Having a big back is what sets the men from the boys in the gym, it’s the ultimate symbol of strength. You won’t be getting the nickname “Silverback” any time soon without having solid Traps, thick Rhomboids and vast Lats. But, from day one, most people will walk into a gym and train the mirror muscles, hitting chest, biceps and shoulders day after day after day whilst claiming “curlz get the gurlz”.
It’s not until months or even years down the line that they release to have a strong, proportioned physique, they need to train the muscles they can’t see just as much, if not more, than the ones they can.
But not all hope is lost, you can still build your bullet proof back, it’s just gonna take a bit of focused training and commitment.
When you want to build a specific body part you need to take a more specific approach than just training it once per week like you would in a traditional bodybuilding split.
After you train a muscle group your body will grow and repair muscle in that area via muscle protein synthesis and elevate your testosterone levels, but this only lasts up to 48 hours, before your body unfortunately reverts back to normal levels.
So, in order for us to build a back worthy of a Greek God, what we are going to do is train the back muscles with intensity three times a week, not only will this elevate muscle protein synthesis it will also allow us to add more total volume over the week, which is a key factor in building muscle.
1 session per week = 1×20 sets = 20 sets total
3 sessions per week = 3×15 sets = 45 total sets
As this is a programme designed to build your back, it will mean your other muscle groups are going to take a back seat for the time being. We will still be training them, but you won’t be trying to add any size or hit any new PB’s during this time, the goal here is to maintain size only.
Monday- Back (strength, heavy day)
Thursday- Back (hypertrophy day)
Friday- Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
Saturday- Back (high volume day)
You can feel free to add in extra bicep work throughout the week if you feel necessary but they will already get a hammering from all the back movements as a secondary muscle group.
Monday- Strength, heavy
On this day, we are going to focus on our main compounds lifts for back. These will be deadlifts, rows, shrugs and pull ups/pull downs.
The idea for this day is to use a weight that will allow you to hit between 3-8 reps on each of your sets.
Your first exercise is going to be a bodyweight exercise in order to prime your muscles for the heavier lifts. Think pull ups or inverted rows. Perform 3 sets of 6-8 reps (or more if you feel necessary to warm up fully)
For your second exercise, you will be doing your main back compound lift, the deadlift. You can choose which variation you do ( I suggest conventional, sumo or hex bar.) On this exercise, you will be performing 5 sets for 3-4 reps. This is to be maximum effort, focusing on power, speed and strength
This will be followed by a rowing movement such as dumbbell row, seated row or bent over barbell row. Again, choose which one you prefer or switch them from week to week. Here you are going to hit 4 sets for reps of 6. Focus on keeping the movement controlled whilst being powerful.
The final movement will be a shrug, performed with either dumbbells or a barbell. Its important on this movement to squeeze at full contraction and slowly lower the weights. Hit 3 sets for 8 reps.
The overall goal of this session is to build back thickness, strength and power
On this day, you are going to be using the same basic movements that you did on Monday but with more variety on equipment and machines. Aim to use a weight that will allow you to hit a rep range of 8-12 reps. The goal of this session is to fill your muscles up with blood (“the pump”) and to still move some decent weight around.
Start the session of with an extension movement such as weighted back raises or rack pulls. Hit 4 sets for 10-12 reps. The purpose of this movement is to warm up the whole back ready for the session ahead
Your second exercise will consist of a rowing movement. Use a weight that will allow for 8 reps over 5 sets. Explode the weight up, hold in the contracted position for 2 seconds and then lower slowly for three seconds, by the end of this exercise your back should already feel super pumped up.
After this you will move on to a pulling movement such as Lat pull downs or dumbbell pullovers. Here you want to stretch out the back muscles and get a big squeeze on the concentric. Aim for 3 sets of 12 reps.
Supersets are next, so prepare yourselves for a bit of lactic acid. On this, you want to hit a row movement followed by a pulling movement. This could be chest supported machine row supersetted with straight arm pulldowns. Aim to hit 10-12 reps on each exercise over 3 sets.
To finish the session off we’ll be doing isolation work for the often neglected rear delts. Hit 3 sets of 8-10 on cable face pulls.
The overall goal of this session is to flush the muscles with blood and to keep the muscle under tension for a longer period of time.
Saturday- High Volume
The last back session of the week will consist of much higher reps, anywhere from 15-100. This workout will help build muscular endurance in the back and help bring out definition.
To start this session off we are going to use a bodyweight movement such as inverted barbell rows or TRX rows. Your goal is to hit 100 reps in as few sets as possible, with the aim of getting under 5 sets.
Next up is the Deadlift. Again, you can choose which variation to perform. This time we will be hitting a total of 55 reps. Choose a weight you can hit 20 reps with and start off with a set of one single rep, rest 30 seconds, perform 2 reps, rest 30 seconds, perform 3 reps…. continue all the way up to 10 reps.
This will be followed by single arm dumbbell rows. Here, you want to start off by performing 10 reps on your left side then immediately swap over to your right. Once you have finished 10 reps on both sides go straight back to the start and repeat 3 time. This is ONE set. Perform three sets in total.
The Maintanence Muscles
Whilst we are mainly focusing on building a bigger stronger back in this programme, we still want to make sure we don’t totally neglect our other muscle groups and let them regress.
- Choose two other days per week to hit the remaining muscle groups
- Use a hypertrophy style of training on these days
- Have one session dedicated to legs and the other to upper body (excluding back)
- Hit mainly compound lifts during these sessions
- Keep intensity up with short rest periods
- Don’t try and hit any new one rep maxes or volume PB’s
- Aim to maintain muscle not grow it.
After the Programme
Once you have completed the 4 week programme to build a bullet proof back, go back into a normal workout routine, such as an upper/lower/upper/lower split. You will want to slightly drop the volume worked on the back to let it fully recover and grow and use this time to work on bringing up your other body parts. If you come back to the programme wait at least 4 weeks before starting over.