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Developing a Lean and Muscular Back

Updated on April 21, 2017

Lean and Muscular Back

The back muscles are very complex

There are approximately 650 muscles in the human body, the back, which is made up of three groups (superficial, intermediate, and deep back) is one of the larger muscle groups, consisting of about 80 muscles. The superficial group (starting at the base of the neck and extending past the shoulder blade) collaborates to move the neck, shoulders and arm. Your intermediate back muscles (located behind the ribs) interact with the respiratory system and move the ribs when you breath. The strongest of the three groups, the deep back muscles (starting at the back of the neck, connecting the skull to the spine), combine with your abdominal muscles to keep the body erect and upright. Back muscles are directly related to your posture, so it is imperative to keep them strong and healthy. An injured or problematic back issues can produce complications in other areas of the body such as the neck, hips, legs and your respiratory system as well. Studies have shown as many as 75% of American adults experience some type of back pain. Some of the muscles in your back are small and easily pulled/injured by doing something as simple as carrying a heavy backpack, playing sports, improper lifting,and sudden and repetitive movements. These tips to build, develop and strengthen your back will help alleviate the some of the everyday back issues.

Diagram of the Back muscles

Female muscular back development

Female Muscular definition

Weight Training

Unless you're into body building or fitness competitions, the back really isn't a "glamour" muscle group. Even if you're just trying to get fit or maintain health, your focus should be on strengthening your entire body. The back is a large collection of muscles (the latissimus dorsi covers most of the lower back and is the strongest of the back muscles) and is very complex. Because of it's size and complexity, it's more effective to grow your back by subjecting it to high volumes of training (between 12 to 20 sets, 6 to 12 reps per set). Everybody is different and some people may be genetically gifted and respond to a low number of sets, but for the rest of us normal, average folks, high volume training is best. The majority of these sets should be compound movements (dead lifts, barbell rows, dumbbell rows, chin ups and pull ups). You can perform a thousand cable rows and lat pull downs and they will give you a nice pump, but if your objective is developing thickness and width, the compound movements will incorporate the most muscle fibers and adequately stimulate back growth. Most people have difficulty doing pull ups and chin ups, because it's basically pulling up your own body weight, dead body weight at that. However they are one of the most effective back developing movements, so get a training partner or use the weight assisted machine if you have too, but make sure these movements are a part of your back routine. Unless someone is paying you to try to break a power lifting record or your training for the Olympics, the weight used should be a weight that you can control, maintain and feel the burn/pump in your back, not in your arms and shoulders. If your lower back, grip strength and lumbar spine are weak, it will be difficult to use enough weight to put on a lot of size and can keep you in a rut. When you see a guy in the gym with impressive arms and a very weak looking back, it's because he is allowing his arms to do all the work and not his back. Just grab the weight and let your back do all the work. Decrease the weight if you have to and move slower to feel the burn in your back which will result in new muscle growth.

Muscular back definition

How to perform the Bent-over-row performed by Scott Herman fitness

Back Exercises

As mentioned before, your workout routine should be full of compound movements. Like the dead lift, the bent over row puts demands on the entire body (incorporating more muscle fibers)and they build up your lumbar and erectors. With a shoulder width stance and knees slightly bent, you are "bent over", keeping your back flat, you pull the weight to your chest. As you get stronger, you will be able to use a wider grip. Dead lifts give you stability, overall strength and grip strength which will aid you in your performance of other movements. chin ups/pull ups both should definitely be in your regime. One is underhand grip and the other overhand, but are essential for over all back width. If pulling up your body weight comes easy for you, then slap on a weight belt and try some weighted pull ups/chin ups. The compound movements are for growth, however your back has numerous and complex muscles, so isolation is also needed. The seated row, Kroc rows, pullovers, and lat pull downs at some point should be implemented in to your session. Remember the back needs volume.

Black Beans and Rice

Ingredients for Black Beans and Rice

  • 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, Chopped
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 3/4 cup Uncook Rice, White
  • 1 1/2 cups Vegetable Broth, Low sodium, low fat
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin, Ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups Black Beans, Drained


  1. In a stockpot over medium heat, heat the oil. add the onion and garlic and saute' for 4 minutes. Add the rice and saute' for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes. Add the spices and Black Beans.


You cut calories when your objective is to lose weight, right? So when your goal is to gain lean muscle you obviously are going to have to eat more. Just like losing weight is a process, so is gaining muscle. It's definitely not going to happen overnight. If you increase your caloric intake by 500 calories per day (calories should be in the form of proteins and carbohydrates such as beans, pasta or rice), this will give your body enough fuel to add approximately a pound of muscle per week. I know your thinking that's not much, but if you do this consistently, it can equate to 40 or 50 pounds over the course of a year. Of course this will assist in growing all of your muscles, not just the back. Your diet should be filled with an adequate amount of carbohydrates to provide you with enough energy for your heavy, intense workouts and high enough in protein to allow your body to fully recover back to 100% (30 to 50 grams of protein per meal, 4 to 6 meals a day) depending on the person, everyone's body processes at different rates. Ensure that your diet is specifically designed for your body, not from a friend or a magazine you picked up from the grocery store. Protein can not be stored, so if it's not utilized by the body, it will either be excreted or stored as fat. So consuming ridiculous amounts of protein actually does the body more harm than good. Let's not forget about the essential fats. You will need an adequate amount of these fats (peanut butter, fish oil and walnuts) to permit the central nervous system to recover.

Black beans and Rice

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/2 a cup
Calories 140
Calories from Fat9
% Daily Value *
Fat 1 g2%
Carbohydrates 27 g9%
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 6 g24%
Protein 6 g12%
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 354 mg15%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Rating Black Beans and Rice

Cast your vote for Black Beans and Rice

Getting enough rest after working such a large muscle group is a must


When you don't get enough sleep, you feel lethargic and it shows in your eyes or you may not be as alert as you normally are, some people will get bags from lack of sleep. Sleep is just as important to your diet and training, as it is to your eyes and you being completely coherent. Not getting the necessary eight hours of sleep a night can hamper your potential gains. Always stretch often, (several times a day) especially after your workouts to aid in breaking up any lactic acid build up and help you recover a lot quicker. This is part of the reason the hanging exercises (chin ups and pull ups) are so effective, your lats are stretched before they are contracted and compressed. The back is a large and complex muscle group, so after an intense high volume training session, it is absolutely necessary to get a sufficient amount of rest. It may even be more beneficial to you if you scheduled your rest day after your back workout, as you may not want be moving around to much. Just relax and get plenty of rest.


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    Post Comment
    • Alphadogg16 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin W 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for the read MOS, Yes not eating enough will force your body into a "starvation mode", and the calories you do consume will be stored as fat, hindering weight loss.

    • Man of Strength profile image

      Man of Strength 

      7 years ago from Orlando, Fl

      What's good Alphadogg,

      I do a lot of pullups and chin-ups at home. I'm seeing results. Can not eating enough calories hinder weight loss?


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