Nothing says “bad ass” as much as a massive back does.
A huge back is an impressive sight to see. It’s also a very important to build for health reasons. With that said, it’s also one of “those” areas where special training is warranted if you want to get past plateaus.
Time is always an issue so workouts that allow you to get in and get out while still kicking ass in the gym are critical.
There is a good side to all of this, though. If you only have a little time and need to hit the upper back hard, then it’s time to focus on density. How hard can we hit the back muscles in as little time as possible?
I don’t know about you, but I like to keep things simple yet deadly. Nothing is better for that than super setting some heavy stuff.
This will give you the back growth you’ve always wanted. Ready to bust through the plateau?
The 7 Back Growing Supersets
Hang Clean / Pull Ups
This superset is hard as hell but oh so effective.
The hang clean is an explosive and technical exercise. Considering that we’re looking for muscle mass, it is okay to go higher reps with these as long as form looks good. Just to make sure: high rep means 5-6 reps for this particular exercise.
Pull-ups are a different story. With these bad boys, you can go much higher if you are able to. With this superset in particular, allow for the pull-ups to be your “volume exercise” and hang cleans be your “power exercise”.
You’ll clean clocks with this one.
Deadlift / Face Pulls
For back thickness, the deadlift is amazing. It is one of my top two exercises for it, the other being one-arm dumbbell rows. The only problem with the deadlift is that it can require massive amounts of grip strength. That makes it difficult to pair it up with something else without affecting the deadlift too much.
For this situation, we can add in face pulls, which don’t require much grip strength and add in a good amount of volume.
Go heavy and hard with your deadlifts, and allow the face pulls to give you the extra “oomph” to your back.
T-Bar Rows / Farmers Walk’s
Whenever I think of T-Bar Rows, I think of Ronnie Coleman going through a set of what looks like 1,000-pound T-Bar Rows. It’s probably an effective exercise if he’s using it.
When I think of farmer’s walks, I think of huge dudes carrying those massive torpedo-shaped weights.
In essence, these two exercises are not for the faint of heart. Put them together and you got yourself a full-body workout that blows up your back.
When these two exercises are put together, grip becomes a factor to watch out for. As an insider tip, go “light” (6-8 reps) of T-Bar Rows and go heavy with the farmer’s walk but done at a low volume such as 15 yards. To add volume, increase the amount of sets.
Regardless, experiment with different loads and ways of adding volume to find the perfect zone where you’ll get a good balance between ¬¬¬¬¬volume and keeping your grip intact.
Bent Over Rows / Seated Rows
Many coaches think that horizontal pulling should actually be prioritized over vertical pulling. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but here is a superset if you wish to go that route.
Bent over rows are one of the most used and effective back exercises there is. Seated rows are amazing as well. Who can’t see themselves rowing like Arnold did in Pumping Iron?
Just like with any other superset in this article, pick one of the two to be the “power” exercise and the other as the “volume” exercise. I usually prefer to have the bent over row to be the power portion and the seated row to be the volume exercise.
One Arm Dumbbell Rows / Inverted Rows
Although probably one of the most basic supersets on this list, it’s also one of the most effective.
Many “hardcore” guys scoff at the use of inverted rows. You won’t catch too many guys at the gym doing these “fat man pull-ups”. The funny part is that most of them probably can’t do a set of 5 without messing up somewhere. The inverted row is actually a great exercise that most should try to master. Need more intensity? Elevate your feet, maybe add a weight vest, and you’re in business.
One arm dumbbell rows are the exact opposite. Everyone does these for a reason: they are effective. One arm rows are my main exercise for the back.
What I like about this superset is that it pairs up an open chained exercise with a closed chained exercise, a unilateral exercise and bilateral one respectively. Furthermore, it’s another horizontal pulling superset you can use to overload that movement pattern. In other words, it’s awesome.
Rope Climb / Pull downs
Looking for something unconventional? Get yourself a rope, pull yourself up, and pair that with pull downs.
Rope climbing is an amazing exercise that will build the back of a god. It is also a great core and grip exercise, which is always a plus.
Pull downs have been in use for a while now and although I would only use it as a primary exercise in a few special cases, it works rather well with the rope climb.
In this superset, the pull down should definitely be the exercise to give you more volume. The rope climb will take care of the intensity.
Chest Supported Rows / Band Pull Aparts
Probably the least intimidating superset of the bunch, it should not be counted out.
Chest supported rows are great to better feel the back and as everyone should know, the mind-muscle connection is awfully important for muscle growth.
Band pull aparts help build the stabilizer muscles with great volume and frequency.
This results in a superset that takes advantage of the mind-muscle connection and can really stack on the volume.
Some Rep Scheme Ideas
Throughout this article, I’ve mentioned to pick an exercise with higher loads and less volume and a second with lower loads but with higher volume. It’s an effective method, but there are also other ways to go about it.
Here are 3 other ways:
Everyone here should know about pyramid training, both ascending and descending. Well, what if you decided to invert them? For example, bent over rows and seated rows:
Bent Over Rows: 1,2,3,4,5
Seated Rows: 5,4,3,2,1
This way one exercise will be heavy and the other one will be lighter at any point in time.
Escalating Density Training
A T-Nation classic, it’s just as effective now as it was back when Charles Staley first popularized it.
Using the hang clean and pull up superset as an example, we can insert them into a 10-15 minute block of hell.
PR Zone – 15 Minutes
Goal Rep Method
Probably the most known goal rep method is Chad Waterbury’s 25-rep method. Even though it is a good number, any number can be used and still bring good results.
Here are some examples:
Chest Supported Rows: Goal = 25 Total Reps
Band Pull Aparts: Goal = 100 Total Reps
T-Bar Rows: Goal = 35 Total Reps
Farmers Walks Goal = 75 Total Yards
As shown above, any combination can be used. The higher the goal rep total, the less load that will be lifted, but more there will be more volume. The lower the goal total, the higher weights used, but less overall volume.
Get in, reach your goal number, and get out.
Everyone needs to add more back focused work in their training programs. For those that want a bigger back, it’s a win-win situation anyway.
Don’t have as much time as you want in the gym but still want a bigger back? Strategically superset two exercises and rack up the volume.
Just like an app, there is always a superset for that.