Build Thick and Wide Back With This Workout Program

The biggest mistake when programming for back size is only taking the lats into consideration. Though we’re all after that V-shape, the spinal erectors are really the support base for the entire posterior core.

For that reason, for the next 4 weeks we’re not just going to row. We’re going to get a good balance of strength and hypertrophy-based movements that fulfil the main purpose of the back musculature: stabilising the spine.

Weights that used to feel impossibly heavy will start to feel easily manageable. A thick back will let you hold heavy things on your shoulders and not crumble.

Here’s an outline of the movements we’re going to use:

Active Thoracic Extension and Lumbar Anti-Flexion

With these movements we’re moving the torso, forcing the back to extend or remain stable against resistance. In the deadlift and good morning, we don’t want lumbar rounding, though some in the thoracic region is acceptable.

We don’t want lumbar flexion in the seated good morning either, yet we want active thoracic extension from intentional rounding.

  • Target Muscles: Erector Spinae
  • Exercises: Seated Good Morning, Good Morning, Deadlift

Seated good mornings are a great accessory lift for those who lose their squats and front squats forward. Use an Elite FTS Safety Squat Yoke bar for these, but a straight bar, thick bar pad, and lifting straps are workable substitutes.

You’ll want to use a pad because as the shoulders roll forward, the bar will follow onto your neck. The pad keeps the bar sitting farther back and off the vertebrae.

Lumbar and Thoracic Anti-Flexion

In these movements the goal is to keep the spine stable, forcing the spinal erectors to resist lumbar and thoracic flexion. The front squat is optimal because the anterior weight placement pits the user against high thoracic flexion forces.

Remaining vertical with heavy weights requires tremendous back and core strength. Consequently, most people are poor front-squatters. It’s also important to note that the erector spinae assist in lateral spine movement, so including some unsupported unilateral work is a good idea.

  • Primary Muscles Involved: Erector Spinae
  • Exercises: Front Squat, Barbell Row, Farmers Walk, Split-Stance Dumbbell Row

Low, Vertical and Horizontal Rowing

  • Target Muscles: Latissimus dorsi, traps, rhomboids
  • Exercises: Chest Supported Row, Barbell Row, Chin-Up and Pull-Up, Split-Stance Dumbbell Row, Heavy Face Pull

If you’re not doing dumbbell chest supported rows, start immediately. Everyone needs more scapular depression. Pause and squeeze the shoulder blades hard, back, and down.

Rep Ranges and Tempo

For a great balance of size and strength, an undulating model using 6 and 10-12 rep ranges is best. Crazy variety isn’t the goal, so many of the best exercises are performed twice per week: a 10-12 rep day and a 6 rep day.

Both days will build size, but the 6-rep sets will be the strengthening component to help us add weight on higher rep days.

Because size is a major goal of this programme, tempo is important and we want to use slower eccentrics with our higher-rep sets. After all, if the reps are in a hypertrophy range, we should use a tempo that’s concurrent with that goal.

With 6-rep sets, weights will be too heavy to use a very long eccentric or concentric phase. So, for 6-reps we need to power the weight up and lower it as controlled as we can, usually in the two second range.

  • Sets of 10-12 Reps: 3020 tempo (three seconds down, no pause at bottom, two
  • Sets of 6 Reps: 2010 tempo (two seconds down, no pause, one second up, no pause)

The Back Workout Program

Day 1 – Monday

Exercise Sets Reps
A Deadlift 4 5
B1 Chest Supported Row 4 6
B2 Heavy Face Pull 3 10-12
C1 Seated Good Morning 4 6
C2 Foot-Elevated Push-Up 3 failure

Day 2 – Tuesday

Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Medium Chin-Up 5 6
A2 Incline Bench Press 4 6
B1 Good Morning or Romanian Deadlift 4 10-12
B2 One-Arm Dumbbell Row 4 6/6
C Heavy Suitcase Carry 5-10 min.

Day 3 – Wednesday – OFF

Day 4 – Thursday

Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Barbell Row 5 6
A2 Barbell Overhead Press 4 6
B1 Seated Good Morning 3 10-12
B2 Split-Stance Dumbbell Row 3 6/6
B3 Glute-Ham Raise 3 6

Day 5 – Friday

Exercise Sets Reps
A Front Squat* 4 8
B1 Good Morning 4 6
B2 Wide Pull-Up 4 10-12
C1 Heavy Farmers Walk 3 2 min.
C2 Chest Supported Row 3 10-12

* 10RM weight with no specified tempo, rest 90 seconds between sets