Build a Muscular Back – 3 Tips Plus Workouts

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Most lifters train back, but are they doing it properly and with enough intensity? Usually not.

While it’s difficult to screw up things like chest and arm training, back workouts are easily turned into a mountain of a mess. Trainees often use a weight that isn’t nearly challenging enough, or place too much focus on the biceps and not enough on the powerful upper back muscles.

Related: The 3 Best Back Workouts for Beefy Size

The three tips found in this article will help you to focus your training and build a more muscular back. I’ve also included sample workouts at the end for all styles of training – bro splits, upper/lowers, and even full body workouts.

A big, strong back is an essential. If you are after raw, brute strength you must get your upper back as strong as humanly possible. No exceptions. And if you want to look powerful and athletic, upper back mass adds a whole new dimension to your physique. Without it you’ll look paper thin when you turn sideways, and you’ll simply look weak in a t-shirt.

3 Tips For a Muscular Back

Tip #1 – Use Lifting Straps or Versa Gripps

Versa Gripps

Click here to order Versa Gripps now.

You know what drives me crazy? When a lifter is more concerned about their grip strength on back day then they are their back strength. Yes, having quality grip strength is important, but back day is about training your back – not your grip. You often here:

“I won’t wear straps on back day because I also want to build grip strength.”

This is absolutely backwards thinking. You never let a weaker muscle group hinder your progress with a larger muscle group. If you have a weak grip, then hit the gym and destroy your back using straps or Versa Gripps. When you are done then it’s time to train your grip.

The back is one of the most powerful muscle groups of the body. You seriously think it’s a good idea to use a paltry weight on back day just so your grip doesn’t give out?

Challenge your back with big, bold amounts of resistance. Strap-up, grab something heavy as heck, crush your back, and then worry about grip strength training later.

Tip #2 – Stop Pulling the Weight With Your Hands

Stop pulling the weight with your hands. This is probably the most common back training mistake. When you are training for a muscular back, your hands should act as hooks. Don’t pull, but instead focus on driving your shoulders and elbows back at the same time.

By using this simple trick you will accomplish two things. First, you will be transferring the bulk of the stress from your biceps to the powerful muscles of the upper back. When you “pull” a weight it places a greater degree of stress upon the biceps. You don’t want this at all. It’s a recipe for weak gains and bicep strains and tears.

Second, it will allow you to use a greater degree of force and power, and better engage the upper back muscles. This combination will better challenge your upper back, not only with direct stress but with a greater degree of resistance. This is what you want, after all, on back day.

Tip #3 – Increase Your Volume and Intensity

The upper back can take a lot of punishment. Stop babying it with moderate weight and a mild volume of work. Most of you are killing your chest and arms each weak but going soft on your back. This practice must stop.

I recommend using about 25 to 30 percent greater volume when compared to leg or chest training. It’s also important that you step up your standards.

At my strongest I was able to single arm dumbbell row 270 pounds for 10 reps, and Pendlay row 405 for 5 reps. This was in 2012. Prior to this period where I finally pushed for more back strength, my best previous dumbbell row effort was 120 pounds for 10 reps.

More weight and more volume won’t hurt your results. In fact, it will likely help you to build a more muscular back.

3 Back Workouts – For Each Training Style

Now that we have established a proper baseline for how to train your upper back more efficiently, let’s look at some workouts. What follows are three workouts – one for those of you that follow a bodypart split, one for fans of upper/lower training, and of course a full body option.

Bodypart Split Back Workout

Bodypart Split
back Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
 Deadlifts  2  6
 Dumbbell Rows  2  15
 Seated Cable Rows  4  10
 Lat Pull Downs  4  10
 Single Arm Machine Rows  3  12

Upper/Lower Split Back Workout

Bodypart Split
back Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
 Upper Day 1:
 Deadlifts  2  6
 Lat Pull Downs  3  10
 Single Arm Machine Rows  3  12
 Upper Day 2:
 Dumbbell Rows  2  15
 Seated Cable Rows  3  10
 Single Arm Lat Pull Downs  3  12

Fullbody Back Workout

Bodypart Split
back Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
 Day 1:
 Lat Pull Downs  3  10
 Single Arm Machine Rows  3  12
 Day 2:
 Deadlifts  2  6
 Pull Ups or Assisted Pull Ups  2-3  AMAP
 Day 3:
 Dumbbell Rows  2  15
 Seated Cable Rows  3  10
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Name: Steve Shaw

Bio: I don’t believe in magic training systems or rep ranges. My philosophy is simple: remain consistent, use the best possible exercises, focus upon progression and enter the gym looking to maximize each set. When you maximize each set, you maximize progress. Easy, obvious, insanely effective.