WSBB Blog: 5 Exercises to a Thicker Back

by WSBB Education on October 05, 2020

A Guide To A Thicker Back

The upper back is one of the most important links in the posterior chain. A weak upper back can cause you to lose your torso posture during squats, lose your arch during bench, and miss deadlifts at lockout.

Considering the important role this muscle group plays in the squat, bench, and deadlift, it is crucial to develop these muscles properly. Here are exercises and guidelines to explain how to include upper back training into your accessory work.

 

Barbell Rows

Brace your trunk and use your mid/upper back to complete the rep. These can be done keeping constant tension on the barbell, or you can work heavier and reset from the ground after each rep. Barbell rows should be the first or second accessory exercise you do, and you can do them any upper or lower training day.

  • Suggested set and rep scheme for a heavy day would be 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps, a higher volume day would be 4-6 sets of 10-12 reps.

 

Seal Rows

Seal rows are great for targeting the upper back and deltoid muscles needed to bench press heavy weight. You can set them up flat or incline style to specifically target different mid and upper back muscles. Flat seal rows will target the side and rear deltoid, along with the trapezius. Incline will target the trapezius more specifically, and will typically be done with dumbbells.

  • Suggested set and rep scheme for a heavy day would be 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps, a higher volume day would be 4-6 sets of 10-12 reps.

 

Seated Row Machine

The seated row machine can offer many options to train upper back depending on the attachments you have at the gym. The V-Bar is great when pulled high on the chest directly targeting the upper back. The tricep rope attachment can be used similarly, but provides a greater range of motion.

The hammer grip attachments can be used for heavier sets.

  • Suggested set and rep scheme for a heavy day would be 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps using the hammer grip attachments.
  • A higher volume day would call for 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps.

 

Pull-Ups

One of the simplest, but most effective back exercises that can be utilized. To ensure you’re targeting your upper back you want to use a neutral or close grip for these. Focus on starting the pull with your upper back each rep, avoid overuse of the arms.

  • If you are able to complete higher volume sets of pull-ups the suggested set and rep scheme is 4-6 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • If you struggle with pull-ups the suggested set and rep scheme is 3 sets AMRAP.

 

Face Pulls / Band Pull Aparts

These two are included together because they are an interchangeable week to week option to finish up your upper back training. For face pulls, you will want to use the tricep rope. Initiate the pull by utilizing your upper back and rear deltoids while keeping your elbows elevated at about ear level.

You should lockout with your elbows at ear height with your hands elevated at forehead level. Band pull aparts are performed with a mini-band or light-band at chest level. Focus on using your upper back and rear delts to initiate the pull.

  • Suggested set and rep scheme for face pulls is 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps.
  • Suggested set and rep scheme for band pull aparts is 3-5 sets of 50-75 reps.

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