There are essentially two ways to train the back to add muscle. First, you can opt for the traditional type of training performed by trainers at most gyms in America. These workouts usually involve 4 sets of four exercises, in which your repetitions span from 8 to 15. You train for muscle, but mainly for the pump as well. This type of training is fairly effective, but you are probably aware (if you’ve been training in this manner for years) that you’re not going to see a lot of changes in your physique from week to week on it.
There is a second method of training the back, and while the goals parallel those of bodybuilders (to gain muscle mass), the means by which this is achieved involve lifting in a method consistent with powerlifting. You keep the weights high and the reps low, and you use a lot of sets. Here is a sample workout involving a powerlifting-style of training, designed for bodybuilders.
Wide-grip lat pulldowns
You’re going to use some seriously heavy weight for this set. Instead of opting for the traditional four sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, you’ll be using 6 sets of 3 to 5 repetitions. This means you’ll be going very heavy, and using a lot of cheating to help you move the bar. As long as you’ve thoroughly warmed up for this movement, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Again, after a warm-up of two moderate sets, you’ll be using very heavy weights for very low repetitions. Your goal will be triples. Two sets of warm-ups in the 8 to 15 range should be followed by 5 sets of 1 to 3 deadlifts. Always wear a back brace when completing deadlifts this heavy.
One-arm dumbbell rows
Again, you’ll be going extremely heavy on this movement. After two warm-up sets, you’ll knock out four sets of 2 to 5 repetitions with a very heavy dumbbell. It’s okay to break form a bit, as long as your back is on fire from the heavy weight you’re moving. A weight belt is recommended for this movement as well.
Hammer strength rowing
Finally, it’s time to act like a bodybuilder for a few minutes. Climb out of the free weight area and tackle a Hammer Strength balanced lift of your choice. Mix them up with each workout. You’ll want to pump up the back with 4 to 5 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions. Burn out that back, then call it a day!
This style of workout should not be used for more than 4 weeks in a row without at least a single week of more traditional, higher repetition and higher set training. You’ll notice the back becoming much stronger, at the expense of some size in certain areas not covered by your new style of training.
Additionally, your joints and tendons will tend to ache following this type of training. Use it for as long as it remains effective, and then try another training method for a few weeks.