Building Up A Thicker Back

Recently, I’ve noticed that I have a wider back, but the thickness isn’t quite where I want it to be. I’ve heard bent over rows and deadlifts are perfect for building the back, however when it comes to things like volume, and ORM % I’m sort of at a loss and don’t know what to do. I’d love to hear any suggestions/new ideas as I love the learning aspect of bodybuilding.

Here are my “stats” if that helps:
age: 17
height: 5’8
weight:176 lbs
Bench: 225
Squat: 300
Deadlift: 315

To build muscle you’ll need to complete the eccentric portion of a lift. This is where deadlifts fall short. You don’t exactly lower 300lbs in a slow and controlled manner. Deadlifts also tend to only work your back in an isometric manner. Basically any other exercise that has an eccentric phase should help. The back can handle quite a bit of volume when training rows and similar movements. Pick a couple exercises and do them for about 8 weeks before switching to different exercises.

If you’re deadlifting then I’d stay away from bent over rows because your lower back will fatigue before your mid traps and lats. Pick versions that support your chest so all of your energy goes into the targeted muscles (DB rows with hand and knee on a bench, Incline DB Row, machines, etc)

Do 3-4 sets of 10. I’ve been doing 2x10, then one double rest pause set (max reps, rest 15 sec, max reps, rest 15 sec, max reps).


awesome thanks! I usually switch from deadlifts to rows from workout to workout (one workout I have deadlifts and leave out rows and the next is vice versa) would that be a good idea or are you saying just stick with deadlifts?

Snatch grip dead - focus on the eccentric.

use a 305 second eccentric - these will crush your back

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Yeah just lots of dumbell rows as an assitance lift, alternate between heavy one week like 4x6 and volume the next 3x15-20. Further down the line can implement kroc rows. Hammer strength machines nice if have access to them also

Obviously intelligent programming/steady progress of the deadlift should be the priority, try and control the negative as mentioned above.

What do you row (either barbell or dumbbell)? How many chins/pull-ups can you do? When we’re talking about back training, those are kinda relevant.

Also, what does your current training look like - the exercises, sets, and reps? And roughly how fat or lean are you (see abs, muffin top, etc.), for context?

This is a pretty solid article that talks about how to focus on thickness, width, or whatever. But really, I think a lot of it comes down to you just being young and needing to put in more time building your overall base. I can almost guarantee you’re not really “lacking thickness”.

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I’ve never maxed out on rows (barbell btw) but if I can make a very rough estimate I would say 135-150
Chin ups 20
Pull ups 18
I do a push/legs/pull split

For my push days it’s flat bench and flyes, both are 4x10 and then lateral raises and tricep extensions with 3x8, and smith machine shoulder press and that’s 3x6
Pull days are deadlifts and rows along with pull ups and most if not all are 5x8 with the exception that pull ups are 5x10 with different grips
legs are split between quads and hamstrings (one leg day I focus on quads and the next I focus on hamstrings)
I have visible abs however I have never gotten a bodyfat test either.
if any of that helps.

Thanks for the article dude! I really appreciate it

Focus on getting your dead and row numbers up and your back will swell up. Just get stronger on those. And hit your traps and rear delts hard. Your back will look immensely bigger after hitting traps, rear delts and rows hard

For deadlifts keep the reps lower, both for strength and to prevent form breaking down -do 5x5 or ‘25 rep method’ here…

I think @Frank_C and @Chris_Colucci nailed it. My go to back exercises are Kroc rows (and I like following them with lighter back off sets too), T-bar rows and/or dumbbell chest supported rows. I can’t speak about pull-ups much because my elbows have had a bad relationship with them until quite recently although if you can do pull-ups often without any issues, do so. Fatman pull-ups with straps or a TRX are my favourite non pull-up pull-up.

In terms of sets and reps and programming, I like to get some back work in whenever I train. Usually I’ll have 50 to 100 reps of T-bar rows on one day, Kroc rows and back off sets on another and then pull-ups and fatman pull-ups spread cross the remaining days between squat or deadlift warm-ups.

In addition to the above, my upper back got a lot thicker when I added 50 band pullaparts AND facepulls to my daily routine. I got a miniband and alternated sets of 25 every afternoon for 6 weeks focusing on getting a pump.

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Update: Okay max for rows is higher I did a back workout the other day and did 4x6 bent over rows at a 45-degree angle at 150 lbs (barbell)

Just added Kroc rows into my routine, thanks for everything y’all!

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So do you just do one really heavy set of 50-100 reps on T bar rows or 5-10 sets of t bar rows?

I’ll go heavier if I do 50 than if I do 100, but I don’t do sets of a specific number of reps. I get my total reps done in as few sets as possible. When I can do the total in three sets, I’ll add weight.

The only part of my body that is even semi developed is my back. I’m gonna take a different stance then some of the others here. Barbell rows with some body english, hang cleans, hang clean pulls, hang snatches, hang snatch pulls, and other barbell pulls make a huge difference for me. People seem to disregard the eccentric on explosive pulls, but catching something from the hang back to a hang is a huge eccentric load, it’s just over quickly. I notice a ton of soreness and growth progress with high-ish rep explosive pulls.

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I am not strong as some here but I also do a lot of high pulls only 3 reps though. My back is built through them and shrugs . My gym has recently added a chest supported row . I think they incredible for back development.
Deadlifts probably will be enough if you are short and stocky but not if you are taller.

Band pull aparts followed by face pulls really helped develop my upper back/ rear delts. I use an elitefts mini band (red) for sets of 50-150 about 3 days a week (50 reps for warm up on bench and deadlift days, 150 broken up and superset w face pulls on OHP day). Also paused at or just below the knee snatch grip deadlifts work well. Just do them with a much lighter weight and a slow tempo.