How to Build a Big Back – Your Guide To Becoming a Barn Door

Having a well-developed, muscular back is one of the foundations of a strong, aesthetically pleasing physique. A wider, thicker back creates the coveted V-taper by providing a solid base that tapers up to broad shoulders. Plus, bigger back muscles improve posture and strength for lifts like the deadlift and squat.

This comprehensive guide will teach you how to train for back mass and thickness. It will reveal the most effective exercises and training techniques. You’ll learn proper form and variations for mass-builders like:

  • Pull-ups
  • Rows (barbell, dumbbell, T-bar)
  • Lat pulldowns

We’ll also cover important accessory lifts like:

  • Back extensions
  • Shrugs
  • Good mornings

Follow our sample workout routines tailored to various experience levels:

ExperienceSample Routine
BeginnerFull-body Workout
IntermediateUpper/Lower Split
AdvancedBack Focused Plan
big back muscles

By implementing the strategies in this guide, you’ll develop the dense, rugged back musculature you’ve always wanted!

Muscling Up: The Main Lifts That Build Beastly Backs

Let’s talk about the heavy hitters. These essential exercises will stack slabs of muscle onto your back. These are the big boy lifts that turn scrawny into brawny.

I see you eying that intimidating barbell in the corner…this is your chance to befriend it! We’ll start with the aptly named deadlift – the ideal exercise for building a thick, powerful posterior chain.


powerlifter about to attempt 1RM

The deadlift hits the entire back of your body, from traps to hamstrings. Picture the look on people’s faces when you rip a personal record off the floor! This lift will also strengthen your grip big time.

Here’s a quick rundown of proper deadlift form:

  • Feet hip-width apart, bar over mid-foot
  • Bend knees, hips back, grip bar just outside legs
  • Chest up, pull shoulders down and back
  • Drive through heels and extend hips to lockout
  • Squeeze glutes and engage core throughout!

Some solid deadlift variations to try are:

  • Sumo stance – wider stance, toes pointed out
  • Deficit – bar raised on plates for greater range of motion
  • Rack pull – bar starts at knee height to focus upper back

Mix it up to continually challenge those back muscles! Just keep your core braced, and don’t round your back.

Bent Over Rows

man doing barbell rows

Now we’ve got barbell rows – an awesome mass builder specifically for the lats. This one will carve out that coveted V-shape over time.

  • Hip-width stance, knees slightly bent
  • Hinge at hips, back flat and parallel to floor
  • Pull bar to upper abs, squeezing lats
  • Slowly lower under control

You can tailor the grip width to hit different areas:

  • Wide overhand = more lats
  • Shoulder-width underhand = middle back
  • Narrow underhand = even more lats!

Squeeze those shoulder blades together at the top. Keep that back flat as a board throughout – none of that saggy stuff!


pullups in the gym

Alright, time to hoist that body weight skyward with pull-ups! This classic exercise blasts the lats, biceps, and upper back.

Here’s how to excel at this essential lift:

  • Wide overhand grip hits lats
  • Underhand targets biceps more
  • Lean back slightly to engage back
  • Drive elbows down and behind you
  • Chest to bar on each rep!

Some tips for the pull-up challenged:

  • Use an assisted machine
  • Do negatives – slowly lower down
  • Try scapular pull-ups just retracting shoulder blades

Work up to 10-12 deadhang pull-ups and your back will blow up in no time!

Lat Pulldowns

man using lat pulldown machine

Can’t yet do bodyweight pull-ups? No worries, just hop on the lat pulldown machine to build the strength until you can!

  • Sit with thighs under pads
  • Arms shoulder-width, palms facing away
  • Pull bar to upper chest
  • Squeeze lats at bottom

This exercise emphasizes the lats while putting less stress on the biceps. Lean back a bit to really engage those wing muscles!

Seated Cable Rows

seated cable row

Let’s wrap up this meaty section with seated cable rows to carve out a strong, detailed back:

  • Keep chest upright, core braced
  • Pull handle to mid-torso
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together
  • Slowly return to starting position

Vary your hand position – wide, narrow, neutral – to train all areas thoroughly.

Single Arm Dumbbell Rows

dumbbell row

Let’s not forget dumbbell rows – a stellar movement to build width and thickness!

  • Hinge at hips, back flat
  • Row dumbbell up toward hips
  • Retract shoulder blades
  • Slowly lower weight

Dumbbell rows allow you to focus on form without compromising the range of motion. Squeeze those lats on each rep!

Whew, we covered a lot of ground here! Pat yourself on the back…but not too hard. Those muscles will be sore soon enough!

Now you’re armed with the best back exercises to forge a powerful, impressive physique. Get lifting!

You might also like The Texas Method.

Back Building Boosters: Accessory Exercises for Added Size

Alright, we covered the heavy hitters. Now let’s talk accessories – the icing on the muscle-building cake!

These supplementary lifts target the back from new angles to address weak points and imbalances. Consider them the glue that ties your entire back workout together.

Back Extensions

back extensions

Let’s start with back extensions – the perfect move to bulletproof your lower back after all that deadlifting:

  • Lie face down on a back extension bench
  • Slowly raise your torso until it’s in line with your legs
  • Squeeze those glutes and hams at the top!
  • With control, lower back to starting position

Pro tip: hold a weight plate against your chest for added resistance.

Back extensions strengthen the spinal erectors to keep you upright and pain-free. Don’t hyper-extend the lower back.

Face Pulls

Alright, time to bust out those face pulls for healthy, stable shoulders:

  • Attach rope handle to high pulley
  • Elbows out, row rope toward face
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together
  • Slowly return to starting position

This exercise strengthens the upper back muscles that people neglect during presses. Helps improve posture too!


woman holding hex bar in gym

Nothing makes me happier than loading up a bar for some heavy shrugs! Here’s how:

  • Stand holding barbell or hex bar with shoulders down
  • Raise shoulders straight up toward ears
  • Hold peak contraction for 2 seconds
  • Slowly lower shoulders back down

Shrugs specifically target the upper traps. Use an overhand or mixed grip to allow heavy loading.

Good Mornings

Alright, time to limber up with good mornings – a great hamstring and lower back mobilizer:

  • Feet shoulder-width, knees slightly bent
  • Hinge at hips, push butt back
  • Keep back flat, core engaged
  • Raise torso back to upright

Take it easy here – its purpose is to open things up, not to add mass.

Rack Pulls

Let’s finish off with rack pulls – like a deadlift but starting with the bar raised on safety pins:

  • Set bar just below knees
  • Take grip, engage back
  • Press through heels, stand tall
  • Keep lats tight, glutes squeezed

This partial lift allows you to overload the top range with heavier weight. Great for upper back strength!

Whew, now you’ve got a fully stocked toolkit of mass-building movements, plus targeted accessories. Get to the gym and start packing on muscle!

Back in Action: Sample Workout Routines to Build Your Best Back

You’ve been wondering how to get a massive back. It’s finally time to put all these exercises together into actionable workout plans!

I’ll provide sample routines for beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters. You should be able to train your back effectively, no matter your experience level.

Newbie Gains – Beginner Full Body Routine

If you’re just starting out, focus on mastering form through a simple full body workout hitting all the major muscle groups:

Workout A

  • Barbell back squat – 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Bench press – 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Barbell rows – 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Lat pulldowns – 2 sets x 10-12 reps

Workout B

  • Deadlifts – 2 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Overhead Press – 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Pull-ups – 2 sets max reps
  • Back extensions – 2 sets x 10-12 reps

Do Workout A on Monday and Friday. Do Workout B on Wednesday. Get your form dialed in perfectly before increasing the weight. Recovery is crucial – sleep 8+ hours per night and eat sufficient protein.

Intermediate Gains – Upper/Lower Split Routine

Intermediate lifters should organize their weekly training into an upper/lower split for enhanced recovery. The workout does not include many lifts found in a push/pull routine. The goal of this workout is to build a big back.

Upper Body

  • Pull-ups – 4 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Barbell rows – 4 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Lat pulldowns – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  • Face pulls – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Shrugs – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Bench – 3 sets x 12-15 reps

Lower Body

  • Deadlifts – 4 sets x 4-6 reps
  • Back extensions – 3 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Leg Press – 3 sets x 12-15 reps

Train upper body on Monday and Thursday. Train lower body on Tuesday and Friday. Add weight each session and focus on progressive overload. Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to fuel growth.

Advanced Development – Back Specialization Routine

The most advanced lifters should devote one training day solely to the back:

  • Weighted pull-ups – 4 sets x 4-6 reps
  • Barbell rows – 4 sets x 4-6 reps
  • Rack pulls – 4 sets x 3-5 reps
  • Seated cable rows – 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Lat pulldowns – 3 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Back extensions – 2 sets x 15 reps

Follow a push/pull/legs split, with back day being the pull. Go heavy and intensely focus on contraction and technique. Use advanced training methods like rest-pause and drop sets. Get 8+ hours of sleep, eat in a calorie surplus, and manage stress effectively.

There you have it – tailored workout splits ranging from beginner to advanced! Start where you’re at and progress steadily for the back of your dreams. Now go grab a barbell and get to work!

Fuel Your Progress: Diet and Supplements for Back Gains

We’ve covered killer back workouts – now let’s discuss the fuel required to feed all that new muscle growth!

Proper nutrition is key to taking your back development to the next level. Along with training smart, you’ve gotta eat big if you want to get big. Let’s break it down:

Protein: The Building Blocks of Muscle

When it comes to gaining mass, protein is priority number one. Those amino acids are the raw construction material for growing bigger, stronger muscles.

  • Aim for 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily
  • Get a serving with each meal – about 25-40 grams per meal
  • Whey protein shakes make it easy to hit protein goals

Going heavy on protein ensures your body has plenty to recover and build new muscle tissue.

Carb Up for Energy

Now let’s talk carbs – your hardworking muscles’ preferred fuel source:

  • Focus on nutrient-dense carbs like oats, rice, potatoes, fruit
  • Time carbs around workouts for energy and recovery
  • Eat about 2-3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight daily

Carb cycle by having higher carbs on workout days and lower on rest days. The extra fuel supports intense training!

Don’t Fear the Fat

Don’t fear healthy fats – they provide calories and hormone-balancing benefits:

  • Emphasize heart-healthy fats like avocado, nuts, olive oil
  • Omega-3s from fish and eggs are great for inflammation
  • 20-30% of total calories can come from fat sources

Satisfying fats make your diet more enjoyable while providing energy to crush those workouts.

Pre-Workout & Creatine – Gain an Edge

Certain supplements can give you an advantage:

  • Creatine provides a strength and endurance boost
  • Pre-workout improves energy, focus and pumps
  • Take 5 grams creatine and pre-workout before lifting

When combined with proper nutrition, these supplements will amplify your back gains!

There you have it – a simple dietary framework to support building freaky back mass! Now go eat a solid protein meal and get growing.

Don’t Break Your Back: Injury Prevention and Recovery

To develop a larger, stronger back, you must train intensely. However, injuring yourself will hinder your progress. Let’s talk about staying healthy and robust.

Some tips to keep your back feeling prime:

  • Always properly warm up – 5-10 minutes of light cardio and dynamic stretches prepares the body for work
  • Maintain proper form and technique – no heavy rounding of the back or jerky movements
  • Foam roll and stretch after workouts – this improves mobility and speeds recovery
  • Use a weight belt for heavy lifts if needed – belts provide lumbar support and stability
  • Vary exercises – don’t just deadlift – mix in rows, pull-ups, and pulldowns to spread stress
  • Take a deload week every 8-12 weeks – back off volume and intensity to recover

Listen to your body and address any nagging pain immediately – don’t try to push through. It is better to take a break and come back strong than to get injured.

Ensure you’re getting sufficient sleep – shoot for 7-9 hours per night. Quality Zzz’s are when growth happens.

By training smart, prioritizing recovery, and managing fatigue, you’ll make consistent, pain-free gains training your back. Now get out there, be safe, and build that mountainous, eye-catching physique!

Back Building FAQ: Your Most Pressing Questions, Answered!

Before we wrap up, let’s tackle some frequently asked questions about sculpting a spectacular back. I know you have burning concerns – well, fret not, I’ve got you covered!

What muscles make up the back?

The back contains several major muscle groups:

  • Lats – give width to the back and that V taper
  • Traps – run along spine from neck to mid-back
  • Rhomboids – pull shoulder blades together
  • Rear delts – round out shoulder development
  • Erector spinae – muscles along spine that provide stability

Training all these groups together builds a dense, balanced back!

How often should I train back?

For optimal growth, train back 2-3 times per week. Have at least 48 hours between intense back sessions.

Most effectively, do:

  • Heavy, compound back exercises 2x per week
  • Higher rep isolation moves 1x per week

This allows sufficient frequency to spur growth without overtraining.

What is the best grip width for barbell rows?

Use these grips for different focus:

  • Shoulder-width underhand – targets mid-back rhomboids and rear delts
  • Slightly wider overhand – emphasizes outer lats for width
  • Very wide grip overhand – hits more lats but less stable

Alter your grip every couple of weeks to train the back from all angles.

Should I use lifting straps for back exercises?

Straps allow you to overload the back without grip limiting you. But also train grip directly 1-2 times per week.

How can I fix muscle imbalances in my back?

If you have one side stronger/bigger, add 2-3 sets of single-arm isolation moves like dumbbell rows. This evens out imbalances over time.

There you have it – your back questions answered! Hopefully this info helps optimize your training. Now get to the gym and keep growing that eye-catching physique.

Conclusion: Build Your Back Brick by Brick

There you have it – a complete blueprint for building a bigger, stronger, visually impressive back!

We covered all the bases:

  • The essential compound exercises that build a sturdy muscular foundation
  • Targeted accessory lifts to address weak points
  • Tailored workout routines based on your experience level
  • Proper nutrition and supplement strategies to fuel growth
  • Injury prevention tips to keep you making progress

Now it’s time to take this info to the gym and put it into action. Celebrate small victories like doing one more rep or lifting a bit more weight, as they eventually lead to big progress.

Stay consistent with your workouts, be patient through plateaus, and keep challenging yourself to grow. Dream big, and realize that with hard work and dedication, an impressive, powerful back physique is absolutely within your reach.

You got this! Now go grab a barbell and start building that masterpiece back – one rep, one workout, one day at a time. I’ll be right there cheering you on as you put in the work and make it happen!

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