How to Build A Massive Back (Optimal sets, rep ranges, and exercises)

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How To Get A Big AF Back

Talking about muscles in the back, the first thing we want to do is identify the main muscle groups.


Let’s begin by talking about the lats.

Latissimus Dorsi

The lats help the body do multiple different tasks. The lats contribute to helping raise the arms. They also contribute to helping to raise and alter the torso.


In a sport like swimming, the lats contribute to how the stroke output is executed. Lats also contribute to the body’s ability to execute pull-ups. And finally, the lats also contribute to breathing events (think about doing Wim Hoff–the lats play a role in how the diaphragm and torso are controlled).

Erectors Spinae

The erector's main job is to protect and stabilize the spine. The erectors also help the torso rotate from side to side. Ever have lower back pain? Oftentimes, the erectors are a usual suspect and culprit behind that back pain.

Trapezius

The traps are responsible for controlling and moving the head. They also play a role in lifting the arms, how the torso moves, and stabilizing the spine. Large traps are also necessary to look yoked.

Rhomboids

My favorite muscle group in the entire back, the rhomboids also contribute to stabilizing the spine, stabilizing the shoulder girdle, and scapular retraction. The rhomboids are also responsible for shrugging movements.  


With the knowledge-based of the basic muscle groups that contribute to developing a strong AF back, let’s dive into the exercises that can be done to make that back thick, swole, yoked, and strong AF.

1. Kneeling Snatch Shrug

This exercise is a little complicated. Kneeling on a pad and having a snatch grip, we want to use our hips and try to get a nice action at the top of the shrug. The movement should be rapid-fire like a piston in an engine. The hips go back on every subsequent rep, but the barbell doesn’t touch the ground until the set is complete. 


Wearing straps, and doing sets of 15 to 17 reps is plausible. The traps and rear delts will be lit up.

2. Trap Bar Raise

Similar to a drag curl but done with a trap bar, it is the movement that develops that no neck yoked swollenness. Don’t be scared to use a little hip drive and yank that trap bar up with a solid squeeze at the top. 


Another movement will blow up the traps with the bonus of blowing up the biceps. I recommend when training the traps because they are slower twitched, doing 20 to 25 reps to make the body experience all the sought-after gains.

3. Pull-Ups & Rope Climbs

Training the lats we need to think about calisthenics and bodyweight exercises. One of the main things we want to focus on is doing things over a long duration and trying to move our body weight. That is why doing pull-ups is incredible for developing big lats. Better yet, doing pull-ups on the rings will enable a greater range of motion.


Rope climbs are also phenomenal for developing lat strength, especially for huskier athletes.

4. Seated Dumbbell Good Morning

I love this exercise for erectors. Sitting on a bench, pick up a dumbbell in a Zercher-like hold, and then bend the trunk nice and deep. Come up and arch at the top. Think round at the bottom and arch at the top. Round. Arch.

massive back workout

The erectors get a massive pump from the slight round at the bottom and the arch at the top. The erectors are part of stabilization and protecting the spine; they are also a slow twitch muscle group. Slow twitch muscles need more time under tension. Doing sets of 30 to 40 reps is how to get the back strong AF.

5. Rotational Back Extensions

This exercise which targets the erectors focuses more on rotation and is sess its results catalyzed using a hydro-weight. The exercise can improve strength in the piriformis and glute-mead as well.

In a back extension apparatus, put the hydro-weight on the back and alternate driving the elbows down before extending back up rapidly. Do this for 12 to 15 reps for each side, the erectors will get blown up. The use of the hydro-weight will require more stability and help with dynamic trunk control as well.

6. Chest Supported Rows & Seal Rows

Doing pull-ups and rope climbs is great to stimulate lat growth and strength. There is also a lot of research that supports a ton of lat growth and lat strength can come from doing rows. With dumbbells in each hand and laying on a raised bench, go ahead and row the weights for sets of 15 to 20 reps. 


Old school bodybuilders loved to do heavy chest-supported barbell rows (which can even be called a seal row). The exercise can be done for sets of 10, 12, or 15 reps. Want to load the barbell up heavily to stimulate strength in the back? Go ahead and do sets of 3 to 7 reps.

7. Meadow Swings

The rhomboids are essentially a small muscle group that needs to be a big support to the traps, lats, and erectors. The rhomboids play a massive role in improving the bench press and jerks. That is where one of my favorite exercises to improve rhomboid strength, the Meadows swings, comes into play.

Chest down on an incline bench holding dumbbells in each hand, we want to squeeze the rhomboids and lift the weight to around parallel with the perched torso. A big key is to not allow the dumbbells to clank together as they return to the center. Do sets of 20 to 25 reps. As the body becomes more and more fatigued, the range of motion can be shortened. The focus needs to be on retracting the scaps to lead to serious gains in rhomboid strength.

8. Rhomboid Flies

Palms forward, sitting on a bench, chest down to the quads, holding dumbbells, do just a little bit of a reverse fly. The key factor is to keep the palms forward and continually try to squeeze the spine with the scaps. 

Do 17 to 20 reps to get a nice pump in the rhomboids. 

Recap

Crash course on the anatomy of the back? Check. Specific exercises to train the back muscles? Check. Rep ranges to get strong AF, swole AF, and yoked to the high heavens? Check. Now go out and implement it into training and reap the rewards.

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Yo, It's Dane

Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!

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