CT – I’m 34 y/o, been lifting since I was 14 or 15. I’m a neuro type 2b, naturally tall and fairly skinny with narrow clavicals. One thing I’ve always aimed for and failed at is growing a thicker upper body, meaning when I turn sideways I look pretty skinny. Over the past year I’ve focused most of my upper back work/volume on rows, shrugs and kirk rows, pullaparts, facepulls, and loaded carries. This has improved my thickness moderately but not yet to my liking. Is this just my genetic lot and I’m basically stuck here (minus any minor progress I’ll continue to make over the years), or can you provide any advice or suggestions? Thank you.
Definitely the clavicles.
My advice: you’re worrying about small things rather than focusing on getting stronger. Don’t get too caught in what type of personality you are, or obsess over assistance work like face pulls and band aparts. Those are fine, but if you want to get thicker, get stronger. Here’s what’s for certain: add substantial weight to your bench press, over head press, and deadlift and you will get thicker in the upper body. That should be your focus, getting stronger on those lifts. Throw in the exercises you listed as assistance, but your workouts should revolve around bringing the big lifts up.
I’ve found that my upper back needs like a whole lot of volume to really grow into looking pretty decent.
Overhead shrugs help too. Seems weird, but doesn’t take as much weight and just kinda hits them differently.
Best order of priority for me also seems to be first session of the week, same day as dead lifts.
Your mileage may vary.
im not a pro or anything but to kinda piggy back off whats already been said, definitely focus on getting stronger. idont know what your volume in your set/rep scheme is like but in the past 6 months since I got a better mind set and legitimately think I’m “serious” now, going heavy and focusing on getting stronger keeps my sets at higher weights, obviously lower volume with that. but I’m doing my best to push my sets to grow at those heavier weights. ex db rows for back thickness. since I started doing them heavily, I’ve definitely grown a bigger thicker back. I went from pulling 130’s for 1-3 to pulling 150’s for three and pushing those consistantly has definitely help. for thickness on ihefront side, I gave myself a little bit of “benchers chest” when you bench heavy with lower reps, my chest is thicker but not as broad as I would like it to be but its getting there.
You’re doomed to a life of narrowness because of your clavicles. It’s a terrible thing, just ask @flipcollar
This is my ‘genetic lot’ versus what I’ve made out of it. And the ‘after picture’ is actually a couple years old at this point, I’m thicker now than this.
But I have to admit, I understand your thinking, because I did the same thing early on in my lifting. I felt like I was getting ‘wider’, and stronger, bigger overall, but just not getting that 3D effect I was looking for. It really sounds like you’re approaching it appropriately.
You didn’t mention deadlifts or pull ups, which are my 2 main staples in my lifting, along with loaded carries. I think HEAVY loaded carries can effectively translate to a thick back. Most people don’t do heavy enough carries to make a substantial impact. I carry frames up to around 450 in training, and more in competition, whereas I know most people who do farmers carries in the gym are working with 80-100 lbs dumbbells. I think you won’t really see the results you likely want with less than 150 per side. Once you get into that range it starts to really produce results.
And deadlift heavy. Nothing has improved my back overall more than that.
Specifics? What’s your current height and weight? And what did you weigh five years ago?
Also, for context, what kind of numbers are you moving on the big basic lifts (including rows)?
A ton of articles have detailed back routines, but if the simple answer is “you’re weak and skinny”, then just changing your back workout is addressing the wrong issue.
How tall are you? How fat? How much do you weight? How about a picture?
Over the past year how much have you weight have you gained and how much stronger have you gotten on the exercises mentioned?
Flipcollar nailed it buuut since I am already here…
There are 3 exercises you need for a strong big back, Deads, a Barbell Row and Pullups.
New Back Workout do AT LEAST twice a week:
Deadlifts 5-3-1 periodization
Do 8 Reps and keep adding 5-10% until you fail to get 8 reps That is your first working set. Do 3 more sets to failure. You should aim for 4-6 warmup sets before you fail to get 8 reps
Pullups repeat barbell Rows periodization