2nd Back day

8 Tips to Build and Define Your Back Muscles

Your back is the largest muscle in your upper body. Yet many weightlifters and bodybuilders make the mistake of training back like they would chest or shoulders.

If you truly want to build and define your back muscles, you need to take a different approach to this amazing yet complex body part.

And I’m going to show you exactly how to do that in this post. You’re going to get practical tips that you can start using today to get that 3-dimensional bodybuilder look and shape.

No more skinny lats. And no more looking thin from the side!

**DISCLAIMER: You may need to buy new t-shirts because your back is about to blow up!

1 – Train Back Twice a Week

The first and best thing you can do is start training your back twice a week.

Your back is far more complex and made up of more overall muscle than your other upper body muscle groups. Your chest and shoulders are small muscles compared to your back.

You’ve got to treat your back a little differently. You have to treat those muscles as needing special attention. And twice-a-week training is an awesome way to do that.

Here’s a simple plan you can use to train your back twice a week…

1st Back Workout on Mondays:

  • Barbell Rows: 4 x 6-8
  • Dumbbell Rows: 4 x 8-10
  • T-bar Rows: 4 x 10
  • Seated Rows: 3 x 10
  • Lat Pulldowns: 3 x 10

2nd Back Workout on Thursdays:

  • Pull-ups: 3 x 12
  • Lat pulldowns: 3 x 12
  • Wide-grip Seated Rows: 3 x 15
  • Close-grip Pulldowns: 3 x 15

As you see above, you can make your first back workout of the week heavy and then focus on pumping out more reps for your 2nd back workout.

**You can get more back workout ideas and learn more tips about training your back more than once a week in this post: Train Back Twice a Week for a Ripped and Huge Back.

2 – Don’t Always Do the Same Back Exercises Every Workout

hammer strength rows unilateral

One mistake many make is getting stuck doing the exact same exercises every back workout. This is okay for a few weeks. But at some point, you need to switch things up in your workouts.


There are a few reasons…

  • Your back needs to be trained from a variety of angles
  • You’ll need to focus on different parts of your back muscles at different points throughout the year
  • You don’t want your workouts to become stale

Remember, your back is a very complex muscle group. You’re not going to build a bodybuilder back doing the exact same workout week after week. You need to constantly change things up.

Here are three ways you can switch things up for your back:

  1. Change the order of your exercises (ex: do barbell rows at the end of your back workout instead of the beginning)
  2. Reverse your grip (ex: close-grip pulldowns, reverse-grip barbell rows, and wide-grip seated rows)
  3. Mark your calendar to change your back workout every 4-6 weeks – staying on a schedule will help you be consistent with this

These are just some simple things that can help you keep your back workouts fresh. This will also keep your muscles growing!

3 – Do More Sets and Reps for Back

Like I mentioned earlier, your back needs a different approach than the rest of your upper body. And that approach is simply more.

For a fully developed back you need to train with higher volume. That means more overall sets and reps.

Here are a few rules to follow with back training to help you get more volume:

  • Add one more set to your back exercises than you normally do for chest or shoulders (ex: if you typically do 4 sets of bench press, do 5 sets of barbell rows)
  • Do a drop set for your final two back exercises or…
  • Do a rest-pause set for your final two back exercises
  • Go back to tip #1 – train back twice a week!

**Watch the video below to get an idea of what I’m talking about here. This video also ties into some of the other tips in this post.

4 – Pre-Exhaust Your Back Muscles

Many find it difficult to get that pump in their back muscles. They will train back hard and heavy but don’t really feel those muscles like they should.

One of the ways you can overcome this is with pre-exhaust training.

  • Normally, you start your workouts with a compound exercise, which for back would be something like barbell rows, T-bar rows, or deadlifts.
  • But with pre-exhaust training, you would start with an isolation exercise instead.

A great example is by starting your back workout with lat pulldowns. You’ll also want to keep the reps sort of high, like 12 reps and up.

This is going to prime your back muscles by pumping more blood into your muscles. You essentially pre-fatigue those muscles.

Now when you get to your compound exercises, your back muscles are going to be forced to work harder. And you’re going to find that you’re able to feel them working more throughout the rest of your workout.

**You can learn more details and find workouts for pre-exhaust training in my post: How to Pre-Exhaust Your Muscles (Complete Workout Routine).

5 – Eat Plenty of Complex Carbs Before Your Back Workouts

food - eggs oatmeal blueberries

You already know that nutrition is a crucial part of building muscle. But I want you to focus on the foods you eat before doing a brutal workout, like back.

The reason why your pre-workout meal is even more important for back training is for all of the reasons we’ve discussed up to this point. Let me reiterrate that your back is a large and complex muscle!

That said, you need to make sure you have the appropriate energy to train back. And this goes beyond taking a pre-workout energy drink, which that’s a great thing to do as well.

But you need to make sure you have sustainable energy and that only comes with food, and specifically protein and complex carbohydrates.

Here’s a sample pre-workout meal for back:

  • 3-4 free-range eggs
  • 1-2 servings of oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup of blue berries

That’s not a heavy meal and gives you enough carbs to provide that energy that you’ll need to crank out more sets and reps for your back.

You could also drink a protein shake or eat a protein bar. Just make sure you have a decent amount of complex carbs with no or minimal refined sugars.

**As I mentioned, pre-workout powders and drinks are great in addition to this meal. One of the awesome pre-workouts I like is called Alpha Lion Superhuman.

You can read more about that in my post:
Alpha Lion Superhuman Hulk Juice Review

6 – Do FST-7 Back Workouts

lat pulldowns for huge and ripped back

A great way to add more volume to your back workout as we talked about earlier is by doing FST-7 workouts.

This is basically doing a standard bodybuilding workout and finishing with seven total sets for your final exercises. And you’ll rest less between those sets.

The idea is to stretch the muscle fascia with excessive volume. You’ll get a tremendous pump out of this.

Here’s an example of an FST-7 back workout:

  • Barbell Rows: 4 x 6
  • Dumbbell Rows: 4 x 8
  • Lat Pulldowns: 4 x 10
  • Seated Rows: 4 x 10
  • Hammer Strength Rows: 7 x 12 (with 30-40 seconds of rest between those sets)

**You can read more about FST-7 workouts for all muscle groups and get a complete FST-7 workout routine in my post: FST-7 Workout Routine for Mass Gains

7 – Force Your Back Muscles to Work Harder

If you want a bigger, more muscular, and more defined back then you have to force those muscles to do the work.

This is a problem that many bodybuilders and weightlifters have. It’s mostly because we become obsessed with how much weight we can lift.

The downfall to that mentality is that you end up merely moving weight from point A and B like a powerlifter. Sure, you’ll get stronger that way but you’re not going to build as much muscle.

You need to feel your muscles working, and actually force them to work harder.

Here are a few ways to make your back muscles do the work:

  • Pre-exhaust you back muscles as we talked about in tip #4
  • Slow down your rep speed
  • Focus on the eccentric (negative) part of each rep
  • Contract your back muscles and hold that squeeze at the peak of each rep

You won’t be able to lift quite as much weight using these techniques. But you will build more muscle this way because, again, you’re forcing your muscles to do the work, but just going through the motions.

8 – Develop a Strong Mind-to-Muscle Connection with Your Back

This part can sound a little tricky but I’m going to give you some practical tips for developing your mind-to-muscle connection.

But first, you may be wondering if there’s any relevance to the mind and muscle connection. And if so, how in the world do you do this?

The reason it’s so important is that without that mental connection, it’s impossible to adhere to tip #7 that we just talked about. You need that strong mind-to-muscle connection to force your muscles to work harder, or even do the work. Remember, just going through the motions will only get you so far.

Here are four things you can do to develop your mind-to-muscle connection:

  1. Visualize yourself going through your workouts on the way to the gym
  2. Flex your lats and back muscles between sets
  3. Stretch your lats between sets (this is important for muscle growth!)
  4. Stay 100% focused during your workouts
    Pre-workouts like Alpha Lion Superhuman are great for mental focus!

In addition, here’s a video below from German bodybuilder Jo Lindner gives some more tips on back training, which one of them is focusing on your elbows when you do back exercises. By default, this makes you use your back muscles more instead of your biceps.

Back Day is Always a Good Day

Building your back muscles is definitely a long-term commitment. Because it’s complex and such a large muscle group, it takes time to build up the size and define those muscles.

But it’s also one of the most rewarding body parts to train. When you build your back muscles, you’ll look huge from all angles! And the last thing you want is a ripped chest and big arms only to have a tiny, thin little back!

I truly hope these tips help you build a bigger and better back!

**Also, be sure to check out my elite programs here:
Jason’s Elite Training Programs and More

Train with Passion,


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