3 Effective Cues for Building a Big, Muscular Back

How to get a big, muscular back fast - Toronto personal training

In a world where most bro’s just hit chest and biceps, an impressive back is not too common. Since you can’t see your own back, most guys just don’t train it as hard as the visible muscle groups. However, there’s no denying that a well-developed, muscular back takes your physique to a next level. Since I’ve struggled to build my back for years, I’m gonna share the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way to help you build a big, muscular back.


The common path

Throughout my lifting journey I’ve listened to the majority of people giving advice.

Guess what? Most of it is just a regurgitation of the next guy’s beliefs.

When it comes to back training especially, “hard” and “heavy” is the most common recommendations you’ll hear.

Well, that has left me with sore joints, slightly damaged lower back and sub-par back development.

In addition, I started to believe that “genetically” I’m just not meant to have a big, muscular back. What a load of crap.

The truth is that I was focusing on the wrong cues.


Internal focus of control

So it was time to switch things up completely.

I stopped focusing on external factors such as the ‘best exercises’ or how much weight I’m lifting.  

Instead I started focusing on what’s going on internally.

“Am I feeling the muscle stretch and contract?”

“Which muscle is actually initiating the movement?”

I started focusing on making sure my back muscles are actually doing most of the lifting – fully stretching and contracting hard.

If I wasn’t feeling my back working during an exercise I’d just pick another that I would,  not getting attached to a specific movement just because it’s said to be “king of mass”.

It wasn’t until I started focusing on precise exercise execution that I started to see lagging body parts come up.


Here’s what made a great difference for me:


Lighten the weight.

Biggest mistake I see people make (myself included) is lift weights that are simply too heavy.

If hypertrophy is your goal then isolating and feeling the muscle at work becomes priority.

Lightening the weight allows you to create a better mind-muscle connection with the muscles you are targeting by being able to control the weight and “choose” which muscle you want to use to do so.

Just because your deadlift increased or you dumbbell row heavier, doesn’t mean your back is actually growing unless your execution remains precise.

Heavy weights with poor execution will hypertrophy your ego more than anything else.


Use precise execution.

Exercise execution is the most important factor when it comes to building muscle. Even more so for your naturally smaller and weaker body parts.

Simply going through the motion of a row will not sufficiently stimulate your mid back for optimal growth.

My rule is “If you can’t feel your muscle doing the work, fix your execution first“.

There’s no good motive to keep increasing the load and intensity if your execution is poor.

Poor execution means the muscles you are trying to target during the movement are not active or just barely.

More weight will just break the form down further, increasing stress on joints and teaching your brain the wrong movement patterns that will become harder to fix down the line.

It’s important to initiate the exercise with the working muscle from the start. The muscle that you initiate the movement with will end up doing the majority of the work throughout the set.

As your ability to activate and use a muscle on demand increases, your gains will skyrocket.

If you cannot feel your back muscles working during the exercise, either switch to a different exercise or lighten the load and spend some time learning the correct execution.


Use unilateral exercises. 

Unilateral exercises are fantastic for activating or targeting lagging body parts.

For example:

If you begin doing heavy barbell rows, your most dominant muscle groups will take over.

In addition, if performed unconsciously – meaning you’re letting the weight lead your body, instead of vice versa – your body will find the most efficient way to perform the task.

That means involving some legs, lower back, momentum and other external mechanical advantages leaving you with maybe a 20-30% actual mid-back/lat muscle fiber activation.

Truth is you will never get a big, muscular back doing it this way. And no, adding more weight will not help.

Instead, if you perform some light unilateral exercises such as the one arm cable row or dead-stop row first, you’ll be able to activate the weaker back muscles such as a mid-traps, rhomboids and perhaps lats.

This will help create stronger brain neuro-pathways to those muscles, so they’ll play a bigger part in a heavier compound lift.

I like to perform these exercises first to “wake my mid traps up” before I move on to the barbell exercises and “keep them awake” for the rest of the workout.

Note* I am not recommending going light to build your back. Use the heaviest load you can manage while maintaining proper exercise execution. If you stop feeling your back muscles working or begin swinging and using sloppy form, the weight is too heavy.  


Final Words

I can guarantee you that your ability to activate and use your strong body parts is high.

In turn, your ability to activate and control your lagging body parts is poor. This is not a coincidence.

Genetics are not the reason why your back is not growing. It’s because you’re not actually stimulating the back muscle fibers sufficiently to make them grow.

best exercises for a bigger more muscular back - toronto personal training

I used to be so attached to deadlifting and the thought of lightening the weight or substitute a different exercise altogether was horrifying. I’ve been working diligently at it for a long time and giving up my devoted investment was difficult.

However, I’ve seen most of my back growth afterwards, once I’ve implemented these points above.

how to build a big, muscular back - toronto personal training how to build a big, muscular back - toronto personal training

Getting attached to a specific lift or a certain amount of weight (anything external) can and will limit your progress potential immensely. It is extremely important to have an internal point of reference guiding your decisions.

It’s the only way to learn how your own body truly functions  as well as figure out which exercises work best for you through mastering execution first. 



Primal Breed is committed to providing you effective personal training in Toronto, helping you lose unwanted weight permanently and build lean muscle for life.

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