Back Attack 101

Developing wide, thick back muscles is critical amongst all bodybuilders, especially those entering the competitive circuit. I have competed in and judged bodybuilding competitions where final decisions were made when the competitor turned around and displayed their back poses. Your back, next to your legs is the largest body part to train, so it’s important to have a separate back training day to annihilate this body part. So how does one go about developing a thick wide back? It is especially important for young bodybuilders to stick to the basics. Since your back is a complex muscle group, you need to hit this area from different angles including the following exercises: dead lifts, barbell or T-bar rows, pull downs (with varying hand positions- both wide and narrow) and of course, chin ups and pull ups. Once you get a foundation of mass, then you can start implementing a greater variety of exercises (plus a strict diet) to really bring out all the detail!

Before delving into my back routine, I wanted to point out some important tips when it comes to back training. Here are my top back training tips:

  1. Dead lifts should be the cornerstone of your back training.
  2. Safety is a must and when training back, the risk of injury is great. I always wear a belt during my back training sessions, especially while performing bent-over-rows and dead lifts. Using a spotter is not only a good idea for safety, but also to help you squeeze out those crucial last reps.
  3. Start off with lighter weights (‘warm up sets’) and increase the weight pyramiding up to your heavier sets, which I refer to as ‘working sets’
  4. Focus hard on both the stretch and contraction of each rep. Having that mind muscle connection is key.
  5. Train with intensity! This is one muscle group that you can’t train with a half ass effort. If you don’t bring intensity to your back training, you’re wasting your time.


Becker Built Back Routine

Exercise Sets Reps
Dead lifts 4 6-10
Pull downs (in front) 4 10-12
One-arm dumbbell rows 3 10-12
T-bar rows 3 10-12
Seated Cable Rows 3 10-12
Chin ups 3 10-15
Hyperextensions 2 Failure


After the above 22 sets your back muscles will be toast! I always pyramid the weight up on all exercises, and I will occasionally integrate drop sets in my last sets, especially when I’m in pre-contest mode. I feel that sticking to the basic exercises is the key to back development. Because I have been bodybuilding for many years, my training focus when it comes to back is building thick density to my back. I like to throw in some hammer strength machines into my training to hit different back angles.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from bodybuilders is that they can’t “feel” the contraction of their back muscles during their workouts. The problem is that most rely too much on their biceps and forearms- and not solely on their back muscles- to pull the weight. I have actually found the perfect training accessory to alleviate this problem, since there were times in my training that I was having the same issue. When I would do traditional lat pull downs, I would often feel a burn and pump in my biceps, and a strain on my forearms. I picked up some Flexsolate Straps several months ago and I began using them on the lat pull down and one arm dumbbell rows to help me to isolate my latissimus dorsi. The strap is a grip free approach to assist in isolating a muscle group, in this case your lats, while eliminating the use of secondary muscles, such as your forearms and biceps While you can’t go as heavy, you isolate the entire back muscle group while leaving the forearm and bicep out of the movement. These straps are awesome and have made a big difference in my back training. My lats are more taxed when I leave the gym and I’m sore for days after training with the straps. I have found that these straps can also be used on a variety of other exercises, from chest to biceps. You can find Flexsolate Straps online and take it from me, they are definitely worth the low price of around $20!

To conclude, building a competitive back takes a lot of hard work. Next to quad training it should be your next hardest training day, so it’s a good idea to separate these two body parts by a few days! Sticking to the basics will pay dividends in the end, just remember without intensity, there will be no immensity!