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6 Essential Lifts For a Bigger & Thicker Back

Much of the time, the iron game of bodybuilding isn’t exactly a thinking man’s sport.  If you want to get big and strong, then you have to lift a lot of weight, for a lot of repetitions.  That part is clear & simple and not exactly rocket science.  And early on in your lifting experience, you are going to grow, no matter what you do in the gym.  Beginners’ gains are a wonderful thing!  However, as time passes, gains to the larger muscle groups – in particular the back muscles – become tougher and tougher to see on a regular basis.  For this reason, it is important to continually analyze our back training and at times, rededicate ourselves to the heavy compound movements that have been proven time and time again to deliver the best back training results.  Cables and machines are fun, but the heavy stuff is what gives us results – and it’s time to get to know them once again!  Let’s check out these 5 key movements for building back size, thickness and strength! and Sample workout.

Back Building Basics


Without a doubt, if you want a back that is crazy thick and strong, you need to be doing deadlifts.  Wear a back brace, warm up thoroughly, and completely torch your lower back with this heavy metal movement.  Keep the repetition ranges in the 4 to 8 range to ensure you’re targeting fast-twitch muscle fibers for muscle growth, and still growing stronger at the same time.  Pull up the barbell as close to your body as possible, using chalk to protect your shins.  Rest 90 to 180 seconds between each set.

Barbell Rows

Barbell rows are not as popular as deadlifts, yet they are just as effective. This exercise is perfect for strengthening the upper back, providing good growth to your muscles. It also targets the shoulders, arms and grip. To avoid injury or straining your muscles, always warm up.

It’s essential that you keep your form to do this exercise correctly, i.e. to hit the back muscles without redirecting the effort to the hips and shoulders.   If the barbell is swinging you are missing to target your back muscles. Keep the reps into the 6 -12 range, with pyramidal scheme where you lift heavier weights for fewer reps in each set.


Many lifters will take the easy way out, opting for the lat pulldown machine in lieu of actual body weight chins.  However, after you’ve seen 300-pound professional bodybuilders knock out sets of 15 chins while wearing a weight belt, your reasoning may sound a little soft!  Climb up and pull yourself up for slow, controlled gradual repetitions.  Even if you cannot reach the desired 10 to 15 repetitions, you’ll start the growth and improvement process and get your body primed for new muscular size and strength growth in order to meet this increasing workload.  Use them, even if you’re lousy – you will improve!

Bent over Barbell Rows

For a thick, muscular, strong back perform bent over barbell rows. These are great at developing the upper back. They will engorge you traps, lats and all the support muscles with blood, producing an intense pump.

 Kroc Rows

If you’re not doing dumbbell rows with the heaviest weight in the gym, you’re missing out on everything this exercise has to offer. Failure to row with the heaviest possible weight both impedes your back development and limits how much you can bench. None of these outcomes is acceptable. I don’t care if the dumbbell rack in your gym goes up to 220—you’re capable even if you don’t know it yet.

You’ll never find a heavy bencher who doesn’t have huge lats. This is no accident. Contrary to what most amateurs believe, lowering the bar on the bench press is not only an eccentric movement. When you lower the bar, you should actually “pull” it to your chest, engaging your lats the whole way. This controls the descent and prepares the lats to flare at the bottom of the movement, which then propels the bar of the chest at the movement’s start.

Cable Rowing

This exercise should be performed after you’ve exhausted your back muscles with the previous ones, and once you’re ready to end your workout. Although you might be tired as a dog, you can rely on the machines to provide you with support. All you have to worry about is pulling the cables from different angles to completely drain out your already exhausted muscles and deliver the final punch which will require a week of rest.

As you progress in your bodybuilding workouts going from beginner into an advance lifter, you’re going to do much more cable exercises which deliver the finishing touch and shape the muscles.

Sample workout

A. Deadlift

Week one: Work up to one heavy set of 5 reps in 4-5 sets.
Week two: Work up to one heavy set of 3 reps in 4-5 sets
Week three: Work up to a heavy single in 4-5 sets.
Week four: No deadlifting.

B. Chin-up
Warm up. Then perform as many sets as necessary to total 100 reps, alternating each set between a wide overhand grip, a medium neutral grip, and a close neutral or underhand grip. Each week try to achieve the 100 reps in fewer sets. When you can achieve this in four or fewer sets, add weight.

C. Kroc rows
Work up to one all-out set (with each arm) of 20-30 reps with as heavy a dumbbell as possible. Every week strive to set a new rep PR. When able to perform 30 reps, increase the weight. Don't do the wimpy where you keep your elbow tucked!

Finally, in the real world, a big strong back is highly functional. Anytime you pick up something heavy, the back is doing the majority of the work, so when you lift a heavy box at work, it's your back strength that will determine your success.