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How To Build A Wide Muscular Back ?

The back is one of the most critical areas to develop for a strong powerful physique. Many beginners overlook the importance of back training in their workouts as they tend to focus more on the show off muscles like the chest and arms. While having a well developed chest and arms are important to a complete physique. They are only a small part of the big picture. The back is the most crucial muscle group in the upper body for all around functional strength and an impressive muscular physique.

In fact the saying in bodybuilding competitions over the last decade or so is that "the contest is won from the back". And with very few exceptions most bodybuilding contests are won by the competitor with the best back development.

 A good back has two qualities: thickness and a v-taper shape.

The thickness will bring your shoulders back and allow you to maintain proper posture, thereby bringing more emphasis to a well-rounded, defined chest.

A more pronounced v-taper shaped back will give the optical illusion that the waist is smaller and the shoulders larger, which are important traits of a good physique.

Here is one of my favorite back workouts that will help pack slabs of thick muscle on your "wings". It is an advanced routine, so those who have at least a couple years of weight training under their belt can use it, but beginners would be better off starting with a less challenging workout.

Pull Ups

The first exercise is arguably the single best exercise for building back width - Pull Ups. You'd be surprised to find out just how few people can actually do a proper pull up. Most people look like they are doing some kind of funky horizontal bar work at a gymnastics tournament.

I like to do pull ups the way Arnold did back in the "muscle beach days"... 50 total reps using different grips.

Do a set of as many pull ups as you can do. Then rest a minute or two. Do anther set of as many reps as you can do. Rest, etc. until you have completed 50 total reps. Vary your grip with each set (i.e. wide grip, medium, narrow, underhand, etc.) this will work the back from several different angles and provide better muscle stimulation. 

 If you can't get all 50 reps, don't sweat it. Just do as many reps as you can and strive to get at least 1 more rep each workout. Overtime you'll eventually build up to the point of doing 50+ pull ups in a single workout. And when you get to that stage your back will most likely be one of your best bodyparts


Next we're going to move on to deadlifts. The deadlift is the oldest of all weight training exercises and is one of the most effective exercises for overall body development. This will build back thickness and real world functional strength like nothing else.  

Start off with light weight do sets of 5 reps pyramiding up with each set. You don't want to do too many reps during your warm ups as this will just waist energy and take away from your strength during your heavy sets.

Sample pyramid sets and reps:
135 lbs. x 5
185 lbs. x 5
225 lbs. x 5
275 lbs. x 5
315 lbs. x 5

Once you get to your top working weight perform 3 sets of 5 reps with the same weight. Train heavy, but don't train to failure. Deadlifts are taxing enough on the body that you don't need to rep out to failure to make great progress from them. Rest at least 2-3 minutes between each set so you'll have maximum strength and power. 

 Arm Dumbbell Rows

After the deadlifts we are going to move on to 1 arm dumbbell rows. This will work the lats hard, but give your lower back a much needed rest.

I like to straddle my legs apart and brace my non-working arm against the dumbbell rack or high exercise bench. This position will usually allow you to lift more weight then if you kneel on a bench as some people do. 

Do a couple progressively heavier warm up sets and then do 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each arm. Make sure to squeeze and contract the lats at the top of each rep for a second before lowering the dumbbell back down.

Face Pulls

Face pulls are one of my favorite upper back exercises. They hit the rear delts, traps, and rhomboids really well. Attach a rope to a cable cross over pulley and set it so that it is head height. Grab the ends of the rope and row it towards your face. This exercise works best for higher reps so do 3-4 sets of 15+ reps.

Hyper Extensions

The final finisher to this back workout is 100 total reps of hyper extensions. I've always been a big fan of hyper extensions. They are an excellent exercise that work the spinal effectors, glutes, and hamstrings. I finish off every single back workout with 100 total reps (i.e. 4 sets of 25 reps, 5 sets of 20, etc.). By this stage you will have already worked your lower back hard with the deadlifts, so just use your bodyweight and really go for the burn when doing hypers. 


After your workout you'll need to stretch out the muscles you just worked. So go back over to the pull up bar and just grab the bar and hang for as long as your grip will last. Repeat 3-4 more times using different hand positions to stretch out the back from different angles. Once your finished that then touch your toes (or try to) and hold the stretch for 1 minute to help loosen up the lower back.  

 Well there you have it, a complete back workout from top to bottom. Do this workout once a week as part of your bodypart training split. When doing a high volume workout like this it's best to set aside a day just for back training, rather then pairing it up with another bodypart.