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How Much Back Work Do YOU Do?

Up until the past year or so I did not deadlift and all of my back work came in the form of bodybuilding style workouts. I’d do pull-ups, various rows, pull-downs, reverse fly’s, etc. I always made sure to do more pulling exercises/reps than pressing exercises/reps.

I’ve always emphasized my back over my chest and delts so I didn’t fall into the trap of only training the beach muscles. Now I train deadlifts twice per week and supplement with power cleans or high pulls. So here’s my question: How much back work do YOU do?

Is deadlifting enough? Does it count at all (in terms of training for balance and symmetry)?

I’m just trying to find a new balance in my programming. Deadlifting takes up a good chunk of time on my back or pulling day and I find that I don’t have a lot of energy left for much afterwards.

I’m not looking for program advice or anything; this is simply an information gathering thread.


Edit/Addition: How many exercises, total sets or reps do you do? Do you follow a ratio of pulling to pushing (i.e. 2:1, 3:2, etc)? And most importantly, how is it working for you?

I pull from the floor 3x a week (snatch / clean / dl)
I row 2-3x a week (bb or db)
I do chins 2-3x a week (all grips)
I do back extensions for a few sets before every workout
I try to front squat 1x a week
I do band pull aparts at the end of every training session

I have that Olympic lifting mentality though. Back strength is everything lol. I find it VERY hard to overdo your upper back. Your lower back is a bit more sensitive, but you can build up tolerance in my opinion.

My back without a doubt is my strongest and most muscular out of all my body. But I’m in the belief that having a strong back and core are the 2 most important parts of your body.

I don’t have any ratios, but every time I press I pull.


I enjoy my pulling work but I’m really not sure how to count deadlift variations in the grand scheme of things. Is 30 reps of deadlifts similar to 30 reps of rows? It’s obviously more demanding, but does it accomplish the same thing in terms of muscle development?

Experience is the best answer so I’m just curious how everyone else has approached this. I don’t think you can overdo it but I also find myself moving away from my marathon lifting sessions.

For the sake of sharing, here’s what I used to do before I added deadlifts to the mix. I typically try to get around 25-30 reps per exercise. I also try to counter my pressing workouts so if I did bench then I’ll do rows; if I did OHP then I’ll do a pull-down. My old sessions looked like this:

Pull-Ups 30 reps
Rows 30 reps
Pull Downs or an angled row for 30 reps
And then 30 reps of reverse fly’s or face pulls

I used to do that twice a week whether I was following a 4 or 6 day plan.

Now I’m doing deadlifts with Training Maximally approach (working up to a heavy single) followed by 3-5 sets of power cleans or high pulls, and then 3 sets of pull-ups and 3 sets of reverse fly’s or face pulls.

I’m always paranoid that I’m not doing enough pulling and I feel like I’ve been slacking with this recent routine.

almost certainly not. But of course, the weight being used is a huge factor, as deadlifts are generally trained heavier than rows. Perhaps RDL’s are a more a propos comparison.

So y’all don’t often see my back because that’s not how gym selfies work, but I would say my back development is better than my… front? … development. Particularly my lower back. I mostly attribute that to a lot of heavy work, specifically heavy deadlifting. The only other truly consistent back movement I’ve had in my routine for the last 7 years has been pull ups. I’ve done a fair bit of rowing, but I’ve probably done pull ups at a 3 or 4:1 ratio compared to any type of rows. I generally do something in the range of 5 sets of 10 pull ups. I can do these a few times a week.

I currently do a lot of heavy carries. Heavy carries, and specifically front carries like hussafel stone, keg, and sandbag, are extraordinarily taxing on the back. I think heavy carries could help a lot of folks with lagging back strength/size improve quickly. Also atlas stones are great for it.

I also do a fair bit of cleans with various implements. Different part of the back. Very effective as well.

It’s hard for me to say how much total volume I get for back work in a week, but regularity of back work is almost every single session, in some form. I could clean and press on Monday, deadlift on Wednesday, bench and pull ups on thursday, and do heavy carries on Saturday. That would be some form of back work every session.


I’d put RDLs, high pulls, and cleans/snatches from the hang into the “back work” category if you’re working to organize things.

I work my back about 3-4 times as often as anytning else.


I felt like deadlifts were always limited by my lower back and always gave me a nasty pump in them so I dropped them from my back training ( probably because I also squat 4 times a week). In the last 9 weeks I rarely deadlifted from the floor , just some romanian deads on leg day. I do about 5 exercises on back day for a total of 20 sets ( Pull ups- Barbell rows- Pulldowns- Straight arm pulldowns- and Cable rows). I am not gonna lie, deadlifting is what built most of my back thickness and is awesome, but I have to work with what I have. Always having a sore back is so fucking annoying and I don’t want to work through it. How is it working for me ? My lower back feels better, my lats are bigger and wider, and my upper back is a bit bigger also. Recently I started to appreciate wide lats more than big upper backs, they drastically change your appearance and make you look bigger.

  • Deadlift twice a week now around (one DL day with around seven working sets for a total of seven to 15 total reps, then some DL after squats at the other end of the week for 20 to 30 total reps)
  • lower back prehab/assistance once a week after DL (reverse hypers or back raises 50-100 reps)
  • two pulling exercises per press day with two press days per week (one vertical, one horizontal each for 25 to at most 50 reps each)
  • upper back work (pull aparts usually) while warming up for pressing, 100 total reps each day

@Love_The_Deadlift that sounds a lot like my old back workouts.

@brady888, you’re a large feller. Do you think the development you get from deadlifts would be sufficient for a good overall physique? Perhaps deadlifts for thickness (instead of rowing) and Pull-ups for width?

My hangup with deadlift for physique development is that it’s more isometric work for the back. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work (I haven’t sufficiently tried it) but you don’t see many articles bragging about getting jacked in 6 weeks from isometric holds.

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I think it really depends on the person.

I can’t speak for everyone else but I’m one of those people that once I add deadlifts (or heavy pulls from the floor) to my routine, I get much thicker overall. When my deadlift went from 225x5 to 300x5 my forearms, traps, upper back, lower back looked a lot denser and thicker. I mean I was doing a lot of c&j, clean pulls, snatch, snatch pulls as well. But pulling off the floor for my body directly leads to much denser and thicker looking physique. I’m only 5’7 176lbs though, so that probably helps.

Speaking of back work. do any of you notice any difference in doing pull ups, chin ups, or neutral grip pull ups? I swear if i just stick to NG pull ups, my elbows and shoulders love me. I don’t notice any difference in the amount of pull ups or chin ups I can do if I stick to NG.


I’m 6’1" on a very tall day, about 185 lbs. I would say my back looks larger than the average person around that bodyweight, though.

I’d say no. Maybe RDLs, snatch grip deadlifts, high pulls, and deadlifts. Or deadlifts and a couple of heavy carry variations. I don’t know if you NEED a row variation. I do think rows are useful though.

Definitely keep weigted chins and pull ups. I think they help maintain mobility (as long as you’re going thru a fill ROM some of the time) while being a great building movement/s.

Lot of good stuff here already but depending on how you train, recovery and current/past injury I find it handy to make the distinction between back work that taxes the lower back more (Bent over row) and less (Seal Rows).

I count Conventional and Sumo deadlift in lower back and posterior chain work. May fatigue me overall but not enough for my upper back. Frankly deadlifts are too taxing for me to use for hypertrophy. Time and energy better spent doing direct back work.

Love weighted pull/chin ups and Chest Supported row variations. You get that full stretch, concentric, peak contraction and eccentric cycle going. Deadlift alone isn’t enough for me.

DL twice a week both sumo and conventional. In an accumulation phase anywhere from 6 to 12 work in sets a week.

Waving up from 12-22 working sets of direct back work per week each micro cycle.

Isometric, eccentric only, concentric only or whatever muscles are still contracting/have mechanical tension across them.

In the end just comes down to progressive overload. Iso hold 225 one week and 315 a month later you’ve made gains.

I hate weighted pull ups as they mess my elbows up to no end. I used to do pull ups all the time and accredit a lot of my back size to them, but the older I’ve gotten the less I do them and have actually seen a better increase in numbers of them the stronger my rows get. I do back work 4-5 days a week, pull aparts and face pulls everyday, and work a “carry shit, pick up shit, use your back all day” job.


Nothing too impressive, about 3 months old give or take after a month back from a 6 month hiatus.


Nothing like manual labor to build a powerful body. Hell of a concept!


You look more stocky than that build in your circus dumbbell photo. I guess you have a thick torso/back relative to your height.

That makes sense. It goes along with high rep, heavy squats adding size all over your body even though it’s a “lower body” movement.

I am just a back attached to 2 chicken thighs


Yes, you are… BUT, you can’t have a back that is too big in proportion to the rest of you.

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