Build a Big Back!

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build a big back

Build a Big Back!

A thick and sweeping back is a key ingredient for a well developed physique. Developing the back requires a varied approach in exercise choice due to the number of muscles which composes the upper back. The back muscle which is commonly targeted is the latissimus dorsi, commonly referred to as the “lats”. This large muscle makes up the majority of the back width and is best targeted with pull downs, using both wide and narrow grips. The other notable muscle structure of the upper back is the trapezius, known commonly as “traps”. The trapezius is generally split into lower, middle and upper portions when discussed from an exercise perspective, due to the varied direction of the muscle fibres. The other smaller upper back muscles, such as the rhomboids and teres, are well stimulated from the pull downs and rowing variations.

First exercise: Wide Grip Pull Down
Targets: Latissimus Dorsi
Reps/Sets: 8 reps 4 sets

The wide grip pull down is a great exercise choice for targeting the latissimus dorsi, responsible greatly for the width of the back. Although this exercise primarily targets the latissimus dorsi, addition back muscles such as the rhomboids and teres, will be recruited during the exercise.

Once strength has been built up using the pull down machine the next step in progression is to the free hanging wide grip pull up. Additional resistance can be added via a dipping belt for further progression past performing the pull up only with bodyweight.

Instructions:

  • Ensure the correct weight is selected and the wide grip handle is attached to the high pulley.
  • Grip the bar with a width slightly greater to shoulder width, and sit down on the seat with the thighs under the pads.
  • The torso should remain erect and stationary throughout the exercise.
  • Pull the bar towards the chest in a controlled manner, without leaning back excessively.
  • Once the bar reaches the chest, pause, contract the back, and reverse the movement back to the beginning position.
  • Repeat for repetitions.

Second exercise: Dumbbell Rows
Targets: Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Middle Trapezius, Lower Trapezius, Teres
Reps/Sets: 8 reps 4 sets

Said by many to be the ultimate exercise for a thick back, the dumbbell row is a great unilateral back exercise which recruit’s the main back muscles effectively. The dumbbell variation also allows for the body to be supported by a bench, and the greater freedom results in a greater range of motion in comparison to the barbell row.

Perform the row in a controlled manner, focusing on the action of bringing the upper arm back opposed to the flexion of the arm.

Instructions:

  • Pick a suitable weighted dumbbell and place it next to a flat bench.
  • Place one knee on the bench, with the other leg slightly bent whilst still standing upright. Learn forward and use the arm on the same side as the supported knee to support the torso. The torso should now be learn forward, fully supported, with good posture.
  • Pick up the dumbbell, and in a controlled manner row the dumbbell towards the midsection.
  • Once at the top of the movement, pause, contract, and slowly lower the weight to the starting position.
  • Repeat for repetitions.
  • Swap over onto the next arm and repeat for the same number of repetitions to ensure muscle balance.

Third exercise: High Cable Row
Targets: Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Middle Trapezius, Lower Trapezius, Teres
Reps/Sets: 8 reps 4 sets

The high row is an uncommon exercise which can offer a great plane of resistance to target the back muscles. Performing the row from a resistance slightly above head height results in great latissimus dorsi recruitment, whilst recruiting the other back muscles which are responsible for the retraction of the scapula. The use of the cable has the added benefit of universal resistance throughout the exercise, great for continuous muscle stimulation.

Instructions:

  • Set the weight stack to the correct setting.
  • Grasp the row handle, and sit down on the pad. Place feet on foot placements for greater stability, with a slight bend in the knees.
  • With the torso erect and maintaining good posture, pull the row handle towards the chest, with minimal torso movement.
  • Pause at peak contraction, and then slowly reverse the movement back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for repetitions.

An additional exercise which could be added to this workout if wishing to target the upper fibres of the trapezius is the dumbbell shrug. Some also alternatively choose to decide to target the upper trapezius fibres during a shoulder workout, and some do not directly target the upper trapezius at all.

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