• Joshua Li

Are there any MUST DO exercise to GROW a bigger back?

Scratching your head wondering why you haven’t seen any back development after months of training? You may have been through the whole list of exercise and techniques, increasing the amount of load you are using, but still your back isn’t growing… where are you going wrong?

The question you need to ask yourself is not ‘what exercise is the best to grow my back?’ but ‘what exercise suits me best and what variations of this exercise will be most effective?’.

I am a firm believer of adding a deadlift variation into my own and my clients training programmes. When performed correctly, deadlifts will help immensely to build a bigger upper back and thicker lower back. You need to load your spinal erectors and upper back in a manner to reap the potential hypertrophy benefits of the traps, rhomboids and surrounding muscles. This can’t be achieved by purely scapula retraction exercises (rows).

As mentioned previously, the variation of the exercise is dependent on the individual. Each person has different mechanics and will feel certain variations better than others. To ‘feel’ an exercise means how well you can stretch and contract the muscle under a controlled tempo. For myself, I am 6ft 2” and performing an Elevated Deadlift is the most beneficial. Using this variation, I can target my upper back and spinal erectors most effectively. Once you get the technique nailed down for the chosen exercise, then you can look to add weight. Remember – if you don’t feel the movement working the intended muscles correctly then you aren’t performing it properly, so hold off adding more load until you are executing the movement with perfection.

(Senior Trainer, Josh Li)

Although I placed deadlifts as the principle exercise for back growth, rows are still featured heavily in my back training. Rows are very good for adding further mass, as well as enhancing the detail of your back. Rows are so commonly performed poorly, barbell rows being the best example of this issue. Rows are a great tool, but to get the most of them you must have immaculate execution, focusing on the scapula retraction, being locked in and keeping your body in a stable environment. In commercial gyms, you see so many people bending over moving the weight from A to B, not feeling the exercise and putting their lower back in a very vulnerable position.

My advice for rows would be to use a piece of equipment that locks you in and keeps your body stable. An example of this would be a chest supported row. With this piece of equipment, you can focus in on retracting your scaps and ensuring you have your working muscles engaged, a strong elbow drive hitting the full range of motion and a controlled tempo to add further load on to the working muscles through the eccentric phase.

How to Perform these movements:

Elevated Deadlifts

Chest Supported Rows

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