13 Training Tips To Build A Bigger, Stronger Back

Remember the thick, turtle shell-esque back that you used to see on your favourite childhood superhero every Saturday morning?


The one that you’ve been trying to emulate for years?


The one that doesn’t seem to materialize, no matter what you do?


Truth be told, I understand. Back training lends itself to being tremendously enticing to get carried away with throwing around heavy loads. Meaning that it’s all too easy for form to break down, much of the stimulus to be taken from your target muscle, and placed onto your joints, tendons, and ligaments.

If you’re looking after your best interests, and keeping long-term growth, joint integrity and health in mind, this is no bueno.

The following tips will help you master your ego when you step into the iron jungle, generate an effective, muscle building back session, and slap some size on those slabs of yours.

So let’s go.

1. Use a variety of grips (prone, neutral, supine, semi-supinated) on rows and pulldowns.

Try doing a standard lat pulldown with your hands out wide, and palms pronated. Then flip the script and try a narrow, supinated grip. While the movement is similar, each variation feels noticeably different from one another, and you’ll feel different muscles bearing the brunt of the load in each movement.

Adjusting your grip allows you to target different muscles. If your goal is hypertrophy, this is a powerful tool in your box, and allows you to inject much creativity into your session.

You can also use different grips to put yourself through a mechanical drop-set. Using the pulldown example again, you could do 10 reps with a wide & prone grip, 10 reps with a neutral grip, then finish with a close & supinated grip until failure. This allows you to use the same weight throughout all different grips, while achieving maximum stimulus.

2. Practice pull-ups (bodybuilding style).

Pull-ups, when done correctly, are a difficult back movement which display raw strength, and will contribute to building a thick, strong back. But, doing them correctly is a wily ball of wax.

Chances are (if you were instructed on how to execute pull-ups), you were told to get our chest to the bar at the very least, and aim to pull up as high as you can.

For the sake of optimal pull-ups and crushing your lats, watch your range of motion. Often, when are arms are bent at 90deg (give or take), that’s where you’ll feel the peak contraction throughout your lats, and that’s where you want to flex and hold for a moment before sinking into the deepest stretch that you can. Executing pull-ups like this is clearly a far cry from CrossFart’s fabled kipping pull-ups, or leaning on using momentum to get yourself up to the bar.

These are crisp pull-ups that build muscle and strength.

To do these properly, you’ll need to leave your ego behind, and potentially call on the assisted pull-up machine or a band looped beneath your feet for help.

But if you do them like so, you’ll develop a back that tears through your t-shirts.

build a bigger, stronger back

Executed correctly, and pull-ups will help you build a bigger, stronger back.

3. Work on your lat mobility (loaded stretching).

For a muscle to grow maximally, you need to train it through it’s full range of motion.

To train a muscle through its full range of motion, you need a strong degree of mobility in your muscle.

In the particular case of your lats, you can build upon and improve your mobility by integrating loaded stretching into your sessions for greater mobility.

Here’re a few ways you can go about getting a deep stretch that pulls from top to bottom of your lats.

  1. Hang from a pull up bar, and let your dead weight stretch you out.
  1. Grab a pole/machine for support with one hand, and lean back and away from it. As you get more mobile, get more aggressive with this one.
  1. Load up the lat pulldown with at least your bodyweight, strap in, and let the weight pull through your lats. This should pull you slightly off your seat.

4. During one arm exercises, use tactical stimulation to engage your lats.

The act of touching a target muscle while it’s working is a powerful way to enhance your mind-muscle connection, and ensure that you’re feeling every inch of every rep.

When it comes to back training, this applies to everything that you do unilaterally. One arm pulldowns, rows, and cable work…all lend themselves well to using tactical stimulation to improve your lat activation.

And the greater your mind-muscle connection and lat activation?

The greater training stimulus you’ll illicit.

5. Deadlifts are important, but you need not make them the basis of every session.

I don’t believe deadlifts are the end all, be all of back growth. Nor do they need to be the focus of every back session.

But, that doesn’t mean they’re not important, or have their place in a well-built training program.

Utilize deadlifts to improve upon your base of strength, pose your body to heavy loads, and add some high threshold work into the mix, but they don’t need to be the core of each training session.

If it be muscle growth you hold in the highest esteem, overall training stimulus is what you should be chasing, not heavy loads that cause your form to break down, and joints to take a mean beating.

6. Use bands.

Simply put, bands are a fucking awesome way to bring a new stimulus into your training session.

They’re also great for helping to work around injuries (Thanks to a touchy lower back, I love using bands on the leg press to “unload” my back in the bottom when it’s most vulnerable, and enhance the contraction when I’m in a stronger position).

Thanks to applying accommodating resistance as you move through a full range of motion, you’ll generate more time under tension, which will inevitably lead to more growth.

Bands also allow you to manipulate the strength curve of an exercise by shifting the most/least challenging parts of a movement.

Bro tip: Next time you do seated cable rows, add a band into the mix, and do 10s isometric hold at the end of each set. Hello, lats.

7. Up your training volume, and build your intensity. Your back can handle it, trust me.

Your back can safely be considered the legs of your upper body. Not only does that make it the largest musculature on your upper body, but it also nods to the fact that you back can handle a ton of training volume and intensity.

Think somewhere in the 40-50 working sets per week region. Honestly, I believe this is a large reason why many lifts struggle to build their back. They simply don’t have a high enough training volume to generate the response they’re looking for.

In union with upping your overall training volume and your backs ability to recover, you can also up your training frequency. By now, multiple studies point to a higher training frequency (but lower per session volume) being a more powerful growth factor than one high, high volume session per week. In short, 3 back sessions per week of 15-20 working sets will yield better results than one monster back session consisting of 45-60 working sets.


Don’t forget to integrate intensity techniques. Your back can certainly handle the work, and doing so allows you to add a little flair into, and have fun with your back work.

build a bigger stronger back

Talk about a man who knows how to effectively train his back.

8. Listen to John Meadows, and use his innovative movements.

Truth be told, I have a massive man-crush on John Meadows, and I owe a lot of my own success with bodybuilding to discovering him when I was first getting into this gym.

Simply put, the man knows his shit. Pay attention to what he says, and at the very, follow his example.

9. Angles, angles, angles. Use them all.

Manipulate your body position to adjust the angles and lines of motion you work in.

Do pulldowns with your torso at 90deg, 60deg, 45deg, and the list goes on.

The same goes for rows. Row to your hips, row to your belly button, row to your chest.

Each line of motion will stimulate a different region of your back.

10. Pay attention to your sequencing.

When it comes to constructing a brilliant training session, sequencing is an important tool in the box. Even more so when it comes to chasing hypertrophy.

Here’re are some “rules” to take into consideration when plotting out your next back session (this way of structuring a training session is something I’ve learned from John Meadows, as well).

For muscle gain, I’m in favour of NOT starting with your biggest movement. Establishing blood flow and getting a pump before you move into heavier barbell work (this applies to all body parts) is something I’ve found to be incredibly beneficial to the training experience, growth and recovery for not only myself, but clients as well.

Once you’ve got *feeling* in your target muscle, a nice little pump, and you’re feeling ready to go, now is a great time to move into higher threshold work (deadlifts, barbell rows, etc).

With your high threshold work done and dusted, now you want to build up volume, and mix in some intensity. This is a great spot in your session to add in drop-sets, isometrics, super/tri sets, band work, and the list goes on.

Lastly, polish off  with a stretching movement. Dumbbell pullovers, straight arm pulldowns, lat pulldowns, anything where you can enhance the stretch portion will do.

11. Dante Trudel’s Rack Pull-Ups. Use them. That is all.

Watch this.

These are gold, will roast your lats, and have you feeling them like never before.

Enough said.

12. Don’t neglect your spinal erectors.

When many lifters think of their back, they only consider their lats and traps (because width and thickness, son), and not the thick musculature that runs parallel to, and supports your spine.

You’ll be selling your posture, spinal health, and gains extremely short if all you focus on are your lats and traps. Not only do you need to paint the whole picture, but you need to train it as well.

Good Mornings, Hyperextensions, Reverse Hyperextensions, 45 degree Back Extensions. These are all great movements for targeting your erectors.

13. Use maniacal sets of death (on occasion).


I’m a firm believer that every now and then you should “see God” during your sessions (personally, I aim for this once per week at minimum, and twice if I’m feeling particularly saucy).

The goal of using magical sets of death?

To go a little nuts, have some unencumbered fun, ramp up your intensity, and challenge yourself.

The Final Reps.

It’s one thing to read this list of back training tips, and think “cool, I’ll get around to trying some of those.”

It’s another thing to actually put said tips into practice, and reap the rewards from doing so.

So, what’ll it be? Gains, or no gains?

About the Author

alex-mullanAlex is a short shorts enthusiast, espresso fiend, and unapologetic meathead. When he's not training legs or learning how to better serve his clients, he can be found exploring how to further crush life, perfect his risotto recipe, or pull the perfect shot of espresso. Alex has polled 19 of the top muscle building minds for their best training tips, and gathered them into one convienent guide. Click through here to grab your copy of the prestigious Hypertrophy Handbook (it's free).