How to Build a Bigger Back

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Muscle

Today I want to share 5 tips with you about how to build a bigger back.

Because it’s not a “show muscle,” and you can’t see it in the mirror the back is often neglected or trained improperly.

This is a huge mistake seeing how a thick, wide back is far more impressive than almost any other muscle group.

1) Learn to Arch Properly

Before you do another set of horizontal or vertical pulling you need to be 100% sure that you can arch your back properly. Most people can’t for the first few months of training.

Strippers and fitness models, however, can  (See the accompanying photo).  So either go to a strip club or fitness contest and study their form intently or follow my instructions below.

In order to know what a proper arch feels like, lay face down on the ground. Now put your hands behind your head and lift your chest up off the ground as high as you can.  Hold it there.

Feel that tightness in your lower back? That’s a proper arch. And that’s what I want you to feel on every set of rows that you do.

If you do a set without a proper arch the muscles can not contract properly, and if you are doing any type of bent over row you will be putting yourself in a dangerous situation and risking an injury.

Your lower back must always remain arched and your chest must remain puffed out throughout your entire set.

2) Use Picture Perfect Technique

Most people use horrible form when training their backs and it shows.

I constantly witness guys flopping up and down on the chin up bar with horrendous form. Their chests are caved in and their shoulders rounded forward in the top position.

This takes all the stress of the muscles you are trying to train. And it’s one of the things that leads to crappy lat and upper back development.

Always keep your chest up during each and every rep. When you do this you won’t be able to get as high. Don’t worry about it, though. Your chest doesn’t have to hit the bar.

As long as your chin clears it you’re fine. Some bigger guys or people with shoulder issues won’t even get that high. It doesn’t matter as long as your form is perfect.

Trying to pull yourself too high takes the stress of the lats and causes your technique to break down. Lat growth goes out the window when this happens.

Squeezing out a few more reps with rounded shoulders and a concaved chest is a waste of time and will only slow down your recovery ability. So just drop off the chin up bar when you can’t maintain proper form or use a band to assist you (which is highly recommended if you can’t do at least five picture perfect reps with bodyweight).

3) Improve Your Mind-Muscle Connection

Many people can’t feel their backs which is a major reason why they don’t grow. I suggest you try the following drill before doing chin ups:

Bend your arm 90 degrees and extend it over head. Now have a partner place his palm on your triceps muscle. As he resists you push down using only the strength of your lats.

It will help increase the mind-muscle connection if he places his other hand on your lat. Do this for a few reps on each side a minute or so before doing a set of chins.

Try to lock in that feeling of driving down with your elbows.

Don’t think of pulling with your biceps when you do chin ups but rather imagine that the weight is behind your elbows and you have to drive them down and back.

The next thing you can do is have a partner stand behind you when you are doing chins and place his hands on your lats so that you can feel them throughout the set. Having him slap or chop them would be an even better idea.

It might look a little bizarre to other members of your gym but these are the sacrifices you gotta make.

If you hold hands with him between sets it won’t seem as odd.

if anyone knew how to build a bigger back it was Yates

4) Drop the Weight You Use on Rows

You’ve heard me reiterate the importance of going heavy a thousand times over. But going heavy is relative.

You have to go heavy with a weight that allows you to use perfect form, in the target range of motion, while feeling all of the tension in the belly of the muscle; not the joints or the spine.

Just heaving up heavy weights with shithouse form does very little except set you up for an injury. If you can’t feel your back or it won’t grow as fast as other body parts then you need to take a step back and start over with much lighter weights.

Focus on the tips I listed above and be sure that you are pulling with the lats and squeezing the shoulder blades together on every rep.

5) Stretch the Lats Between Sets

One final tip that has proven very successful in helping people build a bigger back is to stretch the lats between sets. Immediately after each set of chin ups or rows you do, stretch your lats for 10-20 seconds and then take your prescribed rest period.

After your last set of the day get a really deep stretch in the belly of your lats and hold it for sixty seconds. The best options here are either hanging from a chin up bar or grabbing a power rack with one hand while squatting down and pulling away from it.

Bonus Tip: I know the title said five steps but I’m in the giving mood so here’s one more for ya…

Immediately after your last set of lat stretches go right into an intense lat contraction. The best way to do this would be to do the classic bodybuilder lat spread pose.

Again, this may look a little odd to do in a public gym, but it’s nothing compared to some of the embarrassing shit I do on a daily basis.

If you’re mortified to be seen doing this, as you should be, you might consider just running into the mens room and hitting your pose in there. It’s your call.

Please leave your comments below.