Does the term “hypertrophy back workout” make your eyes glaze over? It might sound complicated or obscure, but hypertrophy training is actually an old-school, tried-and-true method for making your muscles grow. Put simply, it means working out with the goal of making your muscles increase in size, and it works best when directed at specific muscle groups in focused workouts. In the back hypertrophy workout below, I’ve applied this method to the back muscles. (When you’re ready for more, check out these hypertrophy leg, arm, chest, and shoulder routines, too.)
Any hypertrophy routine requires three key factors in order to deliver gains:
- Volume: This refers to the total number of sets (and cumulative reps) of work the muscle is exposed to in a workout or across several workouts.
- Intensity: The amount of loading a muscle takes on.
- Mechanical Tension: This refers to the muscle spending time under tension throughout its functional range of motion. Doing that requires looking closely at the muscle’s action within the body and prioritizing exercises that challenge the muscle through as much of its range of motion as possible.
For most lifters with a decent fitness baseline, the best way to achieve hypertrophy benefits is to zero in on different body regions one workout at a time. Of course, this is known as isolation training. Using isolation training methods to favor one group of muscles in a given workout allows you to spend your entire time in the gym giving that muscle group a serious pump.
When done correctly, and supplemented with a healthy, protein-rich diet complete with a caloric surplus (i.e. consuming more calories than you burn while working out), the body will respond by making that muscle group grow. Below, I’ve applied this method to the back. Read on for the best hypertrophy back workout to add to your workout regimen.
How to Work Your Back Muscles
The back comprises multiple muscles, so there are many angles and directions you can use to target different parts of the back. That said, most experts agree that targeting the back as a whole requires mostly pulling movements. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that pulling exercises involve grip strength and can fatigue the forearms and biceps as a result. This workout is designed to avoid over-fatiguing the arms and hands before the back gets a chance to put in some real work.
The Best Hypertrophy Back Workout
- A. Pullups x Max reps (5 sets): Rest as long as needed between sets.
- Perform B1 and B2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest as long as needed between sets.
- B1. V-Grip Pulldown x 8
- B2. Chest-Supported Reverse Flye x 12: Lie down on an incline bench with your chest facing the floor (your chest should be on the higher side of the bench). Grab two dumbbells; hold them straight down below you. Bend your elbows slightly and retract your shoulder blades, squeezing them as you pull the weights upward and out in an arc on either side. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement, and finish with your elbows higher than your hands. See here for a video demo.
- Perform C1 and C2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.
- C1. Dumbbell Face Pull x 12
- C2. Cobra Pulldown x 10 (each arm): Set up an incline bench in line with a high cable pulley. Lie down on your side on the bench with your head closest to the pulley. Wrap your lower arm underneath the bench for stability. With your top arm, hold the cable and perform a single-arm “pulldown” pattern. The added stretch and force angles will isolate and work the lats. Plus, you’ll have the freedom to rotate your wrist and adjust your elbow position for the best hit.
- D. Suicide Row x 10-12 (3 sets): This movement will serve as a perfect finisher for not only your back, but your entire posterior chain. Get set up with a fixed barbell or EZ bar and a horizontal back extension machine. Position yourself in the machine while holding the bar with an underhand grip at arms’ length in a full hang. While holding the weight at arms’ length, bring your torso upward, hinging at the waist. Once your back is parallel to the floor, immediately row the weight up to the ribcage. Lower your torso back down, bring the weight back to the floor, and repeat. It should be a real burner, so rest as long as needed between sets.