Many people desire to have a wide, thick back – and for good reason. It is just as important as any other muscle – yes, even as important as your chest and arms. If you participate in bodybuilding competitions often, then you also know that having a good back is what separates you from the rest of the competitors. You can obviously say this for legs as well; however, in general, competitions are won from the back!
Your back is a large muscle, but this does not necessarily mean that you have to use a lot of volume to see growth. Sure, you could get away with doing 30-40 sets on a single back day if you did not train to failure every single set and had a good enough diet to make up for it.
If you read any of the other articles on Muscle-Base, then you would already know how important progressive overload is. What this means is that you are consistently seeing the amount of weight or reps that you are pushing or pulling go up. If you have been using the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps for a year now, then chances are you are not seeing any mass gains. Strength has a great correlation with the amount of size that you have.
With that said, even though your back is a large muscle, you should primarily be focusing on progressive overload; in other words, you really do not have to do a large amount of volume to see increases in size. Focus on continually putting weight on the bar from week to week, month to month, etc. Here is a sample workout that you can choose for your back day:
As you can see, this workout is kept very short and simple. You will be doing your deadlifts which primarily should be targeting your lower back, although since it is a compound exercise, you will be hitting several other muscles as well. After that, you will be hitting up some barbell rows, which is another great movement for your lats. Finally, you will be finishing up with some pull ups and using the lat pulldown machine.
At the end, you could also throw some barbell shrugs in if you pleased. You would be hitting your traps with this exercise; some people enjoy hitting them on their shoulders day. Some other people would rather throw them in on their back day. What I would personally recommend is to have two days per week where you hit your upper body and two days per week where you hit your lower body. With this, you would be hitting your chest, arms, shoulder, and back on your upper days. If you did it this way, you might want to consider lowering the volume of the routine that I listed above though.
One thing that cannot be stressed enough while training your back is keeping good form. Deadlifts are an exercise where many people get hurt at, and this is why it gets perpetuated as a “dangerous exercise.” Sure, it can definitely be dangerous if you have bad form, but that does not mean it is a bad exercise to perform. It can actually be very beneficial if you have your form down.
While performing this movement, you want to make sure that your back is straight at all times. A slight round can be natural and fine, but you should make sure that you are not rounding too much. This is where injuries can occur; you may be able to get away with it for awhile, but it will eventually catch up to you! I would recommend that you bring a camera to the gym and film yourself performing this exercise; you may look like a “tool” in the gym for filming, but it’s better than not realizing your form is awful and end up injured.
Also, you should keep in mind that you are a bodybuilder – not a weight lifter. You are there to train your muscles; you are not there to throw weight around. Perform the exercise to stimulate the muscle as much as possible. If you are using all biceps and shoulders to swing the weight up, then your lats will hardly be getting any stimulation at all. Do not worry about how much weight other people around you are doing. Instead, focus on how much weight that you can safely do in order to get as much stimulation as possible.
Once again, progressive overload is the main key in seeing back growth. If you have been deadlifting 275 lbs for 5 reps for the past three months, then you are doing something wrong! In most cases, the diet is where a lot of people fail. A lot of it has to do with simply not consuming enough calories to grow. By continually putting weight on the bar and keeping a solid diet, you should be able to see some crazy back gains!