Back Attack Workout (Chiseled Upper Body Guide)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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As a fitness trainer with many years of experience, I know that a strong back not only looks good but also improves overall athletic performance.

To provide my clients with a consistent and effective back workout, I dedicated a month to discussions with other fitness professionals and extensive research to overcome muscle growth plateaus.

The result is an intense back-attack workout program designed to produce a strong and sculpted back, along with advice on how to maximize safe gains.

Quick Summary

  • The back attack workout comprises three sets of exercises—for back strength, back width, and back thickness.
  • This routine should be performed once every few months or if you experience a plateau in growing your back.
  • A study suggests that individuals with low back pain should engage in regular physical activity, including back strength exercises—a set of workouts included in a back attack workout routine.
  • Drawing from experience, back injuries can seriously hinder progress, which is why I always advise clients to consistently maintain perfect form and ensure proper recovery through the use of suitable supplements in every workout.

What Is Back Attack Workout?

A person with wide back muscles flexing while doing back attack workout

The Back Attack workout is a comprehensive back training program designed to enhance both strength and hypertrophy, targeting both width and thickness.

True to its name, this workout methodically engages your back through a variety of exercises, aiming to maximize strength and hypertrophy.

Given the intensity of this routine, it is advisable to incorporate it into your back training regimen sporadically—perhaps once every few months.

In my opinion, doing so has proven effective for adding a touch of variety to your regimen and breaking through any plateaus in your progress.

Back Attack Sample Workout Routine

A person flexing his back muscles

This routine comprises three sets of exercises targeting key aspects of back development: Back Strength, Back Width, and Back Thickness.

1. Back Strength Exercises

Back strength exercises involve heavy compound movements such as deadlifts, pull-ups, shrugs, and other exercises targeting various muscle groups in the back.

These should be performed with heavy weights and low reps. After experimenting with different variations, we found the following to be most effective:

  • Deadlift: 5 sets of 3–5 reps
  • Overhand-grip barbell rows: 3 sets of 5–8 reps
  • Pull-ups (weighted): 3 sets of 5–8 reps
  • Shrugs: 3 sets of 6–8 reps

“Deadlifting is one of the most functional movement patterns we do as humans. Every time you pick something up off of the ground, you are performing a deadlift.”

- Dr. Hailey Jackson, DPT

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2. Back Width Exercises

This set of exercises focuses on building back muscles that emphasize width, specifically targeting the latissimus dorsi, teres major, and teres minor muscles. Given our emphasis on hypertrophy, you'll be performing more reps per set compared to the strength exercises. The routine includes:

  • Wide-grip pull-ups (bodyweight or assisted): 3 sets of 8–12 reps
  • One-arm dumbbell row: 3 sets of 12–15 reps
  • Neutral-grip seated row: 3 sets of 8–10 reps
  • T-bar row: 3 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Wide-grip pull-downs: 3 sets of 12–15 reps

As a fitness trainer, I suggest doing pull-ups with palms facing away to target the lats more effectively. When your palms face you, it tends to activate the biceps, shifting the emphasis away from the lats.

Learn more: Big Ramy’s Back Workout for Serious Growth

3. Back Thickness Exercises

A buff male doing deadlifts for back muscles

These exercises target the lower, mid, and upper back muscles, including the traps, rhomboids, erector spinae, and posterior delts. To prevent muscle strain and aid recovery from the width exercises, this set includes only four exercises. Similar to the previous set, the focus is on higher reps and medium weight:

  • Conventional deadlift: 3 sets of 10–12 reps
  • Barbell bent-over row: 3 sets of 8–10 reps
  • Good mornings: 3 sets of 12–15 reps
  • Shoulder-width pull-downs: 3 sets of 8–12 reps

Related: 3 Best Workout Splits

Sample Split Workout Routine

The Back Attack routine is too intense to complete in a single session, and doing so may strain your muscles, potentially leading to injury.

Therefore, we highly recommend dividing this back workout over three days.

Here's the suggested split:

  • Monday: Back strength exercises
  • Tuesday: Alternate workout routine
  • Wednesday: Back width exercises
  • Thursday: Rest or engage in another workout routine
  • Friday: Back thickness exercises
  • Saturday: Rest or participate in another workout routine
  • Sunday: Rest or engage in another workout routine

In my experience, the specifics can vary with your weight-training program, but I typically advise a one-day break from back exercises before starting a new workout.

How to Maximize Your Gains

A buff male flexing back muscless

Maximize your back gains with these effective tips to elevate your workout routine:

  • Mind-Muscle Connection: Pause at the top position before lowering the weights in most of the mentioned movements.
  • Slowed Eccentric Phase: Enhance strength and hypertrophy gains by consistently slowing down and concentrating on the eccentric phase—the part of the lift where your muscles lengthen, as per research from PubMed [1].
  • Appropriate Rest Periods: Optimize your strength training by resting for 4–5 minutes between each set, as supported by a study from the National Institute of Health [2].

As a fitness trainer, I always recommend keeping rest periods under 2 minutes between sets for optimal hypertrophy training. It's my tried-and-true advice, and it consistently leads to great results.

Safety Tips

Here are a few safety tips that’ll help you get the most out of this routine:

  • Warm-up: Always begin your routine with a few warm-up sets of the exercises you’re going to perform. This will ensure your muscles are fired up and ready to be loaded with heavier weight.
  • Use perfect form: Whether it’s your warm-up or working set, always use the perfect form when doing any back workout. When doing exercises like rows and pull-ups, squeeze your shoulder blades together to avoid straining the shoulders.
  • Recovery: Rest your back for at least a day between each set of exercises. We highly recommend taking a protein supplement in addition to a high-protein diet to maximize muscle recovery.

FAQs

What Is the Number 1 Back Exercise?

The barbell bent-over row is the number-one back exercise. It targets your lats and mid back, which comprise a big part of your back musculature. Pull-ups are a close second.

How Do I Shape My Back?

You can shape your back by doing back workouts that build back width and thickness. You can target back width by working your lats, teres major, and teres minor muscles. For back thickness, work on your traps and rhomboids.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18981046/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26605807/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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