How to Build a Bigger Back

Best Exercises and Workout

By IFBB Pro Josh Wade

Apply these techniques and I guarantee you will feel your back in a completely different way!

Q: My back is my weakest body part. I have decent back width due to shoulder structure, but I can’t get it any thicker through the mid-back. Can you give any suggestions?

A: Something I talk about a lot 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 of very important things. One is that it provides 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 the squeeze for a split second before slowly controlling the negative all the way till you reach the stretch. You fire the elbows again to force a contraction and repeat this pattern until you can no longer resist the negative. 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 for the next set.

The other thing I feel controlling the negative is very helpful for, especially when 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. There are a few things I see people do all the time when trying to hit the mid-back and instead they use the upper traps and rear delts or lower lats and miss the middle portion. If your elbows are too high when doing rows, then when you fire elbows back you will hit upper traps and rear delts. If you pull toward your belly button, then you hit more lower lats.

The sweet spot for building mid-back is pulling the elbows back right below your chest with your arms at about a 45-degree angle, not tucked in but also not all the way out. 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. You should know you are doing it right when your mid-back is crazy pumped and your 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.

Remember to fire your elbows to force a contraction and then hold the contraction on every rep for a split second before slowly controlling the negative, then reaching for a stretch and exploding the elbows again!

Wide Neutral-Grip Pulldowns: 5×12-10

Superset with

Cable Rope Pullovers: 5×12

Bent-Over Barbell Rows (stay bent over at 90 degrees): 4×12-10

Chest Supported Two-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 4×12*

*I like doing these lying facedown on an incline bench at about a 30-degree angle using an overhand grip 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.

Two-Arm Machine Rows: 4×12**

**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.

Apply these techniques and I guarantee you will feel your back in a completely different way!

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