The Ultimate Guide to a Ripped Back

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Don’t Forget About Your Back

If you’re like a lot of men, you might be overtraining the muscles that “show” the most or be focusing the most on the exercises that give you the most respect in the gym, aka bench press. While a strong and broad chest is definitely worth achieving, you don’t want to place more attention on the anterior side of your body than your back. This can lead to a weaker developed physique and an increased risk of injury.

Building a strong, broad back goes far beyond improving your aesthetics.  Keep reading to find out how to get a ripped back and why it’s important.

Reasons It’s Important to Build a Strong Back

Aides in Daily Tasks

Your back muscles are important for not only improving your physique but also in a lot of daily tasks. Your lower back aids in lifting, carrying, and supporting your upright posture, and your upper back is responsible for supporting your shoulder girdle, head, and neck.

Improves Your Body Composition

After your legs, your back contains the largest muscles in the body, so training these muscles expend a lot of energy and will improve your body composition.

Having a ripped and broad back will not only make it look good and strong, but you’ll make your physique look better. That’s because a broad back will make your shoulders look wider and give you a V-shaped look, which is a sign of physical attractiveness in males

Correct Your Posture

Although it’s impossible to grow taller, working your back muscles will fix your posture, making you stand taller.

And I know a lot of men out there want to build the strongest and biggest chest possible, but you’re costing yourself muscle if you only focus on your chest. The stronger your back muscles are, the more weight you’ll be able to do on chest exercises. They help stabilize your shoulder joints, which will allow you to lift more.

Prevent Muscular Imbalances

Furthermore, since many men focus too much attention on their chest muscles, this often leads to muscular imbalances. If you’re working your push muscles a lot more than your pull muscles, your much more likely to injure yourself. If you have a desk job and sit behind a computer for most of your day, it’s actually recommended that you focus a little more on pull movements than push movements. This will help keep your shoulders from protracting forward and other muscular imbalances.

In fact, a 2019 study of employees found that at least 75 percent of call center workers were in back pain.

Lower back pain is common, especially as we get older so it’s important to strengthen your lower back muscles.

Plus, many sports such as rock climbing, swimming, and boxing, rely heavily on the development of your back muscles.

As an added bonus, you’ll develop bigger and toner arms by training your back. That’s because you work your biceps as a secondary muscle on many back movements. 

Back Muscles, Exercises, Reps, and Sets

Back Muscles

The back is composed of a few key muscles:

  • Latissmus Dorsi (responsible for the v-shape) – the outer back muscle that forms the “wing” shape
  • Rhomboids – located in the midsection of your upper back and used to pull your shoulder blades together
  • Trapezius – large triangular muscles extending over the back of your neck
  • Erector Spinae – runs vertically along your spinal vertebrae and straightens the back and provides side-to-side rotation

Therefore, you’ll want to focus on exercises that target these muscles when trying to build a ripped back.

Exercises

back exercise

Weighted Pull Ups

Weighted calisthenics is a measure of one’s true relative strength. When you’re doing pull-ups, you have to lift up deadweight fighting against gravity — it’s very taxing, to say the least. Now, imagine throwing weight on top of your bodyweight. This will build you the strong and chiseled back you want.

Barbell Bent-over Row

This is a classic compound movement that’s a cornerstone in back workouts for a reason. You’ll load a barbell full of weight, which will allow you to use heavier weights to build strong back muscles.

Lat Pulldown

The name speaks for itself, but the lat pulldown is designed to specifically target your latissimus dorsi. You’ll do this exercise on a cable machine, and it allows you to overload your lats without tiring out your arms.

Dumbbell Single-arm Row

The dumbbell row is designed to isolate your lat muscles to give them more volume. They’ll also improve your core stability.

Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover is a good exercise that not only targets your back but also hits your chest and triceps. Sports physiologists and researchers have also noted its effectiveness in good posture. You might recognize this movement from Arnold Schwarzenegger, as it was one of his staple bodybuilding movements.

Reps and Sets

To build a ripped back, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing the right volume for adequate muscle growth. Certain movements are better with lower reps and more weight, while others are better with a little lighter weight and a few more reps.

For example, with weighted calisthenics — e.g. weighted pull ups. — I recommend heavier weights and sticking in a lower rep range. A big compound movement such as barbell bent-over row is another exercise I recommend that you keep the weight heavy and reps low. That’s because these movements are built for strength, and your lats will pop if you overload them with enough weight on the right movements.

On exercises such as dumbbell single arm row and dumbbell pullover, you can lower the weight a little bit and increase the reps slightly. The biomechanical makeup of these movements isn’t meant for the same taxing weight as the ones mentioned above. They’re mainly for volume and to add some more definition to your back muscles. Going too heavy on these movements will cause you to use bad form and risk injury.

Example Back Workout

  • Weighted pull ups 3 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Barbell bent over row 3 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Lat pulldown 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell single-arm row 2 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell pullover 2 sets x 8-10 reps

Body Fat Percentage

It’s worth mentioning that in order for your back muscles to truly shine, you’ll want to make sure you’re a lower body fat percentage. Aim for 8-12% body fat if you want your back to be ripped and to really make your back muscles pop, but anything under 15% will show them off. 

Recap

Having a strong, broad back is often overlooked by the chest muscles. However, a chiseled back will give you the V-shape physique you desire and will also make you overall stronger and prevent injury. Try some of the exercises laid out in this article, and you’ll be well on your way to a ripped back.

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