The 3 Best Back Workouts for Freaking Awesome Gains
I’ve been in the iron game long enough to see my share of bad back development. Not many lifters are passionate about back training. In fact, back workouts are usually an afterthought.
We all know how a typical workout week goes… Chest day Monday with a few mild triceps exercises thrown in for good measure, back day Tuesday that focuses on weak arse lat pull downs and a metric crap ton of bicep work, and a Wednesday “leg day” that is so impotent it couldn’t get your gains up if you took all the testosterone replacement therapy your doctor was willing to dish out.
A back workout needs to be more than momentum-driven lat pull downs and a few light machine or dumbbell rows. Your back is powerful and requires a challenge. It’s a complex muscle group that will simply not grow if you continue to attack it with BS in the gym.
The following 3 back workouts are going to attack your back muscles and make them grow using a variety of approaches, including:
- Brutal compound exercises
- Heavy weight
- Volume training
- Rest-pause training
- Vertical pulling
- Horizontal rowing
I would run each of these workouts in 8-10 week blocks. Take a rest week or deload week before diving into the next workout. If you are an intermediate lifter you could also choose to cycle between 2 of these workouts, alternating every week. This is called non-linear periodization.
Each of these programs will focus on back workouts and traps only. You can add in bicep work after if you are running a typical bro split with a back and bicep day.
Which of these is the best back workout? That’s for you to decide. Let me know in the comments section below.
Back Workout #1 – Pre-Exhaust & Death by Block Sets
This back workout focuses on moderate, rather than heavy weight. Because you are pre-exhausting your back and restricting rest in between sets, the weight used for each exercise will be relatively lighter (but will still be very challenging).
Block sets are simple. Perform as many reps as you can in a given time frame. Add weight when it makes sense. Rest as many times as needed during a block, but try to limit rest between efforts to 10-15 seconds max.
|Pre-Exhaust & Block Sets|
|Machine Pullovers – Pre-Exhaust||3||15, 12, 10|
|Straight Arm Lat Pull Down – Pre-Exhaust||3||10, 10, 10|
|Barbell Rows||2||3 minute block|
|Seated Cable Rows||3||2 minute blocks|
|Wide Grip Lat Pull Downs||3||2 minute blocks|
|Machine Rows||2||2 minute blocks|
|Machine Shrugs||2-3||2 minute blocks|
Machine Pullovers. Start with a moderately light weight for 15 reps. Move on to a challenging weight for 12 reps, and finally a very challenging weight for 2 sets of 10 reps. This is the first of 2 pre-exhaust movements.
Straight Arm Lat Pull Downs. When you can perform 3 sets of 10 reps, add a small amount of weight.
Back Workout #2 – Rack Pulls and Volume Beat Down
Here we lead off with heavy low rack pulls, which are a deadlift variation. From there, this back workout jumps into high volume. Rest about 90 to 120 seconds max in between sets.
|Rack Pulls & Volume Beat Down|
|One Arm Dumbbell Rows||2||15-20|
|Seated Cable Rows||5||10|
|V-Bar Lat Pull Downs||5||10|
Rack Pulls. Should be performed from 2-4 inches below knee level.
Back Workout #3 – Explosive and Controlled Tag Team
Now it’s time to alternate between explosive, powerful movements and slow and controlled contractions. Each explosive and controlled block with be comprised of only 2 sets each.
When using an explosive movement, focus on driving your elbows and shoulders back in a powerful manner. This will engage your back muscles and help reduce bicep involvement.
The same goes for controlled movements. Lead by moving your elbows back. Do NOT pull on handles and bars with your hands. Again, we are not training biceps here, we are contracting back muscles.
|Explosive & Controlled|
|Power Cleans – Explosive||4||3|
|Two Arm Bent Over Dumbbell Rows – Controlled||2||8-10|
|Pendlay Rows – Explosive||2||8-10|
|Straight Arm Lat Pull Downs – Controlled||2||8-10|
|Machine Rows – Explosive||2||8-10|
|V-Bar Pull Downs – Controlled||2||8-10|
|Machine Pull Overs – Controlled||3||10|
|Power Shrugs – Explosive||3||10|