Build A Powerful Back

By Myron Mielke

If you want to build an incredible v-taper then you need to develop a wide flaring back. This routine will get your back growing and add some barn-door width in no time.

A Very Quick Anatomy Lesson

In order to build your back quickly and effectively you need to know how the muscles of the back function so you can train it properly. There are many large and small muscles that make up the back. We won’t spend time on the little ones, just the big, major ones. We’ll divide it into three parts.


The muscles that start at your neck and make up a triangle shape of the upper back between your shoulder blades are called the trapezius—the “traps” for short. These are the big lumps that pop out between the neck and shoulders during a “crab” most muscular pose. The traps move your arms up and down when you shrug your shoulders.


The latissimus dorsi muscles, or “lats” start at your armpits and go down to about the waist on most people. These are the impressive muscles that stick out like wings on bodybuilders. The lats’ function is to pull the arms back toward the body when the arms are extended out or up.


The lower back has a muscle on either side of your spine above your butt. These are called the spinal erectors or erector spinae. They help you bend at the waist. If you’ve ever laid sod, these were the muscles that were sore the day after.

Best Exercises

The best exercise for hitting the traps is a variation of shoulder shrugs. These can be done with a barbell, dumbbells or on a machine. Upright rowing can be an effective exercise for building the traps also, but that exercise can put a strain on the rotator cuffs, which are the inner supporting muscles of the shoulder. I recommend sticking with good ol’ shrugs.

For the lats you will want to do one exercise for width and one for thickness. Width is usually best achieved through pull-ups on a chin-up bar or pulldowns on a machine. Both work well. If you’re just starting out and lack the strength to do pull-ups, use the pulldown machine.

For lat thickness perform a variation of a rowing movement. These can be done in a bent-over position with a barbell or two dumbbells. T-bar or leverage-bar rows also work well as do seated cable rows. Whichever exercise you choose, you need to pull with your lats and not your arms. Rowing exercises are not for your biceps but they are to build your back. Think of your arms as hooks and concentrate on pulling with only your back. Tense and contract your lats all the way through the movement and pull the weight to your lower abdomen and not your ribcage. This technique will be a little difficult at first but once you master this technique your back will explode with new growth and power.

To build the lower back you can pick deadlifts with a barbell or dumbbells or hyperextensions on a special bench that allows you to lock your legs and freely raise your upper body while in a prone position. Keep your back straight and knees bent during deadlifts and never round your back. Concentrate on lifting with your legs and driving the weight up with your hips. Once you get the form down you can really go heavy on these. Hyperextensions, on the other hand, will not require any weight for your first few months of training. Higher reps are good for “hypers.”

The Routine

Perform this routine twice per week with two days rest in between, such as Monday and Thursday. Do four sets of each exercise and eight to 10 reps each. Rest for about one minute between sets. Try doing the same exercises for a few weeks to get the feel of really using your back instead of your arms. Once you master the technique, feel free to use any of the various other exercises for fun and variety.


Pulldowns to the front — 4x8-10 (Begin with two light warm-up sets first)

Barbell Rowing — 4x8-10


Barbell Shrugs — 4x6-8 (Begin with two light warm-up sets first)

Lower Back

Deadlifts — 3x6-8 (Begin with two light warm-up sets first)

Or Hyperextensions — 3x15


Building a strong, powerful and impressive back is not rocket science. It’s more about hard work. Once your strength levels start going up, do not be afraid to use some heavy weights. But never increase weight at the sake of using sloppy form. Heaving and hoisting the weight will not speed up your progress. If you get injured, your progress will drag to a halt. Train safe and soon your wings will be rivaling those of a 747 jumbo jet!

Copyright 2009 Myron Mielke