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Big Back Building Blocks

Big Back Building Blocks

Go WIDE With These Targeted
Variations for Traps And Lats

“Strong back, strong man.” The quote has long been attributed to legendary strongman Bill Kazmaier. I’m not sure if he actually said it or not, but it seems appropriate. He’s one of the strongest men that has ever lived.

Strong back often equates to big back—something all iron gentlefolk seek. We all appreciate traps and lats dominating the back of a T-shirt. It’s an image that sends a strong message.

Unfortunately, many lifters toil in pursuit of back strength and aesthetics, never optimizing either. The problem is foundational. It’s in their approach. Today we change that and we lay the big back building blocks.

Tension Builds Size: Train Heavy!

Most back training programs are a volume-laden howitzer barrage. These programs aren’t completely off-base; the back does need volume to grow. But the thick, dense and strong look results from conquering heavy loads.

Rowing variations and vertical pulls (think lat pulldowns and pullups) are only loaded so heavily. They’re still densely useful, but they have a hard stop at a distinct ceiling. What, then, do we use to achieve this heralded density? Heavy and frequent deadlifting.

The lats, traps and spinal erectors hold serious tension during deadlifts. They keep the body upright. The intense, postural tension sends the message that creating density throughout these muscles isn’t just important; it’s necessary for survival. Protect the spine at all costs!

Beyond conventional deadlifts, there are a couple of deadlifting variations that hugely impact lat, spinal erector and trap density: snatch-grip variations and eccentric RDLs.

Snatch-Grip Deadlift Variations

For those unfamiliar, the snatch-grip is a widened grip on the barbell named for the Olympic lift. Rather than grasping the bar just outside the legs, as it goes with most deadlift variations, the snatch-grip places the hands well outside the frame to the limits of one’s arm length.

Snatch-gripping asks the lats to build tension rivaled only by making a bad joke the first time you meet your in-laws. The position also challenges the traps and spinal erectors. The traps fire hard to stabilize the shoulder blade, and the precarious position makes the spinal erectors bust hump to keep the spine neutral.

Rack pulls best utilize the snatch-grip—especially for our current, back density-building, context. Tension reigns heavy through the back, but range of motion is limited elsewhere, making the movement productive and safe. Set up snatch-grip rack pulls so that the bar rests at the knee, slightly above, or slightly below depending on your height. (Taller folks set it higher, shorter folks set it lower.) Train these on your back day, or your deadlift assistance day, using sets of three to eight reps. Keep the total reps between fifteen and twenty-five.

Eccentric RDLs

These magnificent back-builders keep our posterior upper-body muscles under extended, intense tension that gifts us dense hypertrophy.

Lowering the bar slowly while pulling it into the legs makes the back work in overdrive. Lats and traps strain to keep the bar on the legs. Erectors heroically fight spinal flexion.

Extend the eccentric portion of your RDLs for three to six seconds, and then lock out violently. Perform these bad boys on your back day or on your deadlift training day. Follow the same rules prescribed for the snatch-grip rack pull.  

Rowing For a Big Back

Up to now we’ve discussed deadlifts and density, but I’m not counting rows out of the big back equation. They’re an integral component.

There are, however, a few rowing implementation tricks that improve back development.  8/6/15 Rows and ISOs.

8/6/15 Rows

Folks blandly one arm row themselves toward little-to-no gains—straight sets of eight, of ten. But approaching the one arm row a bit differently opens a huge door to progress. On the other side of the door is the 8/6/15 row.

Start by picking a dumbbell you can row for a solid twelve reps. You’ll use this as your eight-rep warm-up weight. Now we get intense.

For the next set, grab a dumbbell that you think you can row for two reps and rip it for at least three. Next week you'll crush four reps. You’ll keep going until you hit six reps—then increase by five pounds for that set. If you hit six reps the first week, you're done with that weight and you move up five pounds next week.

The fifteen set follows suit, except you’ll start with twelve reps and work up to fifteen. To start, choose a dumbbell that’s about eighty percent of your six-rep dumbbell.

This rep scheme isn’t for lighthearted folks. You must attack these sets with intensity.

ISO Rows

This rowing addition is simple, yet profound. Rather than ripping from rep to rep, we pause for at least a three count in the top position.

ISO rows build thick, aesthetically enhanced backs by increasing time under tension and ramping contraction intensity. Each tells the body and brain that slabs of back muscle are important.

Using sets of five to ten reps, and your favorite rowing variations, hold ISO rows for three to ten seconds for reach rep. As you increase ISO time, decrease reps per set to maintain intensity.

Cycle ISO rows as your main lift on a back training day, or do an entire two to four week cycle using ISOs for all of your rowing movements. Each option abounds with back-building productivity.  

Suggested Supplements

[Editor's Note: As Todd says, you'll find out right away that these workout variations aren't for the lighthearted. You'll be wanting to bring maximum intensity to the floor, and that means preparing for your workout with a comprehensive, multi-pathway pre-workout performance optimizer like BioQuest's AndroFury. AndroFury addresses every aspect of workout productivity by combining a high-yield, muscle-engorging pump complex with ultra-bioactive, premium-grade energy factors, then adds cutting-edge endurance enhancers and focus agents to support intensity. At the same time, AndroFury's primary technology, a full-spectrum, protodioscin-rich super compound, is working overtime to support your all-important testosterone levels, while maximizing the aggression, power and energy output associated with ramped up T-levels.

Of course, performance is just half the story when it comes to building a massive back. You've got to maintain those gains you've worked so hard for, and that's where a solid mass builder like BioQuest's MyoZene pays big dividends. MyoZene's ultra-rapid-action whey hydrolysate technology jumpstarts growth in the narrow window of anabolic potential immediately post-workout, triggering up-regulated protein synthesis and muscle growth on a massive scale. MyoZene's advanced leucine-peptide techniology is unparalleled in triggering anabolism along the mTOR pathway, yielding gains beyond anything you'd previously believed possible. MyoZene is your ticket to a huge back (and overall physique) that will turn heads everywhere you go!]

Big Back Building Finish

Big, strong backs are built with tension and intensity. Snatch grip your rack pulls and add eccentrics to your RDLs. Utilize 8/6/15 one-arm rows and mix in some ISO variations. You’ll train a stronger back that builds a stronger man.

Read more about AndoFury here.

Read more about MyoZene here.

Use as directed with a sensible nutrition and exercise program. Read and follow all product label instructions and warnings thoroughly before use. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.