Take a look at most people around you, chances are that most of the people you will see will be out of shape and that’s the truth. Then there’s that little percentage of people who train and lift weights and most of them all look the same. Most people who train have overdeveloped chest muscles, big arms, small legs, terrible back development and shitty posture. I RARELY ever see anybody with a back that’s worth giving a second look. The back is one comprised of so many muscle groups and it makes a HUGE difference on how you look, it’s a work of art. I want what most people don’t have, don’t you?
Today I will give you 10 reasons why your back isn’t as thick and wide as you want it to be. You see, some people have wide backs but when you look at them from the side it looks like a piece of paper. While others have very thick backs but they lack width. For a complete back, you have to have the thickness and the width so you look good from all angles (even the front). Of course, a big strong back could also help you tremendously in sports as well. So here are the 10 reasons why your back doesn’t look as good as it could:
1) YOU CAN’T FEEL YOUR BACK WORKING PROPERLY!
Feeling your back working properly isn’t an easy task at first but it’s not rocket science either, but it’s going to take a lot of practice (It’s bad enough that we can’t see our back in the first place). If you want to feel a better contraction, then you must learn how to arch your back properly. If you don’t know how to arch your back, then you will have a hard time getting your back to contract because your set up will be off. One of the ways I like to teach people to arch their back is to keep their chest up when they contract the muscle. This tip will help you feel your back a lot better at the top of the movement. There are dozens of other tips I can give you such as:
• Lead with the elbows
• Use lighter weights until you actually feel it (if your back is sore the next day then chances are that you hit that part of your back to a certain degree).
• Practice technique daily with a broomstick to get the feel of contracting your back properly. Like Dan John says; “if it’s important then do it every day”.
2) YOU’RE NOT TRAINING YOUR BACK HARD ENOUGH AND FOCUSING ON PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD.
This tip is obvious, but its common sense. If you are doing dumbbell rows with 50lb this year, then you had better be at least 60lb within the next few months. If you’re not progressing, then there is no reason for your body to grow. To force growth into a certain muscle, you have to make it adapt to a certain training effect. If you always do the same thing, then you are basically teaching your body how to maintain.
3) YOU’RE TRYING TO DO TOO MUCH AT ONCE.
As a natural lifter you can’t dramatically bring up every muscle group at once. If you have too many goals, then it gets harder to keep track of progress because there is too much to focus on. If you are serious about getting a thicker and wider back, then make that your goal for a few months. You can still train your legs, delts and chest hard but the back will be at the top of the priority list.
4) YOU’RE NOT PRIORITIZING BACK AND DOING IT FIRST IN THE WEEK.
Don’t expect to get a big back if you are just doing it in the middle of the week. Do the important things first so you can put your energy in the appropriate places, this is also known as the priority principle.
5) YOUR VOLUME AND FREQUENCY ARE WAY TOO LOW.
This is one thing that I can’t stress enough. Nobody ever got a big back (drug free) by training it once per week. I train my back 5 times per week but I hit it in different ways every day. Here’s an example of the program I am doing now.
Monday: Chest and Back: I do pressing variations for chest along with rowing variations.
Tuesday: Lower body: I squat and do some RDL’s which hit the whole back along with High pulls which hit the posterior chain and the upper back.
Wed: Neck work at home
Thursday: Back and Shoulders: Rack Pulls, Rowing variations, Pull-Ups, rear delt work and vertical pressing.
Friday: Lower Body: Basically the same as Tuesday but with higher reps on the squats and rdl’s but same rep range on the Olympic lift (5×5).
Saturday: Bodyweight day (Pull-ups, chin-ups, Dips, front lever work and push-up variations) mostly to get a good pump and have fun.
Sunday: Rest or neck work if I feel like it.
My frequency is high, my volume is high, my posture gets better and my back is growing. I don’t do high super high frequency training with pressing movements because my shoulders will tend to bother me if I am pressing more than 3 days per week.
6) YOU’RE NOT DOING ANY DEADLIFT VARIATIONS (CONVENTIONAL, SUMO, ROMANIAN, RACK PULL, ETC.)
I used to be very anti deadlift but they are key when you are trying to build a big back. The deadlift variation you do isn’t super important, but the important thing is that you pick one and you go heavy. I don’t do conventional deadlifts because they take too much out of me and I don’t feel them in one particular place. I like rack pulls because I could really focus on my upper back and I like RDL’s because they give me a chance to really focus on my hamstrings. If you are trying to get a big back in a hurry, then I would suggest that you pick rack pulls. Rack pulls basically take the legs out of the movement so you get to really hammer your back.
7) YOU’RE NOT DOING ANY HEAVY FREE WEIGHT ROWS.
Rows on a machine are great, but you should be prioritizing heavy free weight rows (preferably with a barbell). You can use dumbbells too but the barbell lets you go heavier so you can really overload your back. I would suggest that you do both to get the best of both worlds. My favorite rowing variations with a barbell are:
• Pendlay Rows
• T-Bar Rows
• Barbell rows
8) YOU’RE NOT DOING PULL-UPS OR CHIN-UP VARIATIONS.
Pull-ups and Chin-ups are known as the upper body squat and I actually agree. This exercise has really made a difference in the way my lats look and I look a lot wider back of them. Make sure that you are incorporating pull-ups in your program to get that width in your lats.
9) YOU DON’T EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT GRIPS.
I always see people using the same grips on the same exercises for back and that’s one of the reasons why their back always looks the same. For overall development it’s good to change your grips on rows, pull-ups and even deadlifts. If you want to spice things up with your deadlifts, then try snatch grip deadlifts or snatch grip rack pulls and your upper back will blow up.
10) YOU’RE NOT INCLUDING ANY OLYMPIC LIFTS IN YOUR PROGRAMMING.
One thing that all Olympic lifters have in common is that they all have huge traps and upper backs. If you want that power look then you have to include some sort of explosive pulling for low reps. I honestly don’t care which one you pick, but you should pick one or two Olympics and do them about twice per week. I like Cleans, high pulls and snatches but if I were to only pick one it would be the snatch grip high pull because it is one of the easiest Olympic lift variations to learn and it’s the easiest on the shoulders, elbows and wrists.
11) YOU’RE NOT SQUEEZING AND CONTRACTING YOUR BACK HARD ENOUGH OF EVERY REP.
Most people don’t understand when I say that they aren’t squeezing their back hard enough. Johnnie Jackson has one of the best backs in bodybuilding and he once said that squeezing the target muscle brings 10-15% more blood into that muscle that could potentially lead to growth.
12) YOU’RE NOT GETTING A NICE STRETCH ON YOUR ROWS AND PULL-UP VARIATIONS.
This is what bodybuilding is all about in a nutshell, how well you can stretch and squeeze the muscle with the most amount of weight possible. You always hear bodybuilders repeating over and over again “stretch and squeeze”. This doesn’t apply to Olympic lifts and other specific exercises.
13) YOU’RE NOT DOING PUMP WORK AT THE END OF YOUR WORKOUT.
I don’t want you to only focus on pump work, but bodybuilders have the biggest backs and most of them do pump work at the end of their workouts. Examples of good exercises for pump work would be like lat pullovers, high rep rows, pull-ups or whatever. Arnold was really big on the pump and even though I think its a bit overrated, nobody can deny the fact that it could still contribute to a big back. The only thing to make sure is that you do your heavy work before jumping into pump work. As a bonus, pump work will help you improve your mind muscle connection.
14) YOU DON’T STRETCH YOUR LATS.
Tight lats aren’t good when you are trying build a big back and tight lats could also lead to possible upper body injuries if they are too tight.
15) YOU’RE NOT DOING UNILATERAL BACK WORK.
Unilateral work will help you prevent getting imbalances in your back (one lat bigger than the other). I used to have one lat bigger than the other because I wasn’t doing enough dumbbell rows and I always had my backpack on my right shoulder for years. An unbalanced back looks stupid if you ask me and it defeats the purpose so be sure to throw in some dumbbell rows.
So there you have it, these are some back tips that could really help you build a bigger back. Try not to complicate things and remember that it takes time to build a big back that deserves a second or third glance. It might take you years or even decades, but the results will definitely be worth it, mark my words.