3 Powerful Tips on How to Make Your Back Muscles Stand Out

lat pulldowns for huge and ripped back

You’ve been training for a while and you’ve built a big chest and decent size arms. Heck, you even have those teardrops in your quad muscles. 

But the one muscle you lack that visible definition is your back. 

In this post, I’m going to show you how to make your back muscles stand out with 3 powerful tips you can start using today!

Here’s what you’ll learn…

  • The right combination exercises to develop your back muscles
  • Techniques that will bring out that deep separation in your back
  • The perfect workout that will build a huge and defined back

Back: A Complicated Muscle to Build, Shape, and Define

The goal of bodybuilding is to not only make your muscles bigger. It’s to also shape and define those muscles. In other words, you want that deep, visible separation.

Otherwise, you’ll just look like the Stay Puff  Marshmallow Man.  

Many find that the most difficult muscle to build and define is your back. Why?

One reason is you’re back is a large and most complex muscle group. There are several muscles that make up your back; the major muscles are listed below:

  • Latissimus Dorsi – us bodybuilders and weightlifters call these ‘lats’
  • Trapezius – our ‘traps’…let’s go do some shrugs, bro!
  • Erector Spinae – the muscles surrounding our spine (extremely important!)
  • Rhomboid – these muscles are right under your traps 
  • Teres Major – considered your lower lats (underneath your lats) 

Alex, the owner of King of the Gym, has a cool and informative article of back anatomy: Back Anatomy: All About the Back Muscles

Another reason back can be difficult to build and define is unlike your other body parts, your back is not as visible to you when you’re working out. And since you can’t see those muscles, you may be subconsciously tempted not to train back as hard.

But there are some things you can do in the gym to assure that your back muscles are going to stand out and demand attention. Let’s get into those…

3 Tips to Make Your Back Muscles Stand Out

Now, I want you to read the tips below and then read them again. Just as doing reps in the gym will build muscle, repetition in learning will help us develop our knowledge so that we’re more apt to taking action.

And that’s the other crucial part…once you read this, I want to implement all 3 of these in your next back workout (which I’m going to give you an entire back workout to do after the tips). 

1) Do More Rows, and then Do More Rows

dumbbell rows back exercise

You can’t possibly do enough rows. The motion in itself works the ‘bulk’ (yes pun intended) of your back muscles. And nothing builds size and strength like good ole fashion barbell rows.

Rows also help you develop shape and definition. And when you apply the next tip I’m going to give you, they’ll give you that deep separation.

Here’s a list of row exercises for your reference:

  • Barbell rows
  • Reverse grip barbell rows
  • Dumbbell rows
  • T-bar rows
  • Seated rows
  • Hammer Strength rows – there are different machines that include upper and lower
  • Machine rows – this could be any machine

I personally believe in doing barbell rows twice a week:

  1. Start your regular back workout with heavy barbell rows
  2. Do a second back workout a few days later and start with reverse grip barbell rows with more reps and concentration

This will bring ripped mass to your lats. You may also want to read my post: 7 Exercises for a Shredded Back

2) Controlled Reps and Negatives

If you’re serious about your back development and bringing out those striations, this is probably the most important tip.

One of the problems I hear often is people can’t feel their back muscles when they’re working out as much as chest or arms. 

Here’s your solution

  • Think about each rep you’re doing for back. 
  • Then ask yourself why you’re doing that rep.
  • Do this for each individual rep and make every one of those reps it’s own entity.

In other words, take your time and don’t rush through the reps. Don’t just move the weight from point A to B, mindlessly. Focus, and concentrate.

Develop that mind-muscle connection. When you pull that weight towards your body, squeeze and contract your back muscles. 

Just as important, when you release the weight, going back to the starting position, make sure you control the weight by slowing down the negative part of the movement. And when you get to those last couple of reps, slow it down even more taking several seconds. 

In summary, follow these steps in your back workouts:

  • Focus on the muscles you’re working when you start each rep (you can even take a few seconds to mentally prepare and get into that zone)
  • When you reach the peak of the rep, flex and contract your muscles
  • Release the weight back to the starting position in a controlled manner (and take even more time on those last couple of reps)

By doing this you will force the muscle to work as opposed to just going through the motions. This will also allow you to feel your back muscles during your workout. Using controlled reps and negatives will lead to a bigger and more defined back.

3) Do a Variety of Back Exercises

plate loaded rows for a massive back

If you really want to make your back muscles stand out, try doing a variety of back exercises. This will ensure that you work your back muscles from different angles.

Even doing multiple types of row exercises will work back muscles from a variety of angles. 

To add, you also need more overall volume in your back workouts than with other upper body muscles. You can’t just do 3-4 exercises and call it a day. Your back won’t grow like that. 

This is another reason why I prefer to train back twice a week. And you’ll see that there’s a 2nd back workout below. You’ll have a main back workout, and then follow that up with a shorter, higher rep back workout several days later.

Back Workout for Size, Shape, and Definition

Now you have my three tips on how to make your back muscles stand out. Let’s implement those tips in the back workout below…

Exercise Sets x Reps
Barbell Rows 4 x 6
Dumbbell Rows 4 x 8-10
Seated Rows 4 x 10-12
Lat Pulldowns 4 x 10-12
Hammer Strength (uni-lateral) Rows 3 x 15

2nd Back Workout

Remember in the first tip I gave where I recommended doing a second back workout? Well, here it is!

Do this 3-4 days after your first main back workout. This back workout is shorter and you’re doing more reps. But doing this extra work will help you bring out even more size and shape to your back muscle.

Oh, you can also pair this 2nd back workout with another muscle if you want. I typically train shoulders with the workout below. 

Exercise Sets x Reps
Reverse Grip Barbell Rows 4 x 15
Close-Grip Pulldowns 4 x 15
One-Arm Cable Rows 4 x 15

What About Deadlifts?

deadlift platform for strength training and bodybuilding workouts

You may be wondering… “Dude, what about deadlifts?”

Let me first say that I’m a HUGE (eh, there’s another bodybuilder pun) fan of doing deadlifts! But I personally do deads on my lower body days.

In fact, I have some leg workouts (like back, twice a week) that include deadlifts: Training Legs Twice a Week: How to Build Bigger Legs

Are You Ready to Make Your Back Stand Out?

You now have the 3 powerful tips to make your back muscles stand out. And you also have workouts that you can start this week. 

I encourage you to follow my back workout routine and use the tips in each workout. Remember, every rep counts if you want to gain size and bring out those striations in your back muscles.

**Be sure to check out my premium 12-week programs:

Train with Passion,

Jason