10 WORKOUTS TO CRUSH YOUR BACK

Men's Fitness consulted Dr. Joel Seedman for this article, which originally appeared at mensfitness.com.  

Also see Dr. Seedman's "7 Ways to Stimulate Major Back Growth"

To supersize your back—build wider proportions, denser, more sizeable muscle mass, and greater functional strength that enables you to lift more—you need to put your body through a variety of movements, rep ranges, and strategic high-intensity workouts, according to Joel Seedman, Ph.D., exercise physiologist, athletic performance specialist, and owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, Georgia.

"The following 10 workout plans involve key movement patterns that optimize muscular hypotrophy in the upper back, including horizontal pulls (rows), vertical pulls (pullups, pulldowns, and chinups), Olympic lifts, deadlift variations, pullover movements, rear delt exercises, shrugs, and loaded carries," Seedman says. These facilitate growth throughout every major and minor back muscle: lats, rhomboids, upper traps, lower traps, rear delts, upper neck, and shoulder stabilizers. Follow these routines whenever you've penciled in back day. You'll be growing in no time. 

  • Prescription: Perform 1 heavy back routine once every 3-7 days for optimal growth and strength gains.
     

Back-Specific Dynamic Warmup

Directions: Repeat this circuit 2x with 15 sec rest between exercises.

  • Super-Slow Lat Pulldowns with Light Weight: 8 Reps
  • Low Back Extensions: 10 reps (on floor, stability ball, or incline bench)
  • Med Ball Slams: 8 reps
  • Jump Rope for Speed: 50 reps
  • Plank on Single Leg: 30 sec per leg
  • Bent-Over Lateral Raise: 15 reps (with 5-pound plates)
  • Bird Dog Quadruped: 5 reps per side (Kneel on all fours and lift opposite arm and opposite leg straight out; hold each for 5 seconds.)

Workout #1

Directions: Perform 4 rounds of each exercise in Group A, taking 60 seconds rest between sets. Then, complete 3 rounds of each exercise in Group B, taking 45 seconds rest between sets. Do the workout finisher last. 

  • Group A
    • Rack Pulls: 5 reps (Set the bar on the pins of a power rack, below or above your knee, or mid-thigh. Position and lift as you would a deadlift.)
    • Weighted Chinups: 5 reps
    • Ab-Wheel Rollouts: 8 reps
  • Group B
    • Single-Arm Seated Cable Row: 8 reps
    • Standing Cable Reverse Flye: 10 reps
    • Incline Dumbbell Shrugs: 15 reps
    • Workout Finisher:
    • Chest-Supported T-Bar Row: 10 reps @ max effort (Load the T-bar Row Machine with a weight you can perform at least 10 reps of. Adjust the height so your chest is at the top of the pad. Lie face down and grab the handles. Lift the bar, fully extending your arms in front of you; then, pull the weight up toward you, keeping your elbows in, retracting your shoulder blades, and squeezing your back muscles.)

Workout #2

Directions: Perform 5 rounds of each exercise in Group A, taking 60 seconds rest between sets. Then, complete 3 rounds of each exercise in Group B, taking 45 seconds rest between sets. Do the workout finisher last. 

  • Group A
    • Deadlift: 4 reps
    • Wide Overhand Pullups: 5 reps
    • Dumbbell Pullovers: 6-8 reps (Place a dumbbell within easy reach or have a spotter pass it to you. Lie perpendicular on a bench so only your shoulders are making contact, feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Grab the dumbbell with both hands and hold it over your chest. Then, lower the weight in an arc behind your head. Repeat the motion to come back to the start.)
  • Group B
    • Seated Cable Row: 8-10 reps
    • Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 12-15 reps
    • Underhand Lat Pulldowns: 6-8 reps
    • Workout Finisher:
    • Straight-Arm Lat Pulldowns: 12 reps @ max effort (choose a weight that allows at least 12 reps)

Workout #3

Directions: Perform 5 rounds of each exercise in Group A, taking 60 seconds rest between sets. Next, complete 3 rounds of each exercise in Group B, taking 60 seconds rest between sets. Then, do 3 rounds of each exercise in Group C, taking 45 seconds rest between sets. Do the workout finisher last. 

  • Group A
    • Snatch Grip Deadlifts: 5 reps
    • Single-Arm Lat Pulldowns: 5 reps
  • Group B
    • Pullovers with Kettlebells: 8-10 reps
    • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row (one knee on bench): 8-10 reps
  • Group C
    • Farmers Walk with Dumbbells: 50 yards
    • Reverse Pec Dec Flye Machine: 10 reps
    • Workout Finisher:
    • Neutral Grip Pullups: to failure

Workout #4

Directions: Perform 4 rounds of each exercise in Group A, taking 60 seconds rest between sets. Next, complete 5 rounds of each exercise in Group B with 60 seconds rest between sets. Then, do 3 rounds of each exercise in Group C, taking 45 seconds rest between sets.

  • Group A
    • Hang Cleans: 3 reps
    • Single-Arm Plank: 30 sec. per side
  • Group B
    • Trap Bar Deadlifts: 5 reps
    • Weighted Overhand Pullups: 4-6 reps
  • Group C
    • Seated Cable Row with Rope: 8 reps
    • Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 12 reps
    • Straight-Arm Pulldown with Rope: 10 reps

Workout #5

Directions: Complete the moves as an AMRAP routine—so you'll perform as many quality reps as you can for that exercise in 10 minutes, typically using a load that's equivalent to your 10 RM. "It's up to to you, how you prefer to break it up to try to find the rest and rep combo that allows for the least fatigue and maximal number of reps," Seedman says. "Usually it's 4-8 reps every 20-45 seconds, but it will vary for each lifter based on a number of physiological factors." You might do 6 reps, then 45 seconds later do 5 reps, then 1 minute later 6 reps, then 45 seconds later 5 reps, then 4 reps every 30-45 sec thereafter until you reach 10 minutes. Go through all three exercises, then end with the workout finisher. 

  • Deadlifts: with 70% of 1RM
  • Pullups
  • Inverted Row On Rings or TRX with Feet on Bench 
  • Workout Finisher: Weighted Plank Drop Set: Perform a weighted plank for as long as you can, then immediately perform a bodyweight plank for max time.

Workout #6

Directions: Complete 4 rounds of each exercise in Group A with 90 seconds rest between sets. Next, perform 3 rounds of each exercise in Group B, taking 60 seconds rest between sets. Then, do 3 rounds of each exercise in Group C with 45 seconds rest between sets. End with the workout finisher. 

  • Group A
    • Hang Snatch: 3-4 reps
    • Bent-Over Barbell Row with Underhand Grip: 6-8 reps
  • Group B
    • Straight Arm Pulldown: 8 reps
    • Underhand Lat Pulldown: 6-8 reps
  • Group C
    • Farmers Walk with Kettlebells: 50 yards
    • Bent-Over Lateral Raises: 12 reps
    • Workout Finisher:
    • Overhand Pullup Isometric Hold: Perform 1 pullup and hold the top position for as long as you can.

Workout #7

Directions: Perform 4 rounds of each exercise in Group A with 60 seconds rest between sets. Next, complete 3 rounds of each exercise in Group B, taking 60 seconds rest between sets. End on the workout finisher.

  • Group A
    • Power Shrugs: 5 reps
    • Barbell Pullover: 6 reps
    • Super-Slow Lat Pulldown (5 sec up, 5 sec down): 5 reps
  • Group B
    • Single Arm T-Bar Row: 8 reps
    • Single Arm Bent Over Lateral Raise: 10 reps
    • Workout Finisher:
    • Chinups: to failure

Workout #8

Directions: Perform 5 rounds of each exercise in Group A, taking 60 seconds rest between sets. Next, complete 3 rounds of each exercise in Group B with 60 seconds rest between sets. Then, do 3 rounds of each exercise in Group C with 45 seconds rest between sets.

  • Group A
    • T-Bar Row: 5-8 reps
    • Kneeling Abdominal Walkouts: 6-8 reps
  • Group B
    • Mid-Pause Pullups (pause midway up and midway down): 5 reps
    • Suitcase Carry (Single-Arm Farmers Walk): 40 yards per side
  • Group C
    • Incline Dumbbell Shrug: 12 reps
    • Front Raises on TRX or Suspension System: 12 reps
    • Incline Dumbbell Row: 10 reps

Workout #9

Directions: Perform 4 rounds of each exercise in Group A with 60 seconds rest between sets. Next, complete 4 rounds of each exercise in Group B with 60 seconds rest between sets. Then, perform 3 rounds of each exercise in Group C with 45 seconds rest between sets.

  • Group A
    • Negative Pullups: 3-4 reps (Use weight belt with more than 1RM and have partner assist you up.)
    • Single-Arm Plank with Feet on Bench: 20 seconds per side
  • Group B
    • Mid-Pause Deadlifts: 3-4 reps (Pause mid way up just below knee before standing to top position.)
    • Single-Arm Dumbbell Pullover: 8 reps
  • Group C
    • Single-Arm T-Bar Row: 8 reps
    • Bent-Over Lateral Raises while Standing on 1 leg: 7 reps per leg, per set (14 total reps per set)
    • Workout Finisher:
    • Double Drop Set Row (on any machine): Aim for a load that allows 6-8 max effort reps then drop the weight by 40% and perform 6-8 more reps, or until failure.

Workout #10

Directions: Follow instructions for each exercise in German Volume Training workout. If you’re not familiar, German Volume Training is a method bodybuilders made popular in the 70s. The idea is to trigger the growth of lean mass by overloading your muscles. The volume is high, so start with a lower weight if you’re just beginning since you’ll fight more fatigue than you’re used to. 

  • Deadlift: 10x10 (use 50-60% 1RM, taking 1 minute rest between sets)
  • Lat Pulldowns: 10x10 (use 50-60% 1RM, taking 1 minute rest between sets)
  • Seated Cable Row with Supinated/Underhand Grip: 3x10 (take 45 sec rest between sets)
  • Ab Wheel Rollout While Kneeling on One Knee: 3x5 per leg (take 30 sec rest between sets)