4 Exercises You Should Do To Build A Bigger Back
This past Monday I made a terrible mistake. It was a naïve move on my part, with absolutely no forethought. I was so pissed at myself for not realizing what the hell I had done, but once I had realized the monumental error of my fuck up, I’d already gone too far to turn around. I was in it for the long haul, there was no way in hell was I going to let myself be a quitter.
I had decided to train my chest on Monday, along with every other bro in the world.
Normally this wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Since I train at odd times I don’t have to deal with too much of a crowd. Monday was different, though. It was evening; right around 6:43pm Eastern Standard Time; prime time for bench pressing.
While I was waiting on a bench to open up so I could knock out my dumbbell incline presses, I had about 20 minutes to ponder the really heavy hitting questions in life.
Why didn’t The Ministry of Magic call on foreign aid to help in the fight against Voldemort?
Is Rey a Kenobi or is she a Skywalker?
And why the hell do all of these guys who can bench 225lbs still look so weak?
You’ve probably seen the same exact scene play out at your own gym. You’ve probably been in a gym and seen a couple of bros with skinny arms and cut off shirts load up the bar with a couple of plates on each side, hop on the bench, squeeze out a couple of reps, and then spend the next hour peacocking around the gym.
Yet, they don’t look jacked. 225lbs isn’t a small amount of weight to pushing off your chest. If they can do that, then why don’t they look good?
It’s all about the back, baby.
Building mirror muscles worth showing off is nothing new. That’s part of the reason International Chest Day is actually a thing. Bros can see their chest in the mirror, so they want to work their chest more.
For guys and gals alike, building a well-developed back can radically alter a physique. A strong, well-developed back can take you from:
“Yeah, you might lift a little bit.” To “Holy shit. When did you get so jacked?”
A big back signifies strength, and revamps the look of your entire physique. It changes everything. You start filling out your clothes more, and no matter what you’re wearing you look big and strong from any angle.
When you’ve built a bigger back, you’ve also helped create that classic v-taper look that we’re all looking for. You know the kind I’m talking about. Broad shoulders, big back, narrow waist, and an overall look of athleticism and studliness wrapped up into one badass package.
Obviously that look is important to satisfy your ego, but it’s also important from an evolutionary perspective.
A solid v-taper signifies strength and virility to the opposite sex. Women are hardwired to find broad shoulders and a narrow waist more attractive than a couple of oversized handles full of love and some slouched shoulders.
By building a bigger back, you literally make yourself more good-looking and attractive.
We’re not done.
When was the last time you actually paid attention to your posture? You know, how you sit up and stand? Just by reading this you probably pulled your shoulders back, sat up a little straighter, and pulled your belly button towards your spine.
That’s good posture, and posture impacts every single thing you do; your performance in the weight room, the health of your spine, your confidence, and your level of attractiveness.
Any clue as to what dramatically improves your posture?
If you guessed building a strong set of back muscles, then you may collect $200 and pass go.
So, building an impressive back not only makes you more of a badass, it makes you more confident, attractive, and suddenly your Tinder game is on fire because women can just tell that you’re a capable lover who can also provide for them. Pretty important, wouldn’t you say?
If you see the importance in building a bigger back, then you’ll be happy to know that I’ve got yours. Here are 4 unconventional exercises to build a bigger back.
Snatch grip rows.
Sometimes there’s nothing like a good snatch. Using the snatch grip on exercises like the row can change the entire look and feel, and is a variation that you need to start using.
When performing normal barbell rows we typically have our hands close to shoulder width, since this feels like a more natural pulling position. We’re at a mechanical advantage here, and we can pull more comfortably.
By widening to a snatch grip, that completely changes the game. You remove the mechanical advantage you once had, and force your upper back to work harder than it’s used to.
Thanks to working harder, your upper back now has to respond to that extra work by growing bigger and stronger; most assuredly not a bad thing.
Snatch grip deadlifts.
We’re not done with the snatch grip, because why would anyone ever be done with the snatch? Snatch grip deads are a twist on an old classic, and make you absolutely hate your life for awhile, but it’s all worth it.
Snatch grip deads are conventional deadlifts just done with a snatch grip, exactly like you’d do during a row.
Whereas snatch grip rows are constantly hammering your upper back via the stretch-shortening cycle, snatch grip deads cause the upper back to work more in an isometric manner. Both work well when it comes to building serious strength, and width in the upper back.
Another big reason I love snatch grip deadlifts is due to how well they hammer the entire posterior chain. If your deadlift has been lagging, or you’ve been struggling to pull heavier weight off the floor, the snatch grip deadlift is an excellent remedy.
*A quick note about snatch grip work: Your upper back is made up of a number of smaller muscles, like the rhomboids, teres minor and major, rear delts, the SITS muscles (your rotator cuff), and then bigger ones like the lats and traps. Because these muscles are smaller, they have a lower threshold for fatigue.
Muscles that have a lower threshold for fatigue will give out more quickly, and when this happens with snatch grip work you’ll typically wind up a rounding upper back, with your lower back following closely behind.
Because of this, the best way to start doing snatch grip work is by lowering the weight and working on getting in more volume. So if you can do conventional deadlifts for eight reps with 315lbs, start off around 225lbs and try to get eight reps for 4-5 sets. Get used to that before working your way up.
Trap bar row.
The bent over row is one of the most well known exercises known to man when it comes to building a big back. Before the days of seated cable rows and other rowing machines, many a big back was built using bent over rows. The trap bar row is a variation on the old classic.
The big issue with barbell rows is that it tends to be a coordination challenge for some. Pulling the weight properly without tearing up their shins or bumping the barbell against their knees just isn’t easy. If that’s not the problem, some people struggle with controlling the weight down and are just asking for their lower back to blow up in a fiery explosion.
The trap bar completely changes that.
Because you’re inside the trap bar, the coordination challenge to the movement is completely gone. Along with that, pulling in a neutral grip allows most people to feel the stretch and contraction of their lats, rhomboids, and other back muscles more than a typical barbell row set up.
With any bent over rowing motion you still need to protect your lower back. So be sure before starting the movement you push your hips back and load the hamstrings just like you would during a deadlift, and then get to rowing.
The face pull.
While face pulls aren’t going to cause your back to blow up like some of the rowing variations I’ve mentioned, they’re on point from a postural perspective, help build the rear delts, and improve scapular control.
Our scapulae play a major role in shoulder health. If your scaps can’t move properly, then your shoulders are fucked, simple as that. Not only that, poor scapular control will impact your ability pull weight and recruit your rhomboids, lats, traps, and other muscles in the back.
The face pull can fix that by teaching your scapula how to protract and retract properly.
By gaining more scapular control and also building bigger rear delts you’re now setting yourself up for better overall posture. Not only that, but well developed rear delts are one of those muscle groups that can have a dramatic impact on your overall physique.
Pro tip: When doing face pulls, it’s important to remember that entire movement is controlled via the shoulder blades. Think about letting your shoulder blades protract completely, and letting them wrap around your rip cage. Then initiate the movement by retracting the shoulder blades. It helps to have someone stick their finger on your spine and think about squeezing their finger.
Maybe those bros I saw banging out bench presses in the gym will read this one-day. I doubt it. But you had better believe that I plan on leading by example and showing just how much building a big back can alter your physique.