Back Day: How To Build A Bigger Back

Back day, a hugely important workout session due to the importance of having a strong healthy back.  Building your back muscles isn’t all about trying to get muscles and look good, having a strong back is critical to good movement and provides the support for you to perform a range of exercises, play sports, movements and working out other muscle groups.

A strong back means you need to work the different areas and not just focus on the size of your upper back which is what many people are guilty of doing.  In the pursuit of trying to build a bigger back, many people concentrate on trying to get that V-shape and build the upper back muscles and neglect the lower back which is hugely important to support your spine and help prevent back problems.

It’s currently mid January and the chances are your gym is like ours, packed full of newbies (no offence to newbies) and you’re struggling to get on a machine or find some floor space.  If this is the case it can be very disruptive to your workout and what you had planned, so you need to improvise and use what you can to work the different back muscles effectively.

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Let’s take a look at our back day workout and what we did to build bigger, stronger back.

Lat Pull Down – this is our usual warm up workout, we start pretty light, concentrating on performing slowly with good form.  So none of this swinging back and forth please, it looks ridiculous and you’re only going to injure yourself and cause minimal gains!  We aim for 4 sets of 10-12 reps.

Deadlifts – time for the main event!  Providing you can get some floor space and an Olympic bar, deadlifts are always a good choice of exercise for your back.  You can adjust the weight to what you’re comfortable with and what your goals are but always concentrate on good form for maximum results.

Due to the busy period we haven’t been able to focus as much on deadlifts recently so we’re a little out of practice, so we won’t be trying to do any max lifts!  We’ve aimed for 5 sets!  That’s 60kg, 100kg, 110kg, 120kg, 130kg then finishing back on 60kg.  At lower weights we’re aiming for 8-10 reps but at 130kg we’re pushing out limits so 3-5 reps is more realistic at this stage.  You can adjust the weight to what you’re comfortable with, but if you aren’t that used to doing deadlifts (like we currently are), there’s no point in trying to go as heavy as possible and risk injury.

Good form is far more effective!

The good thing about deadlifts are the range of muscles they work.  With the correct form, you will work your upper back, your trapezius, the core, hamstrings, quadriceps as well as your glutes!  So see this as a full body workout!

Seated Cable Row – next up is sit down cable row.  We aim for 4 sets of 8-10 reps, again focusing on good form with a straight back.  This should work your trapezius muscles, rear deltoids as well as your biceps!

Back Extension – to work the lower back muscles such as flexor and obliques, the back extension is a good exercise.  This helps you build lower back strength which is essential for a strong back that provides support.  We aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps, sometimes using a 5kg or 10kg plate for extra resistance but you should adapt this to suit your own strength and goals.  

Close Grip Pull ups & Wide Grip Pull ups – 2 sets each aiming for 8-10 but at this stage of the workout just try and get as many as you can, wide grip pull ups will be the most difficult because it focuses on the upper back and lats which have already been worked pretty hard.  We see this as ‘the finisher’ type workout, a good upper body exercise that focuses on back, arms, shoulders, chest as well as your abs and makes sure you’re leaving the gym without anything left to give!

Whether you’re looking to build a bigger back, or just get ripped and develop your back muscles this workout is highly effective.  Sure, there are other back exercises you could throw in and this is just one example, but we find it is effective and works the major back muscles required for strength, support and to get that important V-shape!