How to Build a Big Thick Back

How to Build a Big Thick Back

Like I tell all my clients when discussing training is focusing on the negative or eccentric portion of the lift. I feel that’s been a huge factor in me improving all my body parts due to it significantly improving mind muscle connection which does a couple very important things. It keeps more time under tension because the muscle never gets a chance to relax, first you explode through the elbows to force the muscle to contract, then you try to hold squeeze for a split second before slowly controlling the negative all the way till you reach for the stretch then fire the elbows again to force contraction and repeat that pattern until you can no longer resist the negative, then you know the muscle is worked as if you can’t control the strongest part of the exercise, the negative, then the muscle is fatigued and needs rest before doing the same thing next set.

The other thing I feel controlling the negative is very important for especially while doing bent over exercises like barbell rows or T-Bar rows is keeping the tension or strain off the lower back. When I can hold the weight in the contracted position for a split second and control the negative, I only feel the tension in my mid back and nothing in my lower back because I’m not heaving the weight up and letting it fall only to catch it with my lower back which causes shock. When you are not keeping the muscle under constant tension then you might be transferring tension to the tendons, ligaments, or joints and obviously that will lead to problems in the future.

There are a few things I see people do all the time when trying to hit the mid back and instead they get upper traps and rear delts or lower lats and miss the middle portion. When doing rows if your elbows are too high then when you fire elbows back you will hit upper traps and rear delts and if you pull towards belly button then you hit more lower lats so the sweet spot for building your mid back and getting that thickness between your shoulder blades is pulling elbows back right below your chest with your arms at about a 45-degree angle so not tucked in but also not all the way up. You should be able to really squeeze your shoulder blades and that’s how you know you are in the perfect spot. Remember if you don’t feel it where you want to, you are probably doing it wrong. Also, a big problem I see all the time is using too heavy of a weight that you can’t control and not being able to get their elbows back far enough to even squeeze the shoulder blades and get a contraction in the muscle, and that obviously won’t build muscle in the area you are trying to build.

We all know you must have a great mind-muscle connection to stimulate muscle but are you trying to feel each rep in the area you are focusing on? A lot of times when training clients, I have them lighten the weight and focus on squeezing the contraction very hard and controlling the resistance before we start increasing the weight again. This is a great thought for people to do occasionally on any muscle group to re-establish that connection, but I feel it’s most important with back instead of throwing around heavy-ass weights with no intent! While I always try to go as heavy as possible while using proper form, this back workout if focused on squeezing and resisting it, should really light up your mid-back!

You should know you are doing it right when your mid back is crazy pumped and spinal erectors are not unless you are doing hyperextensions specifically for the spinal erectors.

Here is an example of one of my favorite back routines.


Wide neutral grip pulldowns- 4x12-10 super set with/
Cable rope pullovers- 4x12

Bent over barbell rows (stay bent over at 90 degree)- 4x12-10

Chest supported 2 arm DB rows- 4x12 (I like doing these lying face down on an incline bench at about a 30-degree angle using a 45-degree grip like mentioned above and when I fire elbows up, I rise my chest off the bench to create an arch and hold squeeze before slowly letting my chest come back down to bench and do it again)

2 arm machine rows- 4x12 (I like to do this as a finisher so I can really focus on the contraction in the mid back where I’m targeting. Hand position is where I mentioned above to pull the elbows back right below chest with arms at a 45-degree angle and really squeeze shoulder blades)

Hyperextensions- 3-4x15 (specifically to help develop and strengthen the spinal erectors, keep arms crossed across your chest and can hold a weight plate for more resistance if needed)




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