Certain sports leave clues. Olympic Weightlifters, Strongmen, and wrestlers have the thickest backs compared to other athletes. What do they all have in common? Picking up heavy things often. But this is one aspect of back thickness workouts.
But to fully understand what muscles contribute to a thick back, we must know basic back anatomy.
The back is comprised of many muscles. But the ones responsible for back thickness are:
While the lats are the largest back muscle, bigger lats typically create a wider back instead of a thickness. Focusing on the erector spinae and traps will create the thickness making your back “pop.”
3 Tips To Get A Thick Back
Prioritize Rows Over Vertical Pulling
For back thickness, prioritize rows in your training over pull-ups and pulldowns. Rows still target the lats but are better at hitting the lower, mid, and upper traps and the rhomboids between your shoulder blades.
Use Deadlift And Pull Variations
From my experience, nothing builds a powerful thick back like heavy deadlift and pull variations. I prefer pulls over deadlifts for back thickness because it includes a powerful shrug. However, these Olympic Weightlifting derivatives take more technical refinement than a deadlift.
Therefore, the deadlift is easiest for most people. But if you have a background in Weightlifting or have time to learn the movements,
Implement Strongman Exercises
Along with pulls, Strongman carry exercises will build tremendous strength and size on your upper back and erector spinae. Use farmers walks to target your upper traps and front-loaded carries like sandbag carries to target your entire back and erectors.
The bonus with carries is you must deadlift the awkward loads to carry them, placing more stress on your back muscles for thickness.
10 Best Back Thickness Exercises
Some lifters will downplay the effectiveness of the deadlift to build a thick back because the muscles act isometrically and don’t go through a full range of motion. But to support heavy loads, your back works overtime so you don’t fold like a deck chair. Here’s how to do it:
Floating Clean Pull
The floating clean pull is an exercise you'll only see in Olympic Weightlifting. But Weightlifters have thick backs because of their huge pulling volumes. One variation is never to return the bar to the floor.
This means you support the load for the entire set forcing your back to work harder than performing continuous reps from the floor. A recipe for a thick back. Here’s how to do it:
Floating Snatch Pull
The floating snatch pull is another option with a wider grip forcing your upper back to work harder to maintain posture. You won't be able to load as heavy as the floating clean pull, but you must work harder to maintain the correct positions. Here's how to do it:
Snatch High Pull
The snatch high pull has been included in every back exercise for mass list. It's the most slept-on exercise for building a huge upper back which I use often. If you are new to this exercise, your traps will be screaming the next day. Here's how to do it:
The barbell row is the ultimate rowing variation for a thick back. You must support the load in a bent-over position as you isolate your back, pulling the bar toward you. I recommend returning the bar to the floor for each rep for stricter reps. Here's how to do it:
Chest Supported Rows
You can rest your chest on a bench or special equipment like the T-bar row to reduce lower back involvement and further isolate the mid and upper back. This is an excellent option after performing lots of deadlifts or pulls because your lower back is already taxed. Here’s how to do it:
Machine rows let you hit the back from different angles. Low, high, and iso-lateral rows give you plenty of variation. Further, you're supported, so you have little to no lower back stress like the chest-supported variations. Here's how to do it:
Sandbag Bearhug Carry
Front-loaded carries like the sandbag bearhug carry is brutal on your entire back to maintain an upright posture. You have an awkward object trying to round you over. It's one of the best exercises to strengthen and build your spinal erectors. Here's how to do it:
Sandbag loading is another excellent option for performing multiple awkward round-back deadlifts. These awkward positions develop strength and muscles other exercises won't give you. Here's how to do it:
No back thickness exercise list is complete without the farmers walk. Your upper traps will be screaming as you fatigue, holding heavy loads. Use farmers walks at the end of your back thickness workout to finish them off. Here’s how to do it:
Best Back Thickness Workout
A1) Floating Clean Pull
3 x 5
B1) Barbell Rows
4 x 12/10/8/8
C1) Chest Supported Rows
2 x 15
D1) Sandbag Bearhug Carry
3 x 20 m
You can prioritize back thickness within your workout by choosing heavy pulling and deadlifting variations and supplementing them with rowing movements. These will target the main muscles contributing to a thick back.