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Building a Thick Upper Back?


Since IMO strongmen have some of the thickest upperbacks that have walked the planet, figured I ask here: What do the experienced Strongmen here find what build their upperbacks up the best way?

I'm thinking it's in the "isometrics" off because a lot off Strongmen work. Stone carries, Farmerwalks, Loglifts a lot is also close to the chest. What exercise, that you could do in a gym, would give a simulair result?


I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that most strongmen are in a perpetual state of constant upper back training. It’s not just from the carries and events, hence why there are plenty of non-strongmen who have retarded upper back thickness. I think the upper back in cases of strongmen just gets hit so often that it’s forced to grow over time. The adaptation of insane volume, and haphazard eating that we do just accumulates.

That aside, I think we ALL can be training our backs more. I’m doing some kind of upper back movement in most of my sessions.


I did think about that and started doing more back work. My gymwork is usually this

Monday: Bench (531) , heavy rows, dummbellpress, chins, lowback work, trapwork
Tuesday: Squats (531), RDL’s / hamstring work / lowback, Chins
Friday: Deads (531), abs (hanginglegg raise), Press (531) whatever I feel like, mostly heavy rows.

I’m going to try heavy rows with a 5/10sec hold at the top for a while, see if that gives results.


Mat pulls and safety squat bar squats have gone a LONG way in building my upperback. I also do a ton of band pull aparts every workout.


Would the frontsquat do the same for the upperback if you don’t have a safety squat bar? You wouldn’t be able to use more weight though…
What are mat pulls? Deadlifts off mats?


The front squat would definitely make your upper back strong as fuck, but not likely chiseled.

Your program seems pretty good. I’m doing face pulls or some inversion of it in most of my workouts. At first I’d have constant upper back soreness but it eventually went away and I can feel a lot of thickness in my upper back now. Stone and sandbag extensions are great. I.e. loading a sandbag or a stone basically, but if there is no platform or bar, simply lapping then extending as if you were to load. This s a great posterior chain and entire back trainer.


Thanks! Never thought off using a sandbag. I actually have a 60kg punching bag, wil use that for now!


[quote]Cobblepot wrote:
Would the frontsquat do the same for the upperback if you don’t have a safety squat bar? You wouldn’t be able to use more weight though…
What are mat pulls? Deadlifts off mats?[/quote]

No idea about front squats, I never do them. I just know that a safety squat bar will make your upper back take on a mutant shape, haha.

Mat pulls are deadlifts from mats. It’s like block pulls, but with mats. The shorter ROM and higher starting point really fries my back.


Don’t forget to hit the traps too!

Heavy Shrugs
Lighter Shrugs with a hold at the top
Upright Rows with a Barbell
Upright Rows with a dumbbell/cable, high reps for a pump
Hang Cleans
Power Cleans
High Pulls

Seated Upper Back Goodmornings
Barbell Clean and and Press
Dumbbell Clean

Farmer’s Walk with dumbbells

T-Bar Rows with a 2 count pause at the top and the bottom
V-Bar Pulldowns with 2 count pause at the top and bottom
V-Bar Chin Ups
Bent Over Rows Heavy with a little body english

Any deadlift against bands
Any deadlift with a snatch grip

Like the other guys said, and like you are doing, work your upper back as often as possible. Make sure you get some kind row/chins/shrug movement every week to hit all the angles. Change up the actual exercises as often as you need to stay fresh/motivated.

Do as much back work as possible standing on your feet.

And just in a general way do more sets (6-8) and fewer reps (6-8) than the “traditional” 3x10 setup.


I’ve got a theraband about as thick as my pinky finger from when I tore the labrum in each shoulder and went through rehab. 6 days a week I do 70-140 reps of band pull aparts, can do about 15 clean reps before failure. Creativity is the key, I’ve got about 7 variations that I have found to be useful. I devote one day a weak to try and “isolate” a part of the shoulder/ upper back area. (I know thats not really possible because the shoulder joint involves the most muscles in the body) one day to overhead pull aparts/trap work. One for the lower and middle traps/ rhomboids.

Also be sure to do deadlift and do power cleans each week or do deadlifts and an explosive DB upright row/high pull variation on SEPARATE days. Start off with the 60b dumbbell and do 3x10 each arm 60 secs rest. Add a set each week till 5x10 then jump up 5 pounds. 6 months later when you are doing the 100Lb DB’s and have done the band pull aparts, chin-ups, deads and cleans each week you will see a significant difference in shoulder width and upper back thickness and development. i.e the 3-D developed look.

Also about once a month throw about 85% or so of your deadlift max on the bar. Get 10mins worth of holds using a snatch grip, don’t use straps until you need to. Make each set no less than 45 secs because you need to get a high muscular tension and muscular shock in order to produce hypertrophy.