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Build A Bigger Back For This Routine

 Many gym goers tend to focus most of their time on the “show” muscles (chest, biceps and abs) but neglecting your back isn’t a great idea for either appearance or performance. Building a strong, stable and healthy back can reduce the pain that you feel at the end of a long day and a strong, wide back and also helps broaden the upper body and make the waist appear narrower (often referred to as a V-taper) creating a much more appealing and sexy overall look.

Back Training

While it’s common to put chest and back together on the same training day – Arnold used to do this – it makes more sense to work back on its own day, especially if it’s a weak point, followed if you want by biceps and forearms. This allows you to focus all of your energy on back training only instead of “sharing” energywith another big muscle group like the chest. Since the biceps are actively involved in all back exercises it does make sense to work biceps after back. I like to include forearms with this workout but there is a theory that forearms are a little like abs in that you can work them more often then other muscles. While they are high endurance muscles that are involved in every exercise you do because of the grip required to hold the bar, I prefer to work them hard once a week with biceps.

If you know my writing you know I believe in one workout per week per muscle group. This is because of my age and recovery ability and because I’m natural. Age and steroid use can change everything, however, so I imagine younger guys and guys on steroids use more typical splits, hitting each muscle twice a week. That’s fine if it works for you, just be sure you are fully recovered. Remember growth only happens when you recover, not from how often you hit the gym.


The trapezius is a very wide triangular shaped muscle that covers almost all of the muscles at the nape of the neck and a large part of the back. It originates in the occipital bone at the base of the skull and is inserted in the scapula and clavicle. The fibers of this muscle provide pull in three directions: up, down and in. It’s function is to turn the head and raise the shoulders.

Many people train traps with shoulders. I prefer this myself but for the purpose of this article I’ll include it with back

Here are the routines:

Routine #1

Deadlifts – Use this pyramid scheme: 15, 12, 10, 8, 6. Start with a light weight, add weight with each set, the 8 rep set and 6 rep set are your main working sets. At the top of the movement, do as many reps of shrugs as possible to hit the traps.
Pull Ups – 25 reps over as many sets as it takes. If you can do this in one set, do two sets of 25. Use a fairly wide overhand grip, a full range of motion and no cheating.
Bent Rows – 3 sets of 12 reps, using a weight you can get for 8 reps. Rest pause your way to 12. Do this on all 3 sets.
Performance notes: Deadliftss should be explosive but under complete control up and slow on the way down. Use a full range of motion on pullups, concentrating only on the back, not the biceps. Remember, they are hooks, nothing more. On bent rows, explosive up, hold and squeeze at the top, lower slowly.

Routine #2

Power Cleans – Same rep and set scheme as deadlifts.
Seated Cable Rows – 3 sets of 8 reps.
Lat Pull Downs – 4 sets of 10 reps, medium wide overhand grip for 2 sets, a wide grip for 2 sets.
Shrugs – Use this rep scheme: 12, 10, 8, 6. All 4 sets are working sets so use a weight that allows to just get the suggested rep count.
Performance notes: Power cleans are an explosive exercise. Be sure you understand the movement and keep the rep under control at all times. Even though I suggest explosive for this and all power based movements, as the weight gets heavier the bar’s not going to be moving all that fast. Seated rows should be continuous tension, squeeze and hold for a 3 count when you bring the bar in to your chest. If you can, use a 4 count on the return movement. Use the same rep method on pull downs. When doing shrugs, pull your shoulders straight up towards your ears, hold and squeeze. This applies each time you do shrugs in any of the routines.

Routine #3

This is a width heavy routine:

Pull Ups – 30 reps over as many sets as it takes. If you can do this in one set, do two sets of 30. Use a wide overhand grip.
Close Grip “V” Handle Pull Downs – 3 sets of 12 reps.
Behind The Neck Pull Downs – 2 sets of 8 reps, medium wide overhand grip.
T Bar Rows – 3 sets of 12 reps.
Dumbbell Shrugs – Use this rep scheme: 12, 10, 10, 8. These are all working sets.
Performance notes: On the close grip pull downs, you’re pulling the bar to your upper chest. On this and behind the neck pull downs, use continuous tension style reps, holding and squeezing at the top for a 3 count. On T-bar rows, do your reps explosive up, slow and controlled down.

Routine #4

This is a thickness heavy routine:

Deadlifts – use this rep scheme: 15, 12, 10, 6-8, 6-8, 4.
One Arm Dumbbell Rows – 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Seated Cable Rows – 3 sets of 8 reps.
Lat Pull Downs – 3 sets of 10 reps – or – chins: 20 reps.
Shrugs – 3 sets of 15 reps.
Performance notes: Go heavier than usual on deads, explosive up, hold at the top for a 3 count and lower slowly. On dumbbell rows, use the same rep performance. Seated rows and pull downs: this time use continuous tension, hold at the top for a 5 count. Stop halfway on every rep of every set on these two exercises and hold for another 5 count.

Routine #5

Power routine:

Power Cleans – Use this rep scheme: 15, 12, 10, 8, 8.
Deadlifts – Rep scheme: 12, 10, 8, 6, 4.
One Arm Dumbbell Snatch – Rep scheme: 8, 8, 6, 6.

Performance notes: Any time you do a routine like this, you’re really working the entire body. You will see tremendous natural hormone release from this routine. Be sure you completely understand how to do each exercise, and go for heavy weights on your top sets. Rep performance should be explosive but under control up and slow down.

Work your back 1-2 days per week on the same day that you work your biceps or on 2-3 non-consecutive days as part of a full body workout. Focusing some effort on developing and strengthening you back will improve how you feel and put you on the fast track to the better looking upper body that you’ve been longing for.