Mass Building Back Workout

Today's workout focuses on building a thick, dense back. This session will hit the larger muscles of the back: the traps, rhomboids and lats, to build overall mass.

Exercise 1: Single arm lat pulldown

Variation 2 of this movement.

There are two ways that you could set this up. 1) position yourself kneeing in the middle of 2 wide set cable stacks. Using a D handle set up high on the stack, pull your elbow into the torso, through the midline of the body. 2) Alternatively, using a cable lat pulldown machine, attach a single D handle. This will position the weight in front of the body, rather than to the side. Try both and see which one you get the best connection with. The aim here isn't to go as heavy as possible, but to pump blood into the lats so that they remain engaged throughout the session. Aim for sets of 12-15 per arm.

Exercise 2: Single arm plate loaded row

Plate loaded rows allow us to go heavy without the lower back strain of a dumbbell or barbell variation. Grip the chest pad with the non-working arm to secure position and don't go so heavy that the spine is having to rotate to thrust the weight back. Straps will assist grip strength here. Look at a heavy top set of 6-10 reps then drop the weight for a back off set of 8-12.

Exercise 3: Rack pull

This will be the 'big' movement of the day. Now that the back has already been worked, you can ensure that you are getting as much recruitment from the muscles you want to target as possible in this exercise, without being overly fatigued. Set the bar up just under the knee. Keeping the bar close to the body at all times and without any rounding in the back, pull up until the legs are straightened and glutes are slightly contracted. There is no need to go into excessive spinal flexion. Straps and a lifting belt may be beneficial for heavier sets. No less than 6 reps here.

Exercise 4: DB lat pullover

An often overlooked but incredibly valuable exercise! Instead of laying on the bench as you would for a flat press, lay across the bench with the upper back supported only. Begin resting the weight on your chest and extend the dumbbell straight back behind you until you feel a slight pull in the lats. Avoid any tricep recruitment.

Exercise 5: Narrow grip cable row

The second row movement of this session, this time a narrower grip, using both arms and the cable stack. Avoid throwing the body back, keep the position of the back strong and pull in, controlling the negative.

Exercise 6: Rear fly machine

The rear delts are easily neglected when focusing on heavier pull movements, and are underdeveloped in many people, especially compared to the traps. 2 working sets at the end of every upper body session should keep them in check! Usually worked best in a mid-high rep range, have a training partner check that they are actually doing the work, and other areas of the back aren't compensating. If you are struggling to establish a mind-muscle connection, you may need to drop the weight.


If you find that your back is a lagging body part, try to hit it twice a week. For example, your split might look like: push/pull/legs/rest/upper/lower/rest.

In this way, back can be trained both on the pull day, and the upper day. Upper may start with a heavy barbell row and incorporate lateral raises and some arm isolation work.

About the Author

Savannah Westerby, BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition. IG:@savannahwesterby
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