How to Get a Bigger and Stronger Back in Just 30 Days

If you want a 30-day workout routine that’s guaranteed to make your back bigger and stronger, then you want to read this article.

Not so long ago, I struggled to get the type of back that I really wanted.

I had tried many things, too.

High reps. Low reps. These exercises. Those exercises. One session per week. Three sessions per week.

But something was missing. It all just wasn’t enough and I didn’t know why.

Well, fast forward to today and here’s where I am now:

back workout for men

I wouldn’t say I’m ready to win a bodybuilding show, but I did finally figure out how to get a back I can be proud of.

And in this article, I’m going to show you how I did it, and how you can follow in my footsteps.

The proof will be in the pudding, too. Follow the 30-day workout routine I lay out below, and your back will get bigger and stronger.

I have to warn you, though—it’s not going to be easy.

You can’t get a wide, thick, and powerful back by popping some pills and powders and doing some pullups and chinups.

So if you’re looking for “weird tricks” or “workout hacks,” then this isn’t for you.

If, however, you’re ready to learn the simple science of building a big back, and if you’re ready to put in some work, then keep reading.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Back

bigger stonger back anatomy

Let’s start by reviewing the muscles that we want to develop.

The bulk of the back is made up of several muscles:

  • Trapezius (traps)
  • Rhomboids
  • Teres major and minor
  • Infraspinatus
  • Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Erector spinae (iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis muscles)

The upper portion is referred to as the thoracic spine, which includes the trapezius, rhomboids, teres muscles, infraspinatus, and lats.

Here’s how it looks:

bigger stonger back muscles

And the lower portion is referred to as the lumbar spine, which is mainly the erector spinae muscles shown here:

back muscles anatomyNow, as far as back training goes, here’s the brass ring we’re striving toward:

  • Well-developed traps that form the centerpiece of the upper back.
  • Rhomboids that create deep “valleys” when flexed.
  • Wide, long lats that give us the V-taper we all love.
  • Well-developed teres and infraspinatus muscles that pop.
  • Thick erector spinae that turn the lower back into a “Christmas tree.”

Here’s another snapshot of where I’m at with all this:

My lats are still a work in progress (hence the standing upright pushdowns in the video), but all in all I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.

So, if that’s the goal, how do you get there?

Keep reading to find out.

Back Building 101

If you don’t have the back you want, you’re probably making one of two big mistakes:

1. Focusing on the wrong exercises.

You probably spend too much time on machines and isolation exercises and far too little time on compound exercises like the deadlift and barbell row.

2. Doing too much high-rep “pump” training.

If you train more to get a pump than to get strong, you’re always going to have an underwhelming physique.

I’m not judging, though.

I made these mistakes (and many more) for years, and while I did build some muscle along the way, my back (and everything else, really) eventually stopped responding.

I hit a plateau and had no idea what to do about it.

Well, as you’ve seen, I’ve since sorted it all out, and the most important lessons I learned were:

  1. Do a lot of compound movements.
  2. Do a lot of work with heavy weights (80%+ of one-rep max).

In terms of back workouts, that means your bread and butter is heavy barbell and dumbbell pulling, and your dessert is supplementary work like lat pulldowns and chinups.

Once I started training that way, I finally started seeing real changes in my back for the first time in a long time.

Now, if that sounds a bit puzzling to you because it goes against a lot of what you’ve heard and/or assumed about gaining muscle, I understand.

Unfortunately, a lot of what you’ve probably heard is wrong.

You see, when it comes to natural muscle building, here’s the sixty-four-dollar secret:

If you want to gain muscle as quickly as possible, you want to focus on heavy (80 to 85% of your one-rep max) compound weightlifting.

If you want to gain muscle quickly, you want to focus on heavy compound weightlifting.

Regardless of all the variables that go into programming workouts, you can take that to the bank.

The reason for this is the number one rule of natural muscle building is progressive overload, which refers to progressively increasing tension levels in the muscle over time.

The most effective way to do this is adding weight to the bar, and certain exercises lend themselves better to this and reap better results than others.

Standing lat pushdowns, for example, are no deadlift, and behind-the-neck pulldowns are inferior to traditional front pulldowns.

Another element of your back workouts that you have to get right is weekly volume (the total amount of reps you do each week).

If you do too little, you’ll gain less muscle than you should or could. If you do too much, you’ll fall behind in recovery and struggle with issues related to overtraining.

Finding the “sweet spot” for volume is easier said than done, though, and especially when you’re doing a lot of heavy weightlifting, because the more weight you move in your workouts, the shorter they have to be.

This is because heavier weightlifting necessitate more recovery.

Now, I’ve tried many different workout splits and frequency schemes, and what I’ve found works best is in line with two extensive reviews on the subject:

When you’re primarily training with heavy weights, optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

This applies to every major muscle group in the body, by the way, not just the back.

 How to Get a Bigger Back
The Diet

bigger stronger back diet

You probably know that exercise alone isn’t enough to gain muscle and lose fat.

Ultimately, your success or failure is going to be decided by your diet.

Think of it like this:

If your body were a car, exercise is the gas pedal and diet is the fuel in the tank.

You have to step on the gas (exercise) to get moving (improve your body composition), but how far will you get without enough of the right fuel?

Here’s what it comes down to:

If you know how to manage your diet properly, building muscle and burning fat is simple and straightforward.

If you don’t, it’s ridiculously difficult …if not impossible.

That’s why it’s not enough to just give you a 30-day workout routine. We need to set your diet up properly as well.

I break it all down in my in-depth guide to meal planning, which I highly recommend you read and implement in conjunction with the workouts.

If you don’t, you simply won’t get as much out of them as you should.

 How to Get a Bigger Back
The Exercises

One of the biggest barriers to getting healthy and fit is information overload.

If you’ve Googled around on just about anything related to losing fat, gaining muscle, and getting strong, you know what I mean.

Article after article, video after video, and guru after guru, all saying different things, all claiming to have the One True Way to getting the body you really want.

It’s a mess.

Well, I have good news:

Out of all the back exercises you could do, a handful stand head and shoulders above the rest.

As you’ll soon see, if you make it your goal to just progress on these exercises, you’ll have no trouble adding size to your back.

Here they are…

1. Deadlift

The deadlift is, hands down, the best all-around back exercise that you can do.

In fact, it’s far more than just a back exercise — it’s a whole-body exercise that involves hundreds of muscles and allows for tremendous overload.

The bottom line is my back sucked until I started taking my deadlift seriously.

Many people avoid it, though, because they think it’s dangerous or bad for your lower back.

I mean, lifting hundreds of pounds off the ground has to be bad for your spine, right?

Well, research shows otherwise.

Ironically, the deadlift is a fantastic exercise for building lower back strength and preventing injury…when it’s done properly.

The deadlift is a great exercise for building lower back strength…when done properly.

That said, if you’ve injured your lower back in the past or are just dealing with lower back issues, you may not want to deadlift (or may need to do a variation like the sumo or hex bar deadlift).

If you’re not sure what you can and can’t safely do, I highly recommend you consult with a sports doctor. I don’t want to recommend something that might get you hurt.

Now, one of the reasons you see so much bad deadlifting in gyms and on the Internet is it’s a fairly technical movement.

I wouldn’t say it’s complicated, but it definitely requires skill to perform well.

Here’s how it works:

2. Barbell Row

Like the deadlift, the barbell row is a staple in many well-designed weightlifting programs because it works everything in the back from top to bottom.

Here’s how to do it:

Now, my favorite style of barbell row is known as a Pendlay row, which is named after the strength coach Glenn Pendlay.

It increases the range of motion, which means your back has to work harder. And, generally speaking, the harder you make your muscles work, the better progress you make.

Here’s how to do it:

Oh and in case you’re worried that this type of row is going to strain your lower back, if you maintain proper form and do other exercises to strengthen your lumbar spine (like the deadlift), you have nothing to worry about.

3. Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row is another fantastic exercise for building the back, and particularly for the lats.

Here’s how it’s done:

4. Chinup & Pullup

The chinup and pullup engage every major muscle in your back and involve the bicepsto a significant degree as well.

One or both belong in every back training program, in my opinion.

Here’s how to do a chinup:

If you can’t do a chinup yet, here’s how to work up to it:

And here’s how to progress from the chinup to the pullup:

5. Lat Pulldown (Wide- and Close-Grip)

The lat pulldown is a machine variant of the pullup that allows you to adjust the amount of weight you’re pulling.

Here’s a video that shows proper form on both the close- and wide-grip variations:

6. Standing Pushdown

The last exercise I want to share with you is the standing pushdown, which is what I was doing in the video in the beginning of this article.

It’s one of my favorite exercises for isolating the lats, which can be very stubborn.

Here’s how to do it:

Remember: Progression is the Key to Muscle Growth

That’s it for the back exercises you’re going to be doing for the next 30 days.

The key, however, isn’t just doing the exercises–it’s progressing on them. That is, increasing the amount of reps you can do, and then the amount of weight that you can move.

Remember: If you don’t get stronger, you won’t get bigger.

So, work hard on gaining strength in each of the exercises, eat enough food to grow, and your back will respond.

How to Get a Bigger Back
The Workouts

We’ve covered a lot so far—the ideal approach to back training, the physiology of muscle growth, how to eat right, and the best back exercises for gaining size and strength.

It’s now time to hit the gym!

The first step is outlining our goal for the next 30 days, which is to focus the majority of our time and energy on our backs.

As you’ll see, we’re not going to neglect the rest of our muscle gruops, but we’re going to reducing both intensity and volume elsewhere so we can really hammer our backs.

That’s why this is a 30-day program, by the way.

It’s not a balanced whole-body routine that you should do for an extended period of time; it’s a tool you can use periodically to “shock” your back into growing and then return to the toolbox.

So, here’s the workout plan:

Day 1

Pull A

Deadlift

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Barbell Row

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Dumbbell Row

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Day 2

Upper

Incline Barbell Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Close-Grip Bench Press

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Seated or Standing Military Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Dip (Chest Variation)

3 sets of bodyweight to failure

(Not sure how to do these exercises? Check out this article.)

Day 3

Rest

Day 4

Pull B

Lat Pulldown

Warm up and 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Standing Pushdown

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Chinup or Pullup

3 sets of bodyweight to failure

Day 5

Rest

Day 6

Legs

Barbell Back Squat

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Barbell Lunge

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Lying Hamstring Curl

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

(Not sure how to do these exercises? Check out this article.)

Day 7

Rest

Take measurements, do four weeks of those workouts, and measure again. I promise that your back will be bigger.

(I also recommend that you take a week to deload before resuming your normal training as your body will probably need a break.)

A few points to keep in mind while you’re doing these workouts…

Rest 3 minutes in between your 4-to-6-rep sets and 2 minutes in between your 8-to-10-rep sets.

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

You don’t have to push to absolute muscle failure every set, but you need to come close.

The subject of whether to train to failure (the point at which you can no longer keep the weight moving and have to end the set) or not is a contentious one.

Experts disagree left and right, legit-sounding scientific arguments can be made for a variety of positions, and many people report success with many different approaches.

Well, I break it all down in this article, but here’s the long story short:

We should be training to failure, but not so frequently that we risk injury or overtrain.

Exactly how much that amounts to will vary from person to person.

Personally, I never train to failure for more than 2 to 3 sets per workout, and never on the squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press as this can be dangerous.

Furthermore, I don’t recommend you train to failure when you’re using very heavy loads (1 to 4 rep range).

Instead, the majority of your sets should be taken to a rep or two preceding failure (the last rep or two that you can perform without assistance).

If you’re new to weightlifting, finding this point will be tricky, but as you get used to your body and your lifts, you’ll get a feel for it.

Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if you deadlift 6 reps on your first set, you should add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can deadlift it for 6 reps, and so forth.