Building a Thick Back with Barbell Rows

I want to talk about one of my favorite all-time exercises. It happens to be an exercise for back, which is a muscle I’ve come to enjoy training more over the year. Barbell rows.

I also want to talk about building a thick back. This is a muscle often neglected, especially in younger lifters (I was one of these). Over the years I’ve found barbell rows to be one of the best exercises for building a thick back.

How to Do Barbell Rows

First, let’s chat about how to do barbell rows. It’s important that you execute this back exercise correctly and with proper form. If you don’t, not only will you be wasting your time but you’ll also set yourself up for lower back injury.

You want to start out with the barbell on a rack at the lower level (about waist-high). Once you pull the barbell off the rack, back up a little and proceed to bend over. You can keep a slight bend in your knees as you lean over. Pull the weight towards your stomach and release back to the starting position by controlling the weight.

Tips for Barbell Rows:

  • Do not round your lower back
  • Keep a slight arch in your lower back
  • Keep your entire body firm
  • Flex your back muscles as you pull the weight towards you
  • Control the weight on the descent

Back Workout with Barbell Rows

I now want to give a real-life example of using barbell rows. And I’ll use this morning’s workout for that. I actually started out with rows this morning.

You’ll see that I’m doing multiple sets of barbell rows. I believe volume is also key to building a thick back. Of course you want to start out with a couple of warm up sets. From there you can go up in weight each set. I chose to end with a 20-rep set. This serves as a burn-out and ensures you work all muscle fibers in your back.

Back Workout:

  • Barbell Rows
    • 2 x 15 (warm-up), 4 x 8-10, 1 x 20
  • Lat Pulldowns
    • 4 x 8-10, 1 x 20
  • Seated Rows
    • 5 x 12
  • Hammer Strength Low Rows
    • 4 x 12

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Building a Thick Back

Building a thick back gives you that true 3-dimensional look. It’s what separates a casual weight lifter from someone who’s serious. You’ll look big from all angles, not just the front.

I’ll reiterate that barbel rows is one of the best exercises you can do to build a thick back. Of course I won’t deny the power of deadlifts for overall strength and thickness. But barbell rows target your lats and packs on slabs of muscle.

If you’re not already, I encourage you to add barbell rows to every back workout from here on. You’ll thank me after a few weeks. If you’re currently doing barbell rows, you know that every now and then you have to take a step back and refocus on form and proper execution. Remember, the goal is to make the muscle work, not just move the weight.

Train with Passion,




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