If there’s one body part that really separates the serious hard core brother of iron from those who just casually workout, it’s having a thick and wide back.
These people look huge from every angle. They look big even with a loose shirt on. You can tell they lift just by glancing at their shadow. Back is often neglected by young weight lifters or those just looking for the model or beach body look. They may do a couple cable exercises for back. But if you want a huge back, you have to train it just as hard if not harder than you train a mirror-visible body part such as your chest (and once you’re back gets huge, it will also be mirror-visible).
Though machines such as seated rows and lat pulldowns have their place you need to start out with heavy free weight movements. A few imperative exercises needed for back mass is deadlifts, barbell rows and dumbbell rows. You can then finish out with machine or cable movements. Below, I’ll go into a detailed routine of a solid mass-building workout for back.
Warm Up: Pull-ups
Start out with three-four sets of pull-ups. Do the first two sets with just your body weight and then add some weight for the last two.
Exercise One: Deadlifts
There’s no way around it; deadlifts should be a staple in anyone’s back routine whose wanting to gain thickness and overall muscle mass. This exercise will give you slabs of beef that stick out and hang down below your torso. Contrary to what many may believe, you don’t have to go super heavy on these unless your sole priority is powerlifting numbers. Rather, you need to gradually build up your strength and always use proper form. You must be 100% focused, don’t round your back, and pull the weight up close to your chins. Though heavy weights are important here, don’t sacrifice that for form.
Exercise Two: Barbell Rows
Former six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates built his humongous back with these. His technique was using an underhand grip. Barbell rows will indeed build solid mass if done right. You need to slightly bend your knees and keeping the bar close to your body, pull it into your lower stomach. At this point, you will squeeze, contracting your muscles for a split second, then release slowly. The entire movement needs to be smooth to be effective and prevent injury.
Exercise Three: Dumbbell Rows
This exercise makes me feel like I just ran sprints. I’m literally out of breath after a set of heavy dumbbell rows. Heavy weight is the key on this exercise. However, you need to be sure you pull the weight all the way up and get the negative movement on the way down. Some people put one knee on a bench. I personally prefer to lean over and put my hand on the end of the bench. I feel this allows me to do the exercise with better form.
Exercise Four: Lat Pulldowns
By the time you get to lat pulldowns you’ll be whipped. But that doesn’t mean slack off and go light on these. I do recommend staying in the 10-12 rep range on these though. The key here is to get a good stretch at the beginning point, then without swaying, pull the weight down towards your chest while flexing your back muscle. This takes some concentration if want to do them right.
Here’s a quick reference layout for this routine:
Pull-ups: 4 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8
Deadlifts: 4 sets of 12, 8, 5, 5
Barbell Rows: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell Rows: 4 sets of 8
Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 12