From chiseled lats to a sculpted spine, a strong back not only looks impressive but also enhances your overall athletic performance.
Wanting to give my clients a workout they could rely on, I spent a month researching the best way they could get past muscle growth plateaus.
I ended up putting together an insane back program that’s guaranteed to produce a strong and chiseled back.
So grab your weights and get ready to launch a full-scale assault on your back muscles.
- 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.
- Back injuries can set your progress behind by weeks or months, so always use perfect form and recover properly after every workout.
Back Attack Workout
This routine is an all-rounder back training program that focuses on developing back strength and hypertrophy (both width and thickness).
As the name suggests, the workout “attacks” your back with various exercises to build maximum strength and hypertrophy.
Since this routine is fairly intense, we highly recommend doing it only once every few months to add variety to your back routine or to get over plateaus.
This routine is composed of three sets of exercises that focus on three main features of back development:
- Back width
- Back thickness
Back strength exercises involve heavy compound movements like the deadlift, pull-ups, shrugs, and other movements that target various back muscle groups.
Perform these exercises with heavy weights and low reps.
We experimented with different variations of this workout and found the following to work best:
- 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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Back Width Exercises
This group of exercises builds back muscles that emphasize back width: the latissimus dorsi, teres major, and teres minor muscles.
Since our focus here is hypertrophy, you’ll be performing more reps per set compared to the strength exercises.
Here’s what the routine will look like:
- 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
Perform your pull-ups with your palms facing away from you. Doing them with your palms facing you will add more bicep activation, removing the focus from your lats.
Learn more: Big Ramy’s Back Workout for Serious Growth
Back Thickness Exercises
These exercises work your lower, mid, and upper back muscles.
These include your traps, rhomboids, erector spinae, and posterior delts.
Because your back might still be recovering from the width exercises — many of which targeted your back thickness muscles —we'll be doing only four exercises to avoid muscle strain.
Like the previous set of exercises, this one will also focus on higher reps and medium weight.
Here’s what the routine will look like:
- 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
The back attack routine is too intense to finish off in one session, and doing so might strain your muscles and lead to an injury.
So, we highly recommend splitting this back workout over three days.
Here’s what the split will look like:
- Monday: Back strength exercises
- Tuesday: Another workout routine
- Wednesday: Back width exercises
- Thursday: Rest or another workout routine
- Friday: Back thickness exercises
- Saturday: Rest or another workout routine
- Sunday: Rest or another workout routine
This will look different depending on your weight-training program. The rule of thumb is that you should have at least a one-day break from any back exercises before jumping into any of the workouts.
Related: 3 Best Workout Splits
How to Maximize Your Gains
Take your routine to the next level with these tips on maximizing your back gains:
- Mind-muscle connection: For most of the above-mentioned movements, pause at the top position before lowering the weights.
- Slowed eccentric: Always slow down and focus on the eccentric (the part of the lift where your muscles lengthen) to maximize your strength and hypertrophy gains . For example, if you’re doing a barbell row, slowly lower the weights while establishing a mind-muscle connection after pulling the weight up.
- Appropriate rest periods: For strength training, rest for 4–5 minutes between each set . For best hypertrophy training, rest for no more than 2 minutes between sets.
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.
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.
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