your back. You can use a standard V bar attachment or for more freedom of movement two individual single cable handle attachments. Squeeze for a few seconds and hold the end range contraction on each rep.

pull up

Exercises To Add Thickness To The Back

Now onto the exercises that you can use to add lots of thickness to your back over a long period of time. The important thing to remember is that thickness doesn’t get developed in a few months, it takes many years of consistent training. One of the best exercises for developing all around back thickness is the deadlift. However in a previous article I did covering the deadlift I concluded that the conventional deadlift is not a recommended exercise to use for a period of decades due to the poor risk to reward ratio. It is better to use the conventional deadlift to build a base at the start of your training before moving on to other lower risk exercises such as the trap bar deadlift later on.

Rowing movements are the best bang for your buck when it comes to developing serious back thickness over time. Whether it be the classic T bar row, dumbbell rows, seal rows or plate loaded hammer strength machine rows. All of those exercises will add slabs of muscle to your back when done with a high intensity and pretty heavy. 

After your heavy rowing a great exercise to really pump up the back is a variation of a seal row. But this exercise is easily done in any commercial gym as all you need is an adjustable bench and some dumbbells. You would essentially put the bench into a high incline position, position your chest against the bench and row. A picture of what this movement would look like is below.

incline bench seal row

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In this article I have gone into detail on how to build a better back. The key takeaways are that you need to develop both width and thickness. The thickness is what will take the most time. It is also important to remember that “better” is a subjective term. You can always be better, but the older you get the more difficult it becomes. Every individual also has different genetics and has some body parts that are far better than others. The best thing to say is to train hard and smart, enjoy the journey and try to be the best that you can be at whatever age you already are.

Back training is something that I enjoy and look forward to. If you have any questions regarding anything I have touched on in this article please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you about what exercises you have been doing regularly for your back training. All the best!




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