Muscle for life

The Ultimate Back Workout: The Best Back Exercises for a Thick, Wide Back

The Ultimate Back Workout: The Best Back Exercises for a Thick, Wide Back

If you want a wide, thick, and strong back, then you want to do these exercises and workouts…


I used to be like most guys in the gym.

So much chest and biceps and so little legs, shoulders, and back.

I learned from my mistakes, though, and worked hard to fix my proportions (which required quite a bit of work on my back):

back exercises

My lats in particular need a bit more work but I think you’ll agree they–and my back overall–are no longer a glaring weakness.

So, in this article, I want to to talk all about what it takes to build a back that makes people say “wow.”

Like most major muscle groups, it takes a lot of work to really make your back stand out. A lot more than the pullups and high-rep dumbbell rows that I used to do–that’s for damn sure.

Fortunately, though, it’s not complicated once you know what you’re doing. And I’m going to break it all down here for you–the best back exercises, how I like to program workouts, how supplementation fits into the picture, and more.

The bottom line is if you follow my advice and eat properly, your back will get bigger and stronger.

Understanding the Back Muscles

best back exercises for men

The four muscles that make up the bulk of the back, and that we want to focus on developing, are the…

  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Erector spinae

Here’s how they look:

best back exercises

(The erector spinae aren’t shown on the above chart, but they are the lower back muscles that occupy the gray area at the bottom.)

There are a few smaller bundles of muscle that matter as well, such as the teres major and minor, and the infraspinatus. You can see them here:

back muscles

Now, here’s the goal in terms of overall back development:

  • Large, but not overdeveloped, traps that establish the upper back.
  • Wide lats that extend low down the torso, creating that pleasing V-taper.
  • Bulky rhomboids that create “valleys” when flexed.
  • Clear development and separation in the teres muscles and infraspinatus.
  • A thick, “Christmas tree” structure in the lower back.

So, let’s start with some basic principles of back training, and then we’ll get to the best back exercises and a sample back workout.

The Simple Science of Back Training

best back toning exercises

The two biggest mistakes most people make in their back workouts are:

1. Focusing on the wrong back exercises.

Many people focus too much on machines and isolation exercises, which are of secondary importance in building a deep, thick, powerful looking back.

2. Focusing on high-rep training.

This mistake will stunt the growth of every major muscle group in the body and is particularly detrimental in a major and multifaceted muscle group like the back.

If those two points go against a lot of what you’ve heard and/or assumed about back training, or weightlifting in general, I understand.

I used to do every back machine in the gym and used to think that it responded better to lower weights and higher reps.

Well, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about lifting and building muscle naturally is the more you emphasize compound movements and heavy lifting (80 to 85% of 1RM and higher), the better your results.

And in terms of training the back, that means a lot of heavy deadlifts and rows with “supplementary work” like pullups and chinups.

“But wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “[SHREDDED FITNESS MODEL] does a billion reps in his shoulder workouts and has cannonball shoulders… What gives?”

If only you had his #dedication. All 2 grams of it that he injects every week.

I know, that might sound cynical, but it’s true.

When the right steroids enter the picture, achieving muscle growth is mind-numbingly simple: sit in the gym for a few hours every day doing rep after rep after rep, exercise after exercise, and muscles get bigger and bigger.

In fact, when steroids are involved, focusing on high-rep training is generally recommended.

Steroids cause muscles to grow rapidly but don’t help tendons and ligaments keep up, so weights that feel manageable can simply be too much for connective tissues. 

This is a common way that steroid users screw up their joints.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.

The result of these back training mistakes is usually a back that has a V-taper but nothing else–that’s basically just a set of lats without any thickness and separation in the middle or lower portions.

Here’s a good example:

back workout

Not very impressive.

So, a good back workout trains the lats but doesn’t just isolate them and neglect the rest. In fact, it emphasizes the bigger “prime movers.”

The strategy is simple enough:

1. Focus on lifting heavy weights in your back workouts.

If you want your back to get big and strong, you’ll want to focus on the 4 to 6 or 5 to 7 rep range.

2. Focus on the back exercises that safely allow for progressive overload.

As a natural weightlifter, you can take this to the bank: if you don’t continue to get stronger, you won’t continue to get bigger.

The number one rule of natural muscle building is progressive overload, which means adding weight to the bar over time.

Well, certain exercises don’t lend themselves well to both heavy lifting and progressive overload. Standing lat pushdowns, for example, are no deadlift. Behind-the-neck pulldowns are inferior to traditional front pulldowns.

Another aspect of your back training that you have to get right is volume, or the total amount of reps you do each week.

This is especially important when you’re doing a lot of heavy weightlifting because the general rule is this:

The heavier the reps, the fewer you can do each week.

Heavier weights necessitate more recovery, which means you can’t do as much you can with lighter weights without risking overtraining.

I’ve tried many different splits and frequency schemes and what I’ve found works best is in line two extensive reviews on the subject.

When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

This not only applies to the back but to every other major muscle group as well.

Alright, now that we have basic training theory under our belts, let’s look at the best back exercises for building muscle and strength.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

The Best Back Exercises

best back exercises for mass

Like with most muscle groups, there are scores of back exercises you can choose from but only a small handful are really necessary.

These are the exercises I’ve used to dramatically improve my back. They will help you do the same.

1. Deadlift

The deadlift is at the core of any great weightlifting program.

My back sucked in both strength and size until I started really working on my deadlift and I’ve never looked back.

Many people are afraid of this lift because they think it’s inherently bad for your lower back or dangerous.

At first glance, this fear would seem to make sense: lifting hundreds of pounds off the ground—putting all that pressure on your back, particularly your low-back and erector spinae muscles—would be a recipe for thoracic and lumbar disaster, right?

Well, research shows otherwise.

In fact, when performed with good form, the deadlift is actually a fantastic way to build lower back strength and prevent injury.

That said, if you have sustained a lower back injury in the past or have a disease or dysfunction affecting the area, you may not want to deadlift. Unfortunately, I have to recommend that you consult with a sports doctor to see if it will or won’t work for you.

Alright then, with that out of the way, let’s talk about what proper form looks like.

The Deadlift Setup

best back exercises bodybuilding

1. Position your feet so they’re slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.

2. Place the bar somewhere between against your shins and at the middle of your foot.

The key here is that your shoulders are in line with the bar, or even slightly behind it, which allows for maximum leverage as you pull the bar up and back. For taller or skinnier lifters, this will probably place the bar against their shins. For shorter or thicker lifters, this will place it somewhere around the middle of the feet.

If the bar is too close to your body and your shoulders are too far in front of it, you’ll have to move the bar forward on the way up to get it over your knees. If it’s too far from your body, you’ll feel like you’re going to fall forward and won’t be able to drive upward through your heels.

3. Stand up tall with your chest out and take a deep breath of air into your diaphragm (not your lungs), bracing your abs as if you were about to get punched in the stomach. 

4. Move down toward the bar by pushing your hips back, not by squatting straight down. Arch your lower back and keep your shoulders down.

Don’t make the newbie mistake of bringing your hips too low with the intention of “squatting” the weight up. The lower your hips are below optimal, the more they will have to rise before you’re able to lift the weight off the floor when you pull, which is just wasted movement.

Instead, you should feel tightness in your hamstrings and hips as you wedge yourself into what’s essentially a “half-Squat” position, and as soon as your hips rise, you want your shoulders to follow and the weight to start coming off the floor.

5. Place your hands on the bar, with either a double-overhand or and over-underhand grip, just outside your shins and squeeze it as hard as you can. Keep your shoulders back and down and engage your lats.

6. Don’t look up at the ceiling or down at the ground–keep your head in a neutral position.

Here’s a good video that shows the above points:

The Deadlift Pull


7. Drive your body upward and slightly back as quickly as you can by pushing through your heels, and keep your elbows locked in place and your lower back slightly arched (no rounding!).

Ensure that your hips and shoulders move up simultaneously–don’t shoot your hips up without also raising your shoulders.

8. As you approach the top (the lock-out), squeeze your glutes to push the hips through the final phase of the movement.

Maintain core tightness at the top. Don’t release the tension in your abs.

The Deadlift Descent


9. Many people break the lockout with their knees, and this is incorrect. Instead, you want to break with the hips, sitting back just as you did when you were setting up. The bar should slide down your thighs.

10. Maintain a stiff arch in the lower back and keep the shoulders down and back.

It’s also worth noting that you should make sure each rep is separate. Don’t try to bounce the bar off the ground to propel you into progressively sloppier and sloppier reps.

It’s called the deadlift for a reason–you’re supposed to be picking up dead weight, not using the momentum of a bounce.

So, once the bar is back on the ground, adjust your setup position if necessary (suck in air, tense your abs, ensure your spinal position is good, puff your chest out, “pack” your shoulder in a down position, and so forth), and hit the next rep hard.

Putting It All Together

Here’s a video that shows all the above points in action:

The Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift uses a wide stance (1.5-2 times the width of your shoulders) to shorten the range of motion and shearing force on the lower back.

It also can feel more comfortable in the hips than a conventional deadlift, depending on your biomechanics (if you walk with your toes pointed out, the sumo may be better for you).

Here’s a good explanation of how to do the Sumo Deadlift:









The downside of the sumo deadlift is the reduced range of motion, which results in less work done.

That said, it does allow for heavier loading, so it’s hard to say which type of approach is ultimately better for overall muscle development.

Personally, I stick with the conventional deadlift and recommend the same to others unless it feels very uncomfortable or is placing too much stress on the lower back, in which case the sumo deadlift might be a better choice.

The Hex Bar Deadlift

The hex bar—or trap bar—deadlift is a great way to learn to deadlift, because it doesn’t require as much hip and ankle mobility to get to the bar, and it puts less shearing stress on the spine.

Like the sumo deadlift, the hex bar deadlift also allows you to lift more weight than the conventional deadlift, which may make it a more effective exercise for developing overall lower body power.

Here’s how to do it:

2. Barbell Row

The barbell row is a staple in my back workouts because it works everything from the erector spinae up to the traps.

Here’s how to do the convention barbell row:

I personally prefer a variant of the row called a Pendlay Row, which looks like this:

I prefer this type of row because it allows you to work your back through a fuller range of motion than the more upright position.

And in case you’re worried about your lower back, the reality is if you’re keeping your form in, and deadlifting every week, you’ll never be rowing enough weight to cause an issue.

That said, if you find the Pendlay row uncomfortable, stick to the traditional row.

3. Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row allows you to safely overload your upper back with a full range of motion.

Here’s how you do it:

4. T-Bar Row

The t-bar row is another worthwhile type of row that I like to do.

Here’s how to do it:

As you can see, I’m generally not a fan of machines, but I do like the hammer strength t-bar machine, which looks like this:

t-bar row machine

5. Wide-Grip Pullup

The wide-grip pullup is one of the best exercises you can do to build the middle of your back and your lats (especially as you get stronger and can add weight with a dip belt).

Here’s how to do it:

6. Chin-Up

While many people swear by chin-ups alone, I think they should be done in conjunction with wide-grip pullups because they emphasize the biceps more.

Here’s how to do them:

7. Lat Pulldown (Wide- and Close-Grip)

The lat pulldown is a machine variant of the pullup that allows you to work in given rep ranges more easily (because you can accurately control the amount of weight you have to pull).

Here’s a video that shows proper form on both the close- and wide-grip variations:

As you can see, the close-grip variation is performed with the V-bar attachment.

8. Seated Cable Row (Wide- and Close-Grip)

Last but not least is the seated row, which is yet another row that’s great for building your upper back.

Here’s how you do it:

Remember–Progression is the Key to Muscle Growth

That’s it on the exercises.

The key, however, isn’t just doing the above exercises. It’s progressing on them. That is, increasing the amount of weight you can handle over time.

The Ultimate Back Workout

best back exercises bodybuilding


A good back workout trains all the major muscles of the back, including the lower back, and focuses on heavy lifting.

Just like any other muscle group, back can benefit from higher rep work, but you have to emphasize heavy weightlifting if you want the best possible results.

So, here’s what I want you to do for the next 8 weeks, once every 5 to 7 days:


Warm up and 3 sets of 4 t0 6 reps (about 85% of 1RM)

Barbell Row

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Wide-Grip Pullups (Chin-Ups if you can’t)

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (add weight if possible)


One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

That’s it. And trust me–it’s harder than it looks.

A few odds and ends:

  • Optional sets are up to you. 

If you’re an advanced lifter, or you feel you have more in you at the end of the workout, you can do the final 3 sets. 9 heavy sets is plenty, though.

  • Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if get 6 reps on your first set of deadlifts, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can pull it for 6 reps, and so forth.

  • Rest 3 minutes in between each 4-to-6-rep set, 2 minutes in between 6-to-8-rep sets, and 1 minute in between 8-to-10-rep sets.

Getting adequate rest in between sets is important because it allows your muscles to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

  • Make sure you’re eating enough food.

Most people know that high protein intake is necessary to maximize muscle growth but don’t know that calorie intake also plays a major role.

Learn more here.

This type of training is the core of my Bigger Leaner Stronger (for men) and Thinner Leaner Stronger (for women) programs and I have hundreds of success stories that prove its effectiveness.

If you give this workout a go and like it, I highly recommend you check out BLS/TLS because you’re going to love it.

Happy training!

What About Supplements?

strong woman is drinking sports nutrition

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your back (and other) workouts.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.


Want More Workouts?

The Ultimate Chest Workout

best chest workout

The Ultimate Arms Workout


The Ultimate Shoulder Workout


The Ultimate Abs Workout


The Ultimate Legs Workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger squatting deep.

The Ultimate Calves Workout


The Ultimate Butt Workout


The Ultimate Forearm Workout


The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

Man doing push-ups on kettlebells.


What do you think of these back exercises and workouts? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Cleve

    People with back issues (degenerative discs, sciatica) can not do the exercises that put strain on the spine. My doctors prohibit me from doing deadlifts and barbell rows, for example. Yet all trainers say those exercises are key to back growth. What can you substitute for them to get at the same muscles?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good point! I forgot this. I’ve added it to the article.

      T-Bar Rows should be okay. Yates Rows as well. DB Rows should be doable and weighted pullups will be no problem.

      • Ron

        Would the chest-supported DB row (on an incline bench) be a good alternative?

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah that’s a creative work-around too.

  • ry

    Mike, great article, but I was wondering if it were better to do DL at the end of work out, i just feel like I am more warmed up by then, less risk of injury. Also what do you think of Trap bar?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I like to do DLs first because I have the most energy for them this way. I just do a proper warm up first of course.

      Good question I added this to the article. 🙂

  • moss

    Mike, you read my mind! exactly what I would have chosen!
    question: I’ve read that wide-grip DLs (aka snatch-grip DLs) are even more effective for upper back development. any experience of this?

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice! Hmm I’ve never done wide-grip DLs regularly so I can’t say for sure.

  • Joe

    Another great article, Mike. I’m in the same position as the previous commenter Cleve – can’t do DL or BB rows duo to a bad back. My current back routine includes: pullups, cable rows, and DB rows (and I do some chinups if I have something left in the tank). Is this a good routine or would you recommend something else? I understand that I won’t get as big or as strong if I don’t do DL, but it’s just not an option for me, unfortunately.

    • Joe

      One other question on form. in the seated cable row video, Ronnie goes for the “stretch” and moves his torso throughout the exercise. Is this really the best way to do this? I’ve been doing it by keeping my torso straight and braced throughout the exercise. Thanks.

      • Michael Matthews

        Yes this is how I’ve always liked it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Cable rows may bother your back if you go too heavy. Just a heads up. I would focus on pullups, T-Bar Rows, and DB Rows, and include cable rows but maybe at the end of your workouts in the 8-10 rep range. Do hypers at the end of your workouts too to help strengthen the lower back.

      • Joe

        Thank you very much for your recommendations!

        • Michael Matthews


      • Joe

        So just to clarify, I should do those 5 exercises (including hypers) on back day?

        • Michael Matthews

          You don’t have to do all in the same workout, no. Pick 3 and do 3 sets for each, and then end up hypers.

  • Mike

    I keep it simple with variations of rows ..and weighted pull ups..diff grips and exercises..currently training traps with shoulders and usually put them right after my presses for priority attention..no heavy deads for a while as I am recovering from a back issue, which isn’t related to a lifting injury..though I am treading lightly as I feel discomfort trying the movement…
    Another great article, thanks..shout out to Scooby..a pioneer on the ytube.

    • Mike

      I’d like to hear your take on how much sodium is too much? Been very concerned about taking in too much everyday..seems so tough to limit it to the 2,500 figure thats tossed around..my blood pressure is good and everything normal in blood tests..just concerned long term as salt either preserves or flavors about anything that isn’t eaten as is from the ground or animal..add in a weekend meal out to eat and wow..whatto do?

      • Michael Matthews

        Yup IOM recommends about 2 grams per day which is what I do. If you go over here and there that’s okay.

    • Michael Matthews

      Agreed and yes tread carefully if your back needs to heal up.

  • Stuart Cullinan

    Hi Mike, thanks for another great article.
    Greg at kinobody talks about and advocates Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT) training with rep ranges of 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 over three sets. I like the idea and I’m trialing it at the moment, but am very interested in your views on that strategy?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Stuart!

      Periodized training is good for advanced lifters. My follow-up book to BLS is going to have a periodized program similar to RPT.

  • Jonas

    Should the Pendlay Row and the Deadlift also be performed in 2-1-2 tempo?
    I always just see them be done in an explosive manner ( on youtube) .

    • Jonas


    • Michael Matthews

      As the weight gets heavier I find it more natural to perform them explosively.

  • António

    Hi Mike!
    I am not trying to spoil anything, but could you tell me the changes you have made for the other muscle group routines compared to BLS? I’m going back to the gym and don’t want to feel like I am doing the non-optimal exercises. I’ll still follow the articles as I believe they are very instructive and I like the way you post pictures of people with poorly developed muscle groups to make a point. If that is ok with you of course!


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Antonio! I’m actually basing these articles on the BLS workouts!

      • António

        Yeah sure! I was just saying that some workouts are slightly different, like for the chest workout you treated dips as optional and replaced it with incline dumbbell I think. Anyways, I like these workouts!

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah yeah, well if you look at the Year One Challenge it has many variations.

          • António

            Oh right! Since it has not been more than one month I haven’t switched routines like you suggested and so haven’t looked it up in detail, sorry!
            BTW, are you really sure that there’s no need for decline bench pressing or dips? That would be great and I do trust you, it’s just that almost everyone (as you probably know from looking at youtuber channels) does decline bench pressing. These people have good physiques and that’s why its my natural instinct to feel that if I don’t do certain exercises I won’t look the same. I guess this is a classic beginner fear, but I just want to reassure myself that I won’t lack anything.
            I’ve been loving your articles lately, still don’t know how you have time to write them, answer our questions and lead a normal life!

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah no worries!

            I haven’t done a decline press in years. Trust me, it’s not necessary. It has a reduce ROM so why bother?

  • Logan

    Great post Mike, thank you, videos were v helpful as form reminders as well!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Logan!

  • Jay

    Mike, did dead lifts for the first time
    Was nervous because of 8 lumbar surgeries. Asked Dr. first. Told me to keep to a low weight. Started with 95pounds 3 sets 8-10 reps. Then finished with 3 sets 4-6 reps 110 pounds. Like you tell us. KEEP YOUR FORUM. It is now 15 hours later and no pain feel great. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job Jay! Definitely play it safe though I don’t want you to get hurt.

  • Kevin

    Hey Mike, loved the article.

    Are there any back muscles used in a seated barbell shoulder press? Yesterday was back day and I did shoulders today… Any risk of overtraining the muscles?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kevin! Not really, no. Just rear delts a little.

  • Mike

    Guy in the dumbbell row video..”high reps 15-20 for detail, etc” just not true in practice for a natural lifter. You’ll just shrink or get temporary “pump” results..ugh..great information here Mike..the vids are great for reviewing form..ty!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha yeah, thanks man.

  • Michael C

    Mike – sorry if I am just missing it – but I would love a similar article on both shoulders and arms. I am new to this blog and love it – I may be mental but I think I am seeing results after just 1 week of switching it up and following your workouts. Anyway – I’d like to round it out with a solid shoulder workout and bi/tri workout. Of course I can just apply your overload principles but the shoulder seems like a different animal than chest/back/legs… complex movements, more chance of small injuries, etc. Please help.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Mike! I just posted the shoulders article up and arms will be next, followed by legs!

      Glad to hear you’re liking the routine. You should really check out Bigger Leaner Stronger!

      You won’t get hurt if you stick to good form.

  • António

    Hey Mike,
    Do you think it is ok for me to switch from pullups to lat pulldowns? Last time I did pullups I felt that I working to much the biceps, though this might still happen with lat pulldowns. What do you think?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes that’s fine but were you doing pullups or chinups?

      • António

        pullups. Also, there is the fact that I had trained biceps 2 days before.THis is because during the weeks in which I have to run a 3-day split, I do chest and bis, with back and tris, because it is simply impossible for me to do tris after chest, they are already tired and I won’t be pushing the maximum weight possible.

        Also since these are the first weeks, muscle soreness kind of got in the way, but it is clear that biceps are involved, but I guess it is more the feeling that they are being worked more than my back. I didn’t feel my back that much, but then again I don’t really feel it when I am doing lat pulldowns. I am just afraid that I am not working my back that much when I do a pullup, though the assisted pullup machine might be to blame for that since it is not really a natural form pullup, and thus my back might not be as engaged as it should be.

        However, I do want to be able to pullups, they are far more impressive than being able to do lat pulldowns. What should I do? Should I do lat pulldowns until I can manage do pullups unassisted?


        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay well then yes, lat PD is a fine sub. The soreness will get better in time.

          How many wide-grip pullups can you currently do?

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  • Joel Villavert

    Hi Mike! In BLS, you leave out pull-ups. Why is that? Instead of Close-grip lat pulldowns like you prescribe, can I do weighted pull-ups instead? If so, is there a reason why you prescribe a close-grip vs a wide-grip? Thanks and keep up the great articles!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Joel! Pull-ups are in the BLS program. Did you download the bonus report with the year’s worth of workouts?

      Yes pull-ups are a great alternative to lat PD (I would say the latter is more of an alternative to the former).

  • Filip

    Hi there! As always, great article Mike!

    I too have a bad back (prolapsed disc 2 yrs ago) and to complicate things further, I am 6’8″. I have recently started doing dead lifts though, and I love it! And because I never did them before in my life, I feel that I am generally growing deep invisible muscles- even though I am currently on the cutting regime. My lats feel hard and pumped days after. I don’t know how to describe it but the feeling I get from deadlifting – even with 2 puny 25 lbs plates – it’s just awesome.

    I am however doing them very cautiously, as I said with light load (currently 2 x 25 lbs plates), and I am keeping it in the 6-8 (or 5-7, depending how I feel) range. Dead lifts are the 2nd exercise in my routine (after Assisted Pull-Ups) – I’ve noticed that I am more flexible and able to focus some way down in the session.

    Several tips to make the exercise safer/more enjoyable:
    – My starting position is not with the bar on the floor, but at hip level – I use the lowered squat rack handles to position the bar. I add an extra rep to compensate. My legs are just too tall to lift from the floor
    – Three words – form, form and form. Don’t even think about ego lifting here.
    – Also, mentally focus on core muscles – contract your abs. Think of them as a truck tire wrapping around the spine for protection.
    – Before working sets, I do a one extra set of 6-8 reps with the clean bar to start – this is purely to get into the groove form wise.

    Bottom line – don’t be scared, start out easy – even if it means lifting the clean bar. It may take a while but it’s worth it.

    I don’t think I’ll ever go beyond 150 or maybe even 100 lbs, but I am looking forward to the journey!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Filip! I’m really glad to hear you’re doing well.

      Good call on what you’re doing. I totally agree on what you’re doing to protect your back.

      Great tips for others as well. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • inflatableguy

    One the one arm rows, I find it hard to control the weight slowly and hold the contraction and with a weight that keeps me in the 4-6 rep range. I weight 135 but I can do one arm rows with a 100 pound dumbbell for 8-10 reps with full range of motion, but the movement looks like I’m starting a lawnmower. If I drop the weight low enough to do a very slow, controlled movement and hold the contraction, I will be way beyond 6 reps. Should I use the lighter weight and go super, super slow to try to bring it down to 6 reps? Should I go even heavier with my “lawnmower pulls” and try to finish at 6 reps? Or is there another way?

    • inflatableguy

      I should also add that it’s harder to define “failure” on this exercise when going slow. Unlike bench press or deadlift where you can give it everything you got and the bar won’t go up, this exercise is different. As your muscles get tired, you can still move the weight, but you cant get it as high off the ground as the last rep or hold the contraction as long. Then you have two choices: start moving it faster to make use of momentum to get more reps or just stop there.

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah it’s true. Once you can’t get it up next to your chest, you’ve failed. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Controlled reps are definitely the way to go. Superslow isn’t necessary. It sounds like 100 lbs with a 2-1-2 rhythm will be right for you…

  • FS

    Hi Michael

    In order to incorporate your
    linked routines (Chest,Back,Shoulders,Legs,Arms) for all muscle groups in
    conjunction with your recommended frequency a muscle will only be getting
    worked only once per week/ every 7th day as rest will need to be factored into the
    week also.

    This seems to go against all
    other material I’ve read which calls for a frequency of at least twice a week/
    minimum every 5th day for optimal protein synthesis and training frequency.
    Most of these other material sources say that hitting say chest for example
    only once a week only works for those using steroids. Normally the recommended
    routines to achieve such frequency would be and upper/lower or push/pull split
    as opposed to one muscle group per day.

    Can you share your thoughts and opinions
    on this please?


    • Michael Matthews

      Like “ideal” rep ranges, optimal training frequency is a hotly debated subject. The bottom line is it boils down to workout intensity and volume. The lighter the weights and fewer the sets, the more often you can train the muscle group.

      In the case of BLS, you hit your muscles hard, with about 50-60 reps per workout, with all reps recruiting maximum muscle fibers (due to the load). The reality is unless you have superhuman recovery, you just won’t be able to do these workouts more than once per 5 days. Once per 7 days is probably a LITTLE more rest than some people need, but I think it’s better to err on that side than the side of overtraining.

      The bottom line is EVERYONE that follows the program makes rapid strength and size gains. Even long-time lifters.

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  • padcast

    Hey Mike, I have been doing dumbbell rows for quite some time now (following BLS). I never really feel my back during or after the exercise. I threw in some t-bar rows (machine) yesterday and today I definitely feel like I worked out my back (especially upper back). Am I doing the dumbbell rows wrong? I don’t perform them the way they are shown in the video above, letting my shoulder go all the way down like that. More like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYcpY20QaE8

    • Michael Matthews

      Possibly. That full range of motion is important and you want to focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. Also back is kind of funny in that it can take some time before you really start feeling it when you train it.

      • padcast

        Thanks for the quick response. Would you say that Herman’s form is wrong in the video I linked?

        • Michael Matthews

          It’s a minor point but I prefer a full stretch at the bottom.

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  • Steve P

    Hey Mike, my lower back has been bothering me again so I want to lay off of the deadlifts for a little until it feels better. The other day I did Barbell Rows, Weighted Pullups, One-arm Dumbbell Rows and Close-grip Pulldowns. Would you recommend changing the order of those exercises or anything?

    • Michael Matthews

      Personally I would do BB Row, DB Row, Pullups (close-grip first and then wide).

      • Steve P

        Ok cool, I’ll do that. Thanks man!

        • Michael Matthews

          Great, YW!

  • Henry

    Hey man so this is not about back work out but more about food. I am currently a college student so money is pretty tight. Do you have any suggestions for what to eat on a tight budget and still develop muscles. Like maybe on a 40 dollar per week budget? I go through about a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs a week anyway. I usually try to eat pasta or white rice with chicken or pork along with broccoli, mushrooms, onions, bok choy. It’s good and all but it still gets kinda expensive, especially the meats. Any suggestions, man?

  • Drew

    Hey Mike great article, really helpful. I want to get more into the hex bar and pendlay rows, but I’m wondering, is it best to let the bar slam down after each rep (like in the videos), or should you just lower slowly (not touching the floor again with bar) before the next rep, therefore keeping tension on the muscles?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m not worried about lightly lowering it but I do want it to be controlled both up and down, you know?

  • Syed

    Hi Mike, In your book The Year One Challenge you recommend doing one-arm dumbbell rows. But here, it seems like you’re recommending doing the barbell rows. So, I’m confused.

    • Michael Matthews

      Both are good exercises. This is just one workout–not the ONLY workout you’ll ever want to do, you know?

      • Syed

        Thanks Mike. I’ve recently started working out, and bought your
        books. They’ve been really helpful. I guess I’ll alternate between
        barbell rows and dumbbell rows.
        I have one more question. What do you think of taking maltodextrin and dextrose?

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks man! Sounds good. I’m not a fan of carb powders. I’d rather just eat food.

  • Nad

    Been doing the workouts since yesterday, and have to say I love them (done chest, bis, tris, and and back so far). Combining them with a slightly higher calorie intake and hoping to see some gains in a few weeks.

    One specific question about the back: either my lower back is prone to strains, or I just cannot seem to do deadlifts correctly. I tried the sumo deadlift this morning as part of this back workout, and still managed to strain a lower back muscle (lower back, right side). Nothing serious, but if I bend straight forward, it hurts. Do you have any suggestions for a substitution for a deadlift for a few weeks? I want to leave it alone, and then will eventually ask a trainer at the gym to watch my deadlifts, and give me input on how to perform them properly.

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome, glad to hear it!

      Doh, I’m sorry to hear that. Do BB rows instead and add 3 sets of hyperextensions, 8- 10 reps, to the end of each back workout. We need to strengthen up those lower back muscles…

      • Nad

        Right, I agree. I actually added 3 sets of hyperextensions to my back workout that day, so I’m glad to hear you suggest that! Will continue to do so!

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay great!

  • Renier Pérez

    what do you think about adding two extra sets to the main’s lifts mike? like for example 5 sets of bench, squat, deadlift, military press 4-6 reps?
    Example: 5 sets of 4-6 deadlift.
    3 sets of 4-6 bb row.
    3 sets of 4-6 pull ups.
    3 sets of 6-8 one dumbbell row.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s a lot. Would be a bit too much for me TBH.

  • Alen Georgeson

    Hey Mike, I’m loving your site man!

    Just a quick question: Is it possible to build a solid back with heavy cable rows, heavy wide grip pulldowns, heavy shrugs (for traps) and facepulls (for rear delts)? I have a tumor in my knee, so I can’t really do any “standing exercises” that put too much weight (or stress) on my knee. Also, what do you think about Back thickness vs. Back with? I feel like my back is already wide enough, but I want it to really “pop” more. I want a 3D back that looks thick from the side. How do I get that look? Again, are the exercises I mentioned above enough for a thick back?

    Thanks so much man, you’re helping me out big time!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yeah you can make good gains with that. Can you do barbell rows?

      For me, the thickness really came with deadlifting but barbell rows and weighted wide-grip pullups are good too.

      • Alen Georgeson

        Hey man thanks for answering!

        Unfortunately I can’t do barbell rows or deadlifts, because I have to stand, which puts a lot of stress on my “injured” knee. I tried them before, but they caused major swelling in my knee, so that’s not an option. The only thing I can do is seated exercises, and I think that widegrip pulldowns and cable rows are probably the best exercises to build back thickness.

        Would you include other variations of pull downs or cable rows (or other machines) for complete back development?
        Thanks again man!

        • Michael Matthews


          Ah okay, no worries. Seated cable rows and weighted pullups it is then.

          You could do close-grip pulldowns as well.

          • Alen Georgeson

            Do you think there is a need for isolated lower back work such as the lower back machine or hyperextensions (weighted) or will the rows and pulldowns (close and widegrip) work the lower back sufficiently?

            Thanks again for helping me out!

          • Michael Matthews

            It’s usually unnecessary. I’ve done it with people that have had back issues and it helps.

          • John Jones

            Hi just getting started on your workout routine so i wanted to be sure of one thing,u said when u reach 6 reps to add ten pounds i referring to the bench does that mean the next time i start with the weight i moved to even if i can only get 4 reps

          • Michael Matthews

            I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

    • Stefan Latimer

      Hey, I’m jumping in a bit late but if you’re one leg is still OK to go, you should do resistance versions of motions that you can still do on your injured side. The body tries to keep itself even so if it is getting the same inputs from both sides it will build muscle on both sides. Even if the real work is only being done on one side. It will still cause an imbalance but it can keep you from losing excessive strength because of disuse and shorten rehab time.

  • Renier

    Mike, I have a Situation, when I do pendlay BB row I can’t make the bar touch my belly, I think this is because of my flexibility,I have tried this without using weight on the bar, but still can’t do it, this is really annyoing for me bacause I can’t get the full range of motion and this frustrates me, however I have done t bar row with handle and I am eable to get a better range of motion in that exercise (using smaller platers, not the 45 ones), What can I do to fix this?, I like to do one dumbbell row, but what exercises do you recommend me to do for my middle back? I do weighted pull ups and of course deadlift on my back days. Thank you very much.

    • Michael Matthews

      Oh okay well I would just work on flexibility then. Maybe my shoulder mobility article could help?

      • Renier

        I will defeneilly check it out! thank you! hope I can improve 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! LMK.

          • Renier

            I can tounch my belly doing barbell row mike, its a awesome exercise , Mike, I have some time doing deadlifts, and to be honest I would like to work in the 2 reps range for deadlift, like, 1 warm up set of 10 and then 3 heavy sets of 2(With good form), what do you think? thank you for existing mike.!

          • Michael Matthews

            Nice! Personally I keep it to 2 2-3 rep sets to start.

  • Renier

    Mike, Do you recommend to work the traps directly? by doing shrugs for example, or it’s not necessary if you do the ultimate back workout with heavy deadlift?

    • Michael Matthews

      You can if you want bigger traps ASAP. I don’t train them directly because I feel my traps are big enough…

  • marsa

    love your articles.your the best.I’m using your advice and getting better and better.thanks for everything.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much!

  • Skylar

    Do you recommend adding Barbell Shrugs to Back or Shoulder Day? Also when should they be preformed during the workout?

    • Michael Matthews

      I would add to back day and I would do them last.

  • Jacob

    hey mate

    whats your thoughts on doing this while cutting?annd should i be just trying to maintain my strength?

    cheers! awesome article

    • Michael Matthews

      It works great while cutting. You’ll get stronger if you’re new to this style of training.

      • Jacob

        awesome bud cheers.

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  • Massive back workout great post ,,if any one want to get shred click to know more – bit.ly/1sKMNIx

  • Paul

    Mike, you are a beast. And friend and I have been doing these Ultimate Workouts and they are kicking our ass. I would say we fall under intermediate level lifters.

    One thing we were wondering though was about the commonly referenced “broscience” law of lower rep, higher weight is for strength and bulking while higher rep, lower weight is for cutting. Is that just lifting folklore?

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks man! Yeah that’s total bullshit. Keep training heavy when you cut and you’ll preserve muscle and strength.

      • Paul

        Awesome, thanks for the response. I seriously cannot believe what I’ve been able to do in 3 weeks with these workouts.

        Last question, if I know I have a busy day and won’t be able to make it to the gym like usual, would you suggest finding like a quick workout to do at home or just wait a day and then proceed normally?

        • Michael Matthews

          YW. Really glad it’s going well.

          If I have to miss a day I make it arms or I move my tris to chest and bis to back days.

          If I can only lift 3 x per week I make it chest or push (chest + shoulders), back, and legs.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • RedJohn

    Hi Mike,i’ve seen the deadlift videos in this article yet there’s one thing i still don’t understand,which muscle should provide the most effort during each phase of the exercise?it’s such a compound exercise i’m getting lost.I want to do deadlifts on back day for the record.Hope the question was clear and thanks in advance for your answer.

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question and your back kind of gets blasted throughout the entire lift but the first half off the floor is major hamstring and quad and then the glutes handle the last bit to lock out.

  • Scott

    Hey Mike

    Quick question for you. For my back routine, I am doing the following 3 exercises in this order: Deadlift, Barbell Row, Dumbell Row. Is this a good routine? Am I hitting all areas of the back that should be hit?

    Also, I can only lift 3 days per week. M (chest and tri), W (back and bi), F (shoulders and legs). The only problem, particularly on back/bi days, by the time I get to the biceps exercises, my muscles are feeling drained from the back workout. Anything to be done to remedy this other than going additional days?


    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah that’s a good routine. Personally I would finish with 2-3 sets of wide-grip pullups.

      That’s normal on the bis. They get hit hard with your back training. Nothing you can really do about it.

  • Dan

    I’ve just started working out again in the last couple months and my wide grip pull ups are going up very slowly – in the last two weeks have went from 2,2,1 (+ 6 negatives) to 3,2,1 (+ 10 negatives). Since I’d only managed to do an extra one in the first set this week I decided to add in 3 sets of close grip lat-bar pull downs (@ 40kg). I was wondering if you thought this is a good decision or whether I may overtrain my lats this way?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s good! You should be fine so long as your whole workouts aren’t too long.

      • Dan

        Thanks for the reply, yep getting everything done in under an hour (doing the Bigger Leaner Stronger back and calves workout, plus the WG pull ups.

        Hopefully will help me build up Lat strength a bit faster.

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Marta

    Hey Mike, Great article.

    I recently went to my friends gym and he showed me the proper form for deadlifts using a squat rack. My gym only had the Smith machine and incorporating this work out had been awkward. Since the weighs don’t ever really hit the floor, I don’t know if my deadlifts will be effective and give me the results I want. I feel like I am limiting myself using this machine but I don’t really know what alternatives I can use. What do you suggest.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Don’t deadlift on a Smith machine. It forces an unnatural range of motion…

  • Jay

    Hi Mike! The weighted pull-ups were my main move for building my back the last couple of month but I hurt myself (no warm up). I feel the pain somewhere between my lat and tricep, anyway… Can I replace it with a row move? Even lat pull down gives me pain…


    • Michael Matthews

      I’m sorry to hear that. You could try a row, yes, but you may have to lay off it entirely to let it heal…

  • Shane

    Hey, I’ve always had a fairly strong back through doing rock climbing and gym work. But looking to change up my routine, and found this article. One question with the One-Arm Dumbell Rows, I used to do them with the form above until I saw a picture of England Rugby’s Jack Knowell doing them like this:


    I was just wondering what your thought is on this technique, I’ve seen some pretty good advances with it and to me it feels/looks like it hits good rugby specific muscle groups.

    Also just ordered your cook book, looking forward to really sorting out my nutrition. Thanks in advance

    • Michael Matthews

      Interesting. Never tried this. Looks less stable though.

  • Maarten Deschaumes

    Hey Mike! I read your book and it has totally changed my entire perspective on weightlifting. One question that keeps coming back to me is, should I split my back workout into two different days? One horizontal and one vertical? I have shoulder issues and a slightly bad posture and I suspect it is because I grew up learning to push more than pull. Here is a sample of the two workouts:

    Pull Up Day:

    Hex Bar Deadlift
    Underhand Grip Pull Ups
    Wide Grip Pull Ups

    Rowing Day:
    Bent Over Row
    DB Row

    *3 working sets for each exercise and reps of between 4-6

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      You could do this so long as your weekly volume didn’t exceed 12-14 heavy sets but honestly I don’t think you’d gain much from doing it this way.

      Check this out:


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  • Mick

    Hi Mike, Do you workout with a weight belt when doing back? I heard it can help with back support to prevent injury but i also heard it can hinder muscle devolpment like when doing deadlifts

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  • Jennifer

    Um I’m a weakling and can’t even do one pull or chin-up how do I build up to that?

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha if you start with the Deadlift, Barbell Row, and Lat Pulldown, you’ll quickly gain strength.

  • Rahul

    Hi Mike,

    I just discovered your site and loved the in-depth nature of your posts. I have been working out for about 4 years now and the back is one of my better areas. As I read your article and saw your picture I realized something that has been nagging me…

    My lats are slightly developed (I do 5*5’s these days but pull-ups were always a part of my routine earlier) and flare out but they are very short…what I mean is, they don’t extend all the way even to the top of the stomach area ( they flare out most at the very top) so that my arms stick out sideways and I have that wide arms rolling gait. My question is: Is it just body structure or am i doing something wrong? Is there any way to target the lower part of the lats and make them stand out more so that the V-taper extends all the way down?

    Any thoughts would be much appreciated.


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man!

      Yeah my lats had the same problem and I found that a lot of wide-grip pulling helped. Wide-grip pullups (weighted) and barbell rows in particular…

  • Ponce

    Hey Mike. Thanks for all this info you provide.
    I am on the 11th week Of The year 1 challenge and due to a lower back problem I think is time to drop the Deadlifts, Barbell Squats and RDL’s.
    What exercises do you recommend me to replace those (Deadlifts, Squats and RDL’s) with?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great you’re rolling.

      Have you tried sumo or hex-bar deads? And front squats?

      • Ponce

        I haven’t but I am pretty sure I would get the same result (pain like the paint I had when i got injured, might give the front squat a try) , the pain is increasing as I increase weight. And this is my attempt to keep exercising.

        This is a 1+ year back injury I am talking about. And as I sai, As I increase weight is getting worse.

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay well let’s just back off then.

          Are you able to do barbell rows, hack squats (sled, not BB), and hamstring curls?

          • Ponce

            I am afraid of trying it (Barbell rows) Do you think doing them in an incline bench would be a good option?

            What about this for my back routine:
            -Cable seated row or Barbell row on an incline bench
            -T Bar lying row/ Reverse lying T bar machine row
            – Wide grip Lat Pulldown?

            and for legs

            -Weight plate squat/ Hip belt squats
            -Leg Press
            -Lying Leg Curls

            I know is very difficult to help me given my options, but the reason I am scared of the Barbell Row is because on my 3rd week of the year one challenge I re-injured my back doing Bent over lat raises. So anything that has to be done bending scares the hell out of me 🙁

            Thanks for your help. I am still looking forward to be on your “Successes” section.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah you could try them on an bench.

            That back routine should work well. The leg routine looks good too.

            Give them a go and let me know! And we’ll definitely get you up once you’re ready!

  • Adi Halevy

    There are a lot of exercises you don’t include in the final workout so I was wondering if I can switch chin ups or pull ups (I can’t do one full range of motion chin up or pull up at the gym) with one of the excersicises recommended above

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah definitely. Lat PD or close-grip PD would be a good alternative. Cable rows are good too.

  • Anthony Morton

    Love the articles, have a bit of a question though, I recently had back surgery and prior to I always enjoyed deadlifts and Rows, could you recommend a good deadlift alternative (I’m slowly losing my Christmas tree lol)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! There aren’t any direct replacements for deads but BB rows are good.

      Do you know if you can do sumo or hex-bar deads, even with lighter weights?

      • Anthony Morton

        I have been able to recently start doing hex bar deads, definitely takes getting used to, and can still do barbell rows, thanks for the input

        • Michael Matthews

          Great. I like it. Those are good exercises.

  • Simone

    Hi Mike,

    My back program includes:

    Pendlay Row
    T-Bar Row
    Seated Cable Row
    One-arm dumbbell row (If I have any juice left)

    My Deadlift and Pendlay Row is more on Powerlifting repetition ranges (1-5) and 4-8 on other exercises. Do you think I am rowing too much? I would like your opinion and help reconstruct my program.

    • Michael Matthews

      This is quite a bit of rowing, yes. I would probably do something like this instead:

      Wide-grip pullup (weighted if possible)
      One-arm DB

  • Pat

    Hi Mike, thanks for another super helpful article. I started deadlifts 10 weeks ago and am loving them. Just started barbell rows last week, and I feel like most of the movement is relatively easy, and then the last inch or two to get the bar to my body is extremely difficult. Just wondering if I should continue at this weight or if it’s alright to complete the rep without reaching my body? For frame of reference, I’m 5’8″, 152 lbs, deadlift I’m doing 6 reps of 225 lbs but barbell rows doing only 6 reps of 105 lbs. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews


      Yeah that’s how BB Rows go. I always touch the bar to my sternum. If you can’t, it’s too much weight.

  • Nick Armijo

    I can already do a lot of pull ups and chin ups so should I replace that with pull downs for the 5 to 7 rep range

    • Michael Matthews

      You can add weight. I prefer that.

  • Jordan

    Hey mike i had a question, i recently started weight lifting around september in the 10 rep range and wasnt seeing results so i switch to this program. Now i was wondering i was doing Chest and abs together, arms together and then back and shoulder together. Would doing back and shoulders together be a good or bad decision, should i split them up for seperate days?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man!

      You could do back & shoulders together, yes. It will be hard but doable.

  • Ivan

    Should I add a couple more excercises to this workout to hit the trap muscles or what do you recommend?

    • Michael Matthews

      You can add a few sets of shrugs if you’d like.

  • LifeForMuscle

    hi mike, this workout is amazing , intense!

    i cant do one pullup! and i want to! please tell me a workout i can follow that would help me reach it. i don’t want to over train my back so i want you to tell me what to do!

    do i do them 1 time a week? 2?3? in my back workout ? i heard descending pullups help? how many times should i do them? please! help me with this


    • Michael Matthews

      Glad to hear it!

      Haha train your back hard and you’ll get the strength to do pullups. For now, do lat pulldowns.

      • Frank

        Hey Mike I just wanted to hear how u switch your workouts up after u have done them for 2 months or so? Do u just substitute one workout in your ultimate workouts for another?

        • I don’t always switch up every 2 months. It depends how I’m progressing on my lifts.

          When I do, I alternate between the exercises given in this article. My favorites are rows (BB, DB, T-bar) and weighted pullups.

  • phoenix

    I tried the back workout from BLS and it was quite effective I can feel it in my entire back, so not much my lats though I’ve always had trouble getting them to grow.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! Glad to hear it.

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  • Michael


    Thank you for all the information you provide.
    I have been lifting regularly for several years but seem to be
    plateauing a bit. I’ve attached my current routine. I am going to do
    more within the 80%-85% of 1 rep max range to try and break out of it.

    I have my workout divided up in alternating weeks below. In your
    opinion, do you believe I am doing too much/too little on any given day
    and throughout each week?

    Hopefully you can read the image.


    • Michael Matthews

      This is okay but I would simplify it:

      1: Chest
      2: Back
      3: Shoulders
      4: Arms + 3 sets additional incline presses if you want more chest
      5: Legs

      Make sure you’re deadlifting, squatting, and bench & military pressing heavy every week.

  • Scott


    Thank you for the informative books and website, they have really helped me cut through all the “noise” concerning working out. I started working out in September with your basic suggested work out and have made substantial progress in strength and size. Thank you!

    I am starting the 1 year challenge this week for 2015, but wanted to seek your input on substituting exercises. I’m 44 yo and have degenerative/arthritic disks in my lower back which makes me very hesitant to do deadlifts for the back exercises or Romanian deadlifts for legs. Do you have a suggested alternative for each day?


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Scott! I’m really glad to hear it!

      Yep. Are you able to do BB rows in place of deads? And lunges in place of RDLs?

  • Jay

    Mike if you struggle to do pull ups is it recommendable to use the assisted pull up machine at about 10/15kg assist and work your way up? Or are there some better ways to gain enough strength to do a pull up? Same with dips? Thanks

    • Jay

      I’ve heard that assisted pull ups don’t prepare you for real pull ups? I haven’t got the real strength for either of the exercises and so was wondering what mini routine i could follow for each to try and build up to the real thing

      • Joe

        My two cents… Assisted pullups aren’t great for preparing for real pullups, but it does help. I found that doing lat pull downs and assisted pullups did help me enough to do a couple of pullups. Once you start doing a couple of pullups, you can start working your way up incrementally from there – to 3, 4, and beyond.

      • Michael Matthews

        They can work if you gradually reduce the assistance and ensure you’re getting stronger.

        • Jay

          ok thanks! what about negative pull ups?

          • Michael Matthews

            I’ve never done that before.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah you can do that or lat PDs. Assisted dips are good but if your gym doesn’t have the machine you can do more incline pressing instead.

  • Joe

    Hey Mike, what would you recommend I do to get stronger on the pull-up? Initially, I started on the pulldown machine, moved to the pull-up assisted machine, and now trying to do bodyweight. I can do 4 reps of pretty bad form and can’t reach the bar with my chin. Should I go back to the assisted pull-ups or keep struggling with the bodyweight and hope I eventually get stronger that way or something else?

    • Joe

      Haha, I just saw Jay’s question.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Joe,

      I would continue building strength on the lad PD and deadlift and your pullup strength will come up quickly.

  • Siddhant Das

    Hey Mike i was wondering about the specific order of the exercises which should be performed on back day.. especially whether i should deadlift 1st or keep it for the last exercise after i have done my upper back and middle back exercises (vertical pulling and horizontal rowing).. because the deadlift works so much of the body ..logically they should be performed first right?
    Would appreciate a reply!

    • Michael Matthews

      I always deadlift first because it costs so much energy.

  • Aimee

    So if I can’t do full body weight pullups or chinups, is it better to use the assisted machine or to do lat pulldowns?

  • Alex

    Hi Michael,
    I’ve been working out regular for a couple years now just to stay in shape but now I think it’s time I start to try and increase muscle mass/strength. My question for you is:
    How can I expect an increase in size only doing 9-12 sets for one workout? I understand that heavy weight is the answer to increasing size, but 9-12 sets seems like it would not be very taxing on the muscles. Can you explain this to me? Thanks in advance.


  • Sara

    Hi Mike,

    Love your work! I see your back workout above:
    Deadlift / Barbell Row / Chin-ups / One-arm DB Row

    I have a bad lower back and no barbell. Can you recommend alternatives to the deadlift and barbell row? Also, are Lat pulldowns a good alternative to chin-ups?


    • Thanks!

      Those are tough to replace but a dumbbell row and wide-grip pulldown could be viable. Yes close-grip are a good alternative to chins.

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

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  • Hi Mike! Your site is amazing! The best on Internet! I’m always following your advices and I get incredible gains from workout to workout. I would have two questions for you:

    1. As I know Yates row is originally underhand but you posted a video where it is overhand. Which grip do yo prefer? What is an underhand grip good for? What is the difference? (I’m doing overhand rows now.)

    2. Since I have never been enough flexible to do regular deadlifts I thought I found the golden apple on your site when I started doing sumo deadlifts. It really put my workouts to a different level. My only problem is that I started to feel some pain in my groin (which is really a sensible part of me – I must stretch it well before every football match or I risk injury). So I’m planning to stop doing sumos because I’m afraid of having some hernia. But I would really miss them! What is your advice? Long stretching could solve the problem? Should I do dumbbell squats instead? Are BB/Yates rows enough? Or should I use lighter weights? I think the whole point of this exercise is to shock my body with heavy weights…


    • Thanks so much! I’m glad to hear it!

      1. I’m not a big fan of the exercise in general but if I were to do it, I would use an overhand grip to emphasize the back over the biceps.

      2. Hmm check this out:



      You may be able to handle your problem with some good mobility work. And in the meantime you may be able to continue sumo deading with lighter weights?

      • Mike, this article indicates significantly more EMG activity in the Lats from the underhand grips. (dumbell rows not yates, but same may apply)

        Am I missing something?

        • Interesting I’ll check this out. Thanks for sharing. I could see that though.

      • Thanks for the fast reply, Mike!

        For now I feel that I don’t dare to do sumos anymore. Last time I was close to do a regular DL the right way. The problem is that my knees still go over the bar a little. Maybe some stretching technique from your articles will help…

        Keep up! 😉

  • Tyler P

    So, I have been following your advice on volume with all my workouts, and I like the strength gains I’m getting in only a months time. Normally I’m not about the crash diet/workout program “GET JACKED IN 21 DAYS!!”, but I’m getting married in 16 weeks, and I’m holding a little more body fat than I would like and want to get rid of it. I’m 6’6 225 around 15% BFP. Are these principles my best bet for a short burst of trying to lean up with a good diet? Or do you reccomend circuit training and other more high volume type training? Again this would only be for about 12-14 weeks. Thanks for the help. Love the sight and going to grab a couple of your books!

  • Ravenzfire

    Hey Mike, got a question I hope you can help me out with. So I’ve been lifting for about year and a half now and just started your year routine from Bigger, Leaner, Stronger in January and have been following that and really enjoying it. So the issue I have is with my traps. My left side is seems to be much more developed then my right and is especially noticeable up near my shoulder and neck. I feel like I generally use pretty good form so I don’t think I’ve been compensating with my left side, I’m right side dominate as well so you would think it would be the other way around. I suspect this might have happened due to using an unbalanced ez curl bar which I didn’t really notice until I started working with higher weight so I may have been contracting that muscle to help offset the balance. Anyway I’m trying to figure out what is the best way to balance out my traps and get the work done on the right side without ignoring the left. From what I’ve read online it might be best to work at a lighter weight that would be more at the capacity of my right side so it can catch up without continuing to build up the left, any truth to that? Also what would be some good lifting exercises to hit that? Obviously shrugs are good but is there anything else that I might want to add? What about working just my right side at some point during the week, do like an extra few sets of a single dumbbell shrug on the right side? Love to hear your thoughts.


    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Imbalances are common and usually correct themselves with proper training BUT some people do require direct work to “rebalance.”

      If you have at least 6 months of deadlifting under your belt and things are still imbalanced then yes I would do single-arm shrugs to help. I would do 3 additional sets for the lagging side per week.

      • Ravenzfire

        While I did deadlift over the past year it definitely wasn’t on a regular basis like it is now. So I’m at about 2 months of regular deadlifting. I’ll give it another 4 months and then evaluate where things are at and add in the single arm shrugs if still needed. Thanks for the advice, hopefully things will work themselves out through the natural course of training over the next few months and then I can go from there.

        • Okay cool. Let me know how it goes and we can tweak if necessary.

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  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    Hi Mike. I like your program, but the problem is that you have given me 7 exercises to do, whereas your workout plan has 4. How do I make this add up? Are some of them different variations of each other? If not: Let’s say i divide it up to two different back days (1 of each every week), and the one you listed is Back Day 1. What exercises would you recommend for Back Day 2?

    Do you also have any similiar recommendations for chest workouts and abs/serratus workouts?

    • I recommend you start with the workout I give her and then, after 6-8 weeks, swap out 2 of the exercises for 2 of the others on the list, and repeat.





      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

        Thanks, that’s great!

        Btw do you have any advice of what exercices that I shouldn’t do if I don’t want to get bigger arms? Because every time I try lifting heavy weights I end up backing out of my plan because I feel like my arms are getting way too big compared to the rest of my upper body. I would like to build my body without it stressing too much on my arms.

        • Yeah you’d just want to avoid all direct arms training. No curls, triceps pushdowns, close-grip bench presses, etc.

          • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

            This is why I’m worried about One-Armed Dumbbell Row on “optional” exercise on your workout plan. What should I change that out with?

          • Hmm well all pull exercises are going to train the bis to some degree. I wouldn’t say the OADBR is especially effective for training the bis though.

  • Azouri

    Hey Mike I have a question, which grip is better to work the back reverse grip barbell row or overhand barbell row?

  • Azouri

    Hey Mike, love the article I was wondering if it would be okay switching the optional one arm dumbbell row to tbar row? also would you recommend adding a traps exercise to back day like shrugs?

    • Thanks! Yeah that’s fine on both. I personally don’t do anything for traps because they come along nicely with deadlifts alone but if you want to speed them up, yes shrugs work well.

      • Azouri

        Thanks for the advice mike! And I was wondering which would be a more effective lat exercise and which would help me get to wide grip pull ups, would it be close grip lat Pulldown or wide grip lat pulldown?

  • Jess M

    Hey Mike, why do you recommend three sets for four exercises and not two sets for six exercises? Would it be any less effective to do this?

    • Because I like to give a good amount of focus on those exercises. You don’t need to be doing 6 exercises per workout.

      • Jess M

        But if I wanted to.. haha would it be detrimental in any way?

  • Pierre

    Dear Mike
    I have a question for u
    When i begin any given workout i lack in energy quickly , for exemple about this back workout routine
    Im strong enough to perform weighted pullups 5reps per 3sets and then deadlifts the same , but after i go to barbell rows i can barely do 2 reps with the weight i used to do 6 reps when i am fresh . So i found a way to divide this workout routine into 2 workouts in the same day in the morning i do the pullups and deadlifts and afternoon i do BB rows
    My qustion is : does dividing this workout twice a day gives me the same results as doing this full workout once per day?
    Best regards.

  • Chris

    Hey Mike I was looking at your arm, back and chest workout plans. Should I do all three in the same day or the first eight weeks do arms next eight weeks chest and last eight weeks, over the course of 24 weeks, back? Also I would like to know if I can throw in some ab workouts with these plans? When can i throw cardio in the mix?

  • dave

    On Pendlay Rows, do you not count the rep unless the barbell touches your torso at the top? Also, do you agree that they should be done explosively as safely possible with good form or is there a point where too much momentum robs the muscle of work? Thanks

    • I don’t mind it on the last rep, but after you’re not able to touch the bar to your chest (with good form), that should be the end of the set.

      It’s cool to do them explosively as long as you’re keeping the form in! 🙂

  • Patrick

    Hey mike thanks for the ab work out helped heaps I have another question if I do the same work out every week with reps between 4 – 6 am I going to gain ?

    • No problem!

      Are you talking about the back workout being done once a week doing 4-6 reps? Or the ab routine?

      • Patrick

        On every workout I follow them all I do as heavy as I can on all of them until I can get six out just want to know if I should be doing higher reps or should I be changing the routine have been doing all of them for nearly two months now

  • Bill

    I am not a big fan of the trapezius muscle, I just feel like it looks ugly. How do you change your workout to not include it?

    • Just leave out any type of shrug and you’ll be fine.

      • Anon

        But won’t deadlifts make the traps grow a lot?

        • The traps are used during the deadlift, but I wouldn’t be too concerned with it.

          The deadlift is a key lift in the program and not worth leaving out to completely avoid trap development.

  • Michael

    Hi, when doing deadlifts do you put down the bar between reps or keep hold of the weight and go straight into the next rep for all 4-6. If resting between reps, for how long?

    Awesome workouts, am getting ready to give them all a go!



    • Yeah, I recommend setting it down each rep to prevent bouncing. No rest needed. Just set it down long enough so the weight is fully resting on the floor.

      Glad you’re excited!

  • Patrick

    Hey mike so lately I have been training in splits so everything gets done twice a week is it better to do splits or once a week for every thing ?

    • That’s too much volume if you’re progressively overloading with heavy, compound lifts. I recommend hitting each muscle group once a week. A few extra sets on lagging parts is fine.

      Check this out:


      LMK what you think.

      • Patrick

        Thanks mike that helped a lot I will go back to 5 days a week giving each muscule group its own day and one other thing I am have been training coming on seven months now and I find my upper chest is not gaining I do incline bench press and Dumbbells as well should I be trying some thing else or should I give it more time to grow

        • My pleasure!

          Slow chest growth is probably the issue I’m most often emailed about, haha. This is definitely the most common genetic weak point, and really just takes time and hard work to get through. In my opinion, it takes 1-2 years to build what we would consider a solid chest, and 3-4 to build an awesome chest.

          Keeping hitting the incline heavy and don’t be discouraged. As long as your diet is right and you’re getting stronger each month, your chest WILL grow. It just grows slower than most people prefer.

          Here’s one little trick you can do:

          On the 3rd day after chest day, start your workout with a chest warm-up and 3 heavy sets of incline barbell press. Then move on to your normal workout. This won’t be enough to interfere with your next chest day, and can give you a little boost

  • Dipen Patel

    Hi Mike, I’m a newbie lifter and I’ve been following your 5 day workout plan from chest to legs. Fantastic content on this site, thank you for what you’re doing!

    I have a question about warm ups though. Usually you say to do a warm up and then proceed with the workout, I usually just warm up by doing an extra set at the beginning of the workout with less weight. Or taking note of any advice in the YouTube videos you post, e.g. Warming up shoulders before doing dips.

    Does this sound okay? Cheers!

  • Professor Plummle

    Really nice article. I’m moving away from hammering out constant sets of bench/over head/squat/deadlift after 4 years. I’m 34 & I’m feeling beat up way to much so I want to get in some basic strength work then hammer out more assistance….so would still programming my deadlift with 5/3/1 using 5’s pro (basically never pushing for rep PR’s & just hitting 5 reps on every set) along with this template work? I just like knowing what to do on my main work/the slow progress.


  • Raul RG

    Hello Michael,

    I have some questions for you. I have a little scoleosis in my lower spine, so my doctor recommended me to strengthen my lower back and abs, because they are staying behind and he also told me to halt deadlifts. So, which exercises do you recommend me to strengthen my lower back and how often should i train them?, at the moment i do abs twice a day, should i add another day?

    thank you in advance,

    • Hey hey!

      I would ask him if you could do a sumo deadlift or trap bar deadlift and if not, hyperextensions?

      • Raul RG

        i can do hyperextensions, should i train them twice a week and how many sets??

        thanks michael

        • Cool. 3 sets twice a week should be good. You can go high rep too (10-12).

  • Ms. KJ

    Hi Michael, I just purchased The Year One Challenge for Women to go along with the Thinner, Leaner, StrongMs,er book. I would like to follow the workout plan as written but I am unable to do barbell deadlifts. I have a 5.5m disk protrusion between my L4 & L5 and try not to aggravate it. I can, however, do pull ups, pull downs, dumb rows, and seated rows (light – medium weight). Would those exercises equate to a comprehensive back workout for Phase 1? Also, I am a little confused about the working set reps for the back. 4-6 reps? Thanks in advance.

    • Thanks for picking up my books.

      I understand about the deadlift, no worries. Can you do back extensions?

      For women, the range I recommend for working sets is 8-10.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • PONOVO1000

    Hey Mike, I’m doing sumo deadlift on my back day instead of traditional and bulgarian split squats on legs day instead of regular (nicer on my lower back) and I wonder would it be to much to add 3 sets of Romanian deadlift on legs day right after bulgarian squats and still do sumo dl on back day? Cheers Mike :)))

    • Those swaps are fine. Cool on doing RDLs on leg day as well. 🙂

  • Tarun B

    Mike, what the difference between the deadlifts for legs and deadlifts for back? I have been doing romanian deadlift on legs day in which I bendmy knees upto the point whee the barbell touches the ground. For the Back, I do stiff leg deadlift whee I dont bend my knees at all and just bend the back. Am I doing right?

  • I can’t do a single chin up or pull up, is there any alternative?

    • No worries! You can do Front-Lat Pulldown (wide-grip or close-grip) instead.

  • K Crow

    Hi Mike,

    You helped me a couple weeks back with your program and so far it is going excellent. The strength gains are noticeable and hopefully in the next following weeks some physical changes as well 🙂 thank you again. I just have a couple more questions if that is possible.

    1) You say as soon as you reach 6 reps you move the weight up. When I do barbell rows, I can reach 6 reps with 50kg (110lbs). When I up the weight I can continue doing the reps but my back is rounded. Even though I can reach 6 reps with the lower weight should I stick with this even though I am not reaching failure?

    2) I lack upper chest, So I do 6 sets of incline, 3 sets flat then dips. But after my 3 sets of Incline, I fail to stay within 4-6 reps for the next 3 sets. I can’t do dumbbells because of shoulder problems. Is incline hammer press OK to do?

    I think that is it for now, haha

    Kind regards,

    • Awesome! That’s great.

      1. Let’s stick with the 6 rep weight and have you move up to doing 8 and then move up and see if you can maintain proper form.

      2. Yeah totally fine.

  • Connor o’neill

    Hey my Mike
    Yeah I do eat good like chicken,brown pasta broccoli tuna and wholemeal thins of bread and eggs scrambled every morning.Just not sure if I will get too the shape I have in mind mike.

  • Steve

    Hey Mike,

    If I’m somewhat of a more advanced lifter should I do 3-4 sets instead of just 3? Or would 4 be overdoing it? This question is in regards to chest, legs, etc, not just back in particular. Thanks in advance!

  • Dimes

    Hey Mike let’s say I’m on on a rest day (no lifting)…

    1. Do I still need to be in a caloric surplus?

    2. Do I still need to meet my protein goal? Will I lose gains if I dont?

    • 1. Yep, keep your intake the same.

      2. And yes, you still want to get your daily target of protein.

  • Azouri

    Hey mike great article! I was wondering can t-bar row be an alternative to barbell row, is it as effective and does it work the same muscles?

  • Ivan

    Hi mike, was wondering on your thoughts of reverse grip barbell row vs overhand grip. Thanks!

  • Bruno

    Hey Mike, I’m up to 4 bodyweight pull-ups. At what point should I add weight? When I get to 6 reps?

  • Aikas

    Hi my friend,
    What do you think about Bended-arms Ez-bar Pullover for build
    your back as a replacement option for one of your top back exercises? It isn’t a well-known one and I’m wondering if you’ve tried it..
    Also, I have uneven lats, could I send you a picture to see or it’s
    a common thing because of genetics? :/

  • Ivo Naves

    Hey Mike,

    Much respect to your work. I begun going to this site because of the exercises but now that I’ve read all of your stuff etc etc and practiced it the thing that keeps me here the most is when you talk about work ethics. I’m honestly thankful to you, because it’s rather difficult to see someone talking about the likes of not wasting your time with dispersion and working hard to better your work. Some of your podcasts on this had HUGE influence on my discipline overall and the way I see and tackle work&life… So please continue doing so.

    You talked on YT that it takes 1-2 years to build a good chest and 3-4 an awesome one, and legs grows in about a year or two and they are next to their potential or something, they get huge and don’t fit into jeans…

    What about the lats and the back in general?

    And shoulders? And the triceps? What else… and the traps, which are a long muscle? And forearms?



    • Thanks Ivo! I really appreciate it.

      Good question. Generally speaking those smaller muscle groups just take time.

      My lats have always been stubborn and I swear it felt like it took a few years of hard work to get them to where I wanted…

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,
    I found a version of Dumbell rows which I have never seen anybody doing and I was really curious to know what you think about it.

    (More specifically, the one on 2:37 minutes)

    • Sure you can do that. It turns the DB row into a BB row type of movement.

  • William Lim Jr

    Hi Mike,

    What do you do if one muscle group progresses faster than others?

    For my deadlifts, I have just reached the target you suggested in BBLS as a sign to start periodizing, but I’m still far behind with the other lifts (still 70 lbs to go for back squats, 50 for bench, 40 for shoulder press).

    Do I continue adding to my deadlifts or do I keep the same weight until the others reach their respective targets? Or something else?

    [On a side note, I think my rice-planting ancestry is designed to favor/not favor the muscle groups involved. I’m Filipino-Chinese and I have one of those calves that do not need any work to get thick.]

    Thanks a bunch man!


    • Don’t worry about it. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.

      I recommend continuing with the BLS program until the other lifts have reached the target.

      No need to take it easy on the deadlift in the meantime! Keep going heavy and pushing to increase weight.

      You’re lucky man. Enjoy those calves. 😉

      YW! Talk soon.

  • Al

    Hi Mike, could do with some big help on the back routine. Have a number of your books and have followed BLS for some time. However I’ve recently hurt my lower back for the second time (luckily soft tissue/muscle damage only) and I’m following a stretching and strengthening routine such as superman’s etc 3 times a week. I don’t want to lose strength in the upper and mid-back however, so have started doing bodyweight wide and narrow grip pull-ups at the gym and there is no stress on the lower back. My warm up has been the lat pull down machine with the usual warm-up ratios in your book and then 3-4 sets of each on the pull up frame just with my weight. I am managing 6-7 reps on each set. When do I need to think about trying to go to weighted versions and is there anything better you recommend other than these bearing in mind I am trying to be real careful with stress on the back.

    Many thanks.

    • Sorry to hear about the lower back. 🙁

      Cool on everything you’re doing to take care of it, and awesome you’re able to do bodyweight pull-ups still! That’s a good routine for while you’re recovering.

      If you’re back allows it, I recommend adding weight to your pull-ups once you hit 6 reps in a set. From there, as you build strength, keep adding weight to stay in the 4-6 rep range for them.

      Hope this helps!

  • Luc Masset

    Hi Mike!
    Is it unsafe to include 3 sets of rows as my weekly back workout without doing 3 sets of deadlift?
    If so, what lower back exercise could I do to compensate? I don’t want to deadlift because I don’t want any hamstring growth.

    Thanks so much in advance for your time

    • Luc Masset

      I worked my way up from 25 lbs to 80 lbs weighted chins but my shoulders really seem to not handle that exercise anymore. That’s why I’m really hoping rows will work for me so I can keep growing my back.

    • Luc Masset

      I’m wondering if it’s because I’m not focusing on scrapulae retraction when performing weighted chin ups. My left side grows more than the right and then my left shoulder is sore. I then try to lean a little to my right to even out the size then my right shoulder is sore.

      Sorry about these long posts but I hope you will be able to help me

  • Dillon Gragnano

    Hi Mike,
    I currently do your BLS program and want to add a weak points day for may back on Saturday. Would the ideal rep range to work in be the 8-10 since I already have that heavy day on Tuesday? Thanks

    • Cool you’re rolling on the program!

      Yep, for the additional work let’s stick to the higher rep range to prevent overtraining.


    • Nice!

      Yeah I would go higher rep and do no more than 6 sets. Recovery is important.

  • Ivo Naves


    I decided trying to build my physique inspired by the likes of Reeves and Zane… I’m doing BLS phase 3 (with a few adjustments) now but I see that my traps are EXPLODING doing deadlifts! And for a classic ph. even medium sized traps are a no.

    Should I continue doing them and then just stop and do maintenance of my back doing Pendlay Rows + Weighted Pulls and let the traps atrophy? Or maybe I should just get to a certain weight and then progressing reeeeeally slow on them deads… I dunno. Please help. Thanks

    • Hmm you could go higher rep on your deads? It may slow down the trap growth but allow the rest of your back and body to benefit?

      • Ivo Naves


        Another question…. I’ve read that Commando Rows are great for building punching power… What do you think?

  • Aikas


    Do you recommend alternating between Pull-up and Chin-up or the first is the king in stimulating most muscle fibers on the back? Also, should I drop Barbell Rows altogether and substitute it for Pendlay Rows and alternate it every 2 months with T-Bar Row and One-Arm Dumbell Row?
    *(I switched to a home gym and I don’t have a Lats Pulldown Machine)

    Happy Holidays < 3

    • The pullup is better for all-around back development as the chinup emphasizes the biceps more (which is why I recommend doing both by alternating).

      I much prefer Pendlays but some people swear by traditional rows for developing the lower portion of the lats.

      T-Bar and OADB Rows are both fantastic movements. You want to work them in when you make changes to your routine.

  • Austin

    Hey Mike I have a bad back and so can’t do deadlifts or barbell rows. I also have mild scoliosis so normal pullups are difficult and awkward. So tell me if the back stuff I do is good. I am not really after a HUGE back just a developed one (I prefer a Fight Club style build to Captain America)
    Weighted chins- 3 sets, reverse pyramid style, 5, 6, 8 reps
    Lat pull-down- 3 sets, 6-8 reps same weight, I increase when I get all 3 sets with 8 reps
    One arm dumbbell rows- same as lat pull-down

    Is this good? I am doing Greg’s Greek God Program and for back he just recommends switching between grips when doing pulls/chins, but I can’t do that, so do you think the pull-downs and dumbbells rows will help compensate?

    Thanks Mike

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,

    I wanted to ask you a few things about the forms.. Firstly, do you keep your shoulders down and back when performing Pull and Chin-ups in order to maximully activate your back’s muscles or there is no really need for that? Secondly, do you wrap your thumbs around the bar? Moreover, do you go up until your chin is just over the bar or just to the point where your eyes are at the bar’s level? Finally, do you always use 4-6 rep range granted that you’re doing them weighted and do you count seconds or you do them naturally slowly without counting?
    In regard of the Pendlay Row, do you slow down during the descent of the weight or you do the whole rep in an explosive manner? And If the latter is the case, then I should know that the weight is too much when I can’t do a rep explosively?

    Happy Holidays <3

    • I do, yes, although I don’t pay as much attention as I do while doing something like the deadlift.

      Chin to top, thumbs around bar, I often finish my back workouts with some higher rep pullups (10 to 12 rep), I basically drop the weight on the way down and explode up.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  • Charlie

    Hey Mike,

    What are the best way to overall develop the traps? Do you focus more on them when working out the shoulders, back or both?

    • I actually haven’t done shrugs in years. My traps have developed just from heavy military pressing and deadlifting.

      If yours are lagging despite the heavy pressing and deadlifting, you can add in 2-3 sets of barbell shrugs to your shoulder day.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Clay Erickson

    On back day my rear delts get sore. I have dropped the weight and really focused on form so that may not be it. So I have not been doing my rear delts on shoulder day. Is that okay?

    • If they’re too sore to do on shoulder day, that’s fine. You can do them at the end of another workout day that works better for you.


  • vegita

    Hi mike
    Your routine is great and everything is just perfect.
    My left lower lat is developed but my right lower lat is not developed so what shall i do to develop it.

    • Thanks. 🙂

      Imbalances are common and they usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

      What do you think?

  • Max Green

    Hey mike, I’ve bought bigger leaner stronger, love it and I’m starting to train right. My question is I’m doing a hybrid deadlift that is I between a sumo and regular barbell deadlift do you think that will be okay? And for my back workout I’m doing the hybrid deadlift, pelay row, and t bar row for the first round of back do you think that is a good back workout. Thank you,

    • Thanks!

      Well the mechanics of the traditional and sumo are a bit different so it depends how the rest of your body is working.

      Want to post a video?

      Yup that’s a good workout. Throw in some pullups or chinups at the end if you feel up to it.

      • Max Green

        Yeah next time I do deadlifts I’ll post a video my foot stance is like inbetween sumo and regular other than that is like a regular sumo deadlift

  • vegita

    Thanx mike

  • C’est Moi Eve

    Thanks. This help a lot.

  • Will

    Hey Mike, I’m really confused about the rep count for all workouts. In this article, you say: “When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.” In another article you say: “Shoot for doing at least 50 to 60 heavy reps per major muscle group per 5 to 7 days.” And in your book BLS, you recommend doing 42-54 reps. Today in my workout i did a total of 42 reps. Should i be doing more?? Very confused..

    • Will

      And you also say: “Include no more than 30 additional reps per major muscle group per 5 to 7 days.” Not sure what I should be at all.

      • Where exactly? I need context.

        • Will

          Oh sorry. The article is: “Fitness at any age: training in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond” under the training in your 40s and 50s section.

          • Oh well that’s specifically for people in their 40s and 50s. And even that depends on the person. I like to see people start “slow” and work up in terms of volume and intensity and such.

    • Hey Will,

      Sorry for the confusion. There aren’t hard and fast rules, really, just reasonable ranges and recommendations.

      Which article says 50 to 60 per 5 to 7 days? It sounds like I might need to update it.

      If you stick to BLS, you’ll do great. And remember you can add in 3 sets after your “core” 9 heavy sets if you feel up to it. Some people like to stick in the 4 to 6 rep range for these sets and others like to go higher, 8 to 10.

      • Will

        Oops, i answered your question below. Thanks for your input. I’m working on bodyweight pull-ups and struggle to do 4 so it’s weird doing my 4 reps and then resting 3 minutes while everyone else is doing higher reps with less rest. Feels like I’m not doing enough even though my intensity is high. As far as the 3 additional sets, since you say i should do it if i “feel up to it”, will it build more muscle than just 9 core sets?

        • Haha yup it’s a lot more resting than many people do but that’s the nature of heavy training.

          Possibly but not necessarily. It won’t hurt though.

  • Willem

    Last week while doing my shoulder program i felt a pain in my wrist (pinky finger side) the pain is too much that i cant even open a doorknob using that hand. So i rested it for 1 week until now i went to the gym again but i cant do any triceps pushdown and close grip benchpress. But i can do dips and bench press inclined and the normal one. I just want to ask what can i do now? I really do not want to stop lifting i dont want to make my efforts these months wasted. Can i still lift weights?

    • Hmm. That’s odd. Let’s give it another week of rest from any exercises that cause pain or discomfort. Totally fine to keep doing any other exercises.

      If it’s still an issue after another week off, I recommend seeing a doc to check out what’s going on.

      • Willem

        Its my 3rd session of lifting today, it does not cause much pain anymore than before. Im doing the routines but with lighter weights so i can still pump my muscles even with light weights. Someone from the gym told me that i might been lifting too much or too heavy for me is that right? But im just following your footsteps the 6 rep with heavy weights. But i know when to stop its really weird why i have this pain. But i think its getting better now. Btw, i just want to ask, you gave in this site a 8 weeks challenge and told us to do those programs and workouts. And now im on the 6th week. What workout should i do next after the 8th week? Tbh you are really a good instructor i gained alot! 🙂

        • That’s good! Smart move going lighter on the weight.

          Nah, I recommend working with heavier weight in a lower rep range (of course, when healthy and fully recovered). As long as you’re lifting as heavy as you can for 4-6 reps with proper form and full ROM, you’re doing it right. Check this out:


          After the 8 weeks, you should pick up my book, the 1YC:


          It lays out a whole year of workouts and a place to log everything. 🙂

          Thanks! Glad you’re doing well and getting results.

          • Willem

            Im interested in that book and i want to buy it. But my brother said there are many scams in ebay when buying products.. And were from philippines, thats why were worried about the product if it will arrive or not.. Can you help me with that?

            Btw i have 2 questions.. First is, is supplements (whey, mass etc) really necessary in lifting? Second, when im lifting, usually im drinking the MASS protein after workout. But sometimes while in the middle of lifting i tend to drink 1-2 bottles of vitamilk (soya milk) so my question is, it is safe to drink mass and soya milk at that day because it might be too much protein for my kidney. I want to be healthy too not just big.
            *The mass protein pack says that when working out an individual needs to consume 4 scoops of mass. But when i do 4 scoops it ruins my stomach so i decided to consume 2 scoops whenever im working out.* sorry for the long read. Thank you so much

          • Willem

            One more thing.. Sorry. I have mentioned before about my wrist. Its doing fine right now but whenever i do triceps and biceps workout, i still feel a little pain. My problem is,

            Biceps : i cant do barbell and the ez curl but i can lift dumbbells

            Triceps : i cant do triceps pushdown, close grip, and lying triceps extension(using ez curl) but i can lift dumbbells and do dips

            Do u have any alrernatives to those workouts i cant do?

          • NP! Shoot me an email at [email protected], and I’ll send you the PDF. 🙂

            1. Supps are not necessary. They can help you get results faster, but you can reach your goals with proper training and dieting alone.

            That much protein is totally fine. Check this out:


            However, I recommend you get the majority of your protein from whole food sources.

            2. Yeah, there’s no need to take that much of it. Get the protein you can from whole food sources and then supplement with the powder as necessary to reach your daily protein intake goal.

            Sorry to hear about the wrist. I recommend increasing to the 8-10 rep range on the bis and tris exercises and see how you do.

            You can choose some alternatives from the exercises I recommend for the bis and tris here:



            Hope this helps! LMK how it goes.

          • Willem

            Okay thanks il email you, whats the pdf for?

            Uhm it says there i should do barbell for the biceps, close grip bench and barbell for the triceps (skullcrusher)
            i cant do any of those.. Do you have alternative for those?

          • NP! I’ll just send you a PDF of the book free of charge. 🙂

            Understood on the exercises you can’t do. You can replace them with any of the other bis and tris exercises I recommend here:



          • Willem

            Uhm mike I already emailed you but it says that its an automatic reply and theres no pdf.. My email is [email protected].

            Can you help me with that? Thank you very much

          • Great! That’s just to let you know that I will be replying to you, but that it takes some time due to the sheer volume of emails I receive. That’s all.

            I’ll be getting back to you soon. 🙂


        • Ville Laitinen

          Hi! I had the same problem (inflammation in forks) and it cured itself after I started doing _all the demanding back workouts with lift-straps_ and many presses with wrist-wraps… Just look at the size of your forks compared to your back/biceps etc….. Try and you might want to start progressing weights again for bigger muscles. (IMHO, it is stupid to not use straps…)

  • Lance

    Hey Mike!,

    I would just like to ask about shoulder shrugs. You say to do 2 sets, but how many reps per set are we supposed to do, and how heavy should we lift because I’ve been told to lift light in this exercise..Also if you remember me, i’ve changed my workout schedule as you suggested. I’ve noticed that i’ve been cheating a lot in my bench presses because i had weak forearms. I would like to ask about RESTING TIME because of how LIGHT i’m still lifting, and whether the 3 minutes is for heavy lifters here are my info in KG:

    Day1 Chest & calves all 4 to 6

    Inclined bench. 30 Triceps weak inclined at 6
    Inclined dumbbell press 17.5 each 4 reps
    Bench 25
    Standing calf raise 25
    Seated calf raise135

    Day2 back and abs all 4 to 6
    Deadlifts 65
    Barbell row 20
    Pullups 180 torso no movement do not use forearm to pull down
    Barbell shrugs 2 sets
    3 to 6 abs circuits

    1 set of cable crunches 36
    1 set of Captain chair leg raises to failure
    1 set of air bicycle to failure ALL NO REST IN BETWEEN

    Day 3 arms and calves and forearm

    Bar Bicebs: 27.5total wide raise elbows
    Triceps bar 20 total
    Hammer 12.5 raise elbows
    Tricep push down rope 36

    2 to 3 sets plate pinches 10 kg
    farmer holds 22.5 kg EACH
    Day 4 Shoulders and abs

    Military press 17.5 4-6
    Side lateral raise 10 – 6 reps-8
    Rear 15 6-8
    Face pull
    Arnold 12.5 4-6

    3 to 6 ab circuits

    i eat canned tuna which has 35g of protein and rice after workouts.. would that be sufficient?? and i’m really worried that i DONT SWEAT enough during workouts but i do push myself. should i be worried about this.?

    • Hey hey! All sets are done in the 4-6 rep range unless otherwise specified.

      Thanks for all the info on all the exercises you’re doing and the weight you’re working with.

      The routine looks good.

      Yep, the tuna and rice (given it’s enough rice) is a great post-workout. Check this out:


      Don’t worry about the sweat. It isn’t an indicator of a good workout. As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle.

      Hope this all helps! Talk soon.

  • Kak

    Hey Mike!

    I just want to ask which is better supplement for me? Whey or nitrotech? I saw the details of nitro tech that it will make you ripped.. Im still not satisfied with the size i have right now so im wondering which two will i get. Thanks

  • Ify Eboh

    When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

    That is supposed to say 6 to 7 right. Otherwise that’s nuts.

    • No, 5 to 7. Some people can recover better than others, and especially when in a caloric surplus.

  • Ben G

    Hey Mike, how to you recommend doing progressive overload with this and your other ‘ultimate’ workouts. Is increasing the weight 5lbs each week a good idea?

    • Hey Ben. Good question! You increase weight when you hit the top of the rep range and how much you increase depends on the exercise. If you’re working in the 4-6 rep range, if you get 6 reps one set, you should up the weight. For the main compound lifts (squat, deadlift and bench press) you can go up by 10 lbs. For the other exercises 5 lbs is fine.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Wayne Carlton

    Hey Mike
    Just started following your site (love it0 plan on getting your books soon.
    My question to day is about my traps just stated with the compound lifting but my traps are way lagging behind. You metion shoulders shrugs a few times but I can not find any info on your site on how to do them and is their a better way to work my traps

    • Hey Wayne! Awesome! Glad you’re enjoying it.

      LMK how you like the books when you get them. 🙂

      For the shrugs, I like barbell shrugs. As always, full ROM and for the tempo, you can follow the standard 2-1-2 rep tempo.

      Hope this helps!

  • Simon

    Hey Mike!

    Warning: Lot of text

    Question about form while doing back exercises. During my first few years of lifting, I had quite a few injuries in my back and shoulders. I figured it was because of bad/sloppy form, so I started to focus on improving my form. This really helped, and the injuries disappeared.

    The number one thing i changed, after reading articled, was to pull by shoulders down and back, and squeezing my shoulder blades together during lifts, and keeping them tight through the lift. I do this both while pushing and pulling. While I do lat-pulldowns, pull ups, deadlifts, shoulder press, bench press, dips or pullovers, I do this.

    As I mentioned above, this have worked wonders for my back and shoulder health, but my back development have not been very good, though I have added weight on a regular basis. I feel like pulling shoulders back and down, and arching my back slightly, makes my contact/activation of the muscle weaker.

    Example; if I do lat-pulldown or dumbbell pullovers with shoulders in neutral position, I get great contact with the muscles. On the other hand, if I pull my shoulders back, I dont get as good contact with the muscles (lats). Same goes for bench press, no injuries, but less chest contact/squeeze/activation.

    Whats your take om this? When to do it? And when to skip it?

    Thanks in advance Mike!


    • Simon

      Picture of the arched back/shoulder position i maintain during my lifts.

    • You actually don’t want to squeeze your shoulder blades together when deadlifting. Instead, your shoulders should be a neutral, “packed” position (pressed downward with your lats engaged).

      And in your other exercises, it sounds like you might be exaggerating the scapular pinch? You just want your chest “up” and not slumped…

  • Jason

    Hey Mike!

    Fair amount of text incoming:

    I’m a competitive sprint swimmer (50m and 100m) looking to increase power without getting too much size – so that I won’t increase my water resistance. I’ve been following your ‘Ultimate Workout’ series and have been really feeling my muscles working during chest/tricep/bicep/shoulder workouts, which is great! However, I can’t seem to feel anything during the days where I work my back.

    I started working out about a month ago, using your tips as a starting point. I’ve avoided doing the deadlift and pendlay rows because I have had a history of knee injuries, and I have been reluctant to put them at risk. Instead, I’ve been doing chin-ups, lat pulldowns, and dumbbell rows.

    As a swimmer, I figured my strongest points would be my back and shoulder muscles. My shoulders are definitely getting worked, but I can’t seem to even feel my back while I do pulldowns/chin-ups, even though I’m pressing my shoulder blades together.

    I know it’s hard to determine what my problem is just from reading this, but do you know any other mistakes newbies make besides form? I’m maintaining a puffed out chest, retracted shoulder blades and am trying to “pull” with my elbows – yet I don’t seem to be getting results.

    (Doing 3 sets of 5 reps at 50 kg at the moment for my lat pulldowns – I know it’s a very low number, but that’s all I seem to be able to do)

    • Hey Jason! No worries. 🙂

      Cool you’re following the routines I have laid out on the site!

      The first thing to make sure is that you’re using proper form. Take a look at the videos for each exercise here:


      After that, what really matters is that you’re progressing. Are you getting stronger on the exercises? The goal should be to increase reps and/or weight each week. If so, you’re doing it right!

      Oh and to make sure you’re not getting bigger and gaining weight, make sure you’re not eating over your TDEE. You can calculate it here:


      You will be limited in the amount of strength you can build without being in a surplus, though.

      Hope this helps. LMK what you think.

  • Sad advice snap city

    LMFAO no I don’t do that and my back is huge. You keep missing the important part and that’s to EAT! Fuck that bull shit “fitness guru”

  • Jason G

    Hey Mike, a question: ¿what do you think of renegade rows? I saw a guy doing them in the gym, but I’m not sure if they are safe (for the positioning) or if there are any differences between them and the barbell/dumbbell version

    • Renegade row will put more emphasis on your abs than the other rows, but you’ll pull more weight on the others–thus focusing more on your back.

  • Abhishek

    Hi Mike,
    In barbell rowing should we use the overhand grip as above or the underhand grip , which is better??

  • Dan


    I struggle to Deadlift from previous slipped disc due to really poor flexibility, so my lower back is compromised in starting position because I can’t get low enough.

    For Back days, should I swap Deadlifts for a Rack Pull? Basically a deadlift and slowly as flexibility improves move the bar further to the ground?

    Was thinking this for my back

    Rack Pull 3 x 4-6
    T-Bar Row (Chest Support) 3 x 4-6
    1-Arm Dumbbell Row 3 x 4-6
    Weighted Wide Grip Pull Ups 3 x 4-6

    What do you think? Or just remove the rack pulls altogether?

    • Rack pulls are great! If you are able to do it, you can consider trap bar deadlifts, which would be more functional strength training like the deadlift, but with less stress on lower back.

      • Dan

        Thanks Roger. My gym recently got a Trap Bar for deadlifts, so will try and see how it goes. Thanks for the reply : )

  • kevin brown

    hey can someone please give me advice. should i be doing these heavy weight low rep workouts if i am a skinny teenager that is considered a beginner (4 months). also what rest breaks should i be doing for all the other workouts -example, bench press was 3 minute breaks inbetween sets, what about curls , triceps, shoulder workouts, etc.?

  • Cenk

    Menno Henselmans has a good article on why chins are superior to rows for back development. The biggest money makers for back development are getting strong as hell on deadlifts and chins (pronated, supinated or neutral). Everything else is icing on the cake

    • You can definitely build a great back with heavy deadlifting and chin-up/pull-up variations alone, but I’m a fan of barbell rows.

  • Musharraf Salimi

    Is this good
    1. Barbell Row
    2.pull downs underhand grip
    3.seated cable rows
    4.T bar row with a wider grip(upper back focus)

  • Stefan Latimer

    I am a big guy, 6’6″ and 250-260lbs, and as you may be able to guess, I have trouble with pullups and chinups. I can do two of them in a row when I am fresh but after rows like in your year challenge, I don’t have enough left in the tank to do any. I have switched them out for wide grip lat pulldowns as heavy as I can ([email protected] when I worked out today) and am progressing in that. Is there anything else I should be doing with the explicit purpose of being able to do a full 3sets of 6 pullups at bodyweight and beyond?

    Thanks ahead of time,

    • Hey Stefan! I remember your email on this. 🙂

      The lat pulldown machine is great for progression, and you can also consider doing assisted pullups with resistance bands.

  • Adri

    Hi Mike, Roger,

    It’s been now 10 week that I do exactly your workout, but since 3 week i don’t progress at the deadlift anymore. I started at 6x 250lbs, and now 4x 300 lbs.
    So I was wondering if I had to change the workout for the next 8 weeks,
    Like Pull up 3×6 / Rowing T bar 3×4-6 / rowing supination 3×6-8 / maybe a last exercice, don’t now wich one, need your opinion about that too
    What do you think ?

    Thank’s for all the great article

    • Nice work on those deads!. No need to change up the deadlifts, though you can play around with the others. Are you on a cut? Easy to plateau when cutting due to the limited fuel your body gets. If you’re bulking, then you might need more cals. Anyway, check this out:


      • Adri

        Hi Roger, thanks ! I’m on a bulk, I already add some extra calorie few week ago. Thank’s for the article but I already read it (great article by the way). So I was wondering, mb I need to take lighter weight with pote volume for the next 8 week on deadlift. So MB that?
        Deadlift 3×10 / Pull up 3×6 / rowing supination 3×4-6 and another exercice .. Wich one ?

        Thank’s for the answer

        • Thanks for the clarification. OK, have you had a deload week at all? Have you or are you due for one? If so, that can definitely help.

          I’d stick to heavy deadlifts instead of increasing the rep range. First thing I’d check is your form, and reduce weight if necessary. If form 100% checks out, then more cals can help if your weight is the same. Also, you can consider adding another day of deadlifts–at least in the short term.

          • Adri

            Funny I juste took one this week I go back tomorrow.

            Form is correct I think I train with a partner but MB need to check video.

            I train 3 per week, i will add Deadlift on leg day, 3×4-6 or 3×10?
            Thank’s fir the answer and the idea

          • A 3-day split, I’d do 3×4-6. Rest of the back workout you can use any of the approved exercises. The deload will usually help, though. Especially if you’re bulking right now.

          • Adri

            Alright thanks for your time, I’ll let your know how it works !

          • Sounds good! YW.

  • Ollie

    Hi! I have reached The weight requirements for back that is listed in beyond bigger leaner stronger, but it’s only for my back, should I start with the workouts listed in bbls for back, or should I keep doing the same workouts until the rest of my body catch up?

  • amos

    I’ve been working on weighted pull ups and chin ups for awhile now. What is your take on doing RPT(5,6,8 reps) on chin ups and pull up in order to get their numbers up, especially I’m doing them specially 2x a week a few hours before or after my workouts. I treat my pull ups and chin ups independently apart from your BLS workouts. Is this method effective for getting their numbers up or will the normal BLS style work set (4-6 rep x 3) do?

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Hi Mike! The gym I go to doesn’t have any straight bars to use, the only free bar is one of those S curve curling bars. Is it ok to use this for deadlifts?

    • Nuh uh…Your gym doesn’t have a barbell even for the bench press?

      • Elijah Laughinghaus

        It has a power rack, but it’s not the free type, the bar is set, so it only goes perfectly straight up and down and you can’t take it out to set it on the ground, or do lunges, etc.

        • That’s no to the EZ curl bar. It’ll be hard to get a proper grip on it and load up enough weight for a deadlift. Smith machine isn’t much help either…

      • Elijah Laughinghaus

        Does the “nuh uh” mean that it is not ok to use the curl bar for the deadlift?

  • Christian Baumgartner

    Hex Bar Deadlift

  • Christian Baumgartner

    Hello. I have bought all your books.they are awesome. My question is Hex Bar Deadlift on back day or on leg day?
    MfG Christian

    • Happy to hear you’re enjoying my books! The Hex Bar Deadlift would be on Back Day.

  • Travis

    Aren’t deadlifts more of a leg exercise than a back exercise? Many experts like Eric Helms recommend keeping them on lower body days.

  • Briscan Andrei

    For my fitness general knowledge :
    1. Lat pull-downs ( any variations ) it’s an isolation or an compound exercise ?
    2. Horizontal pulling movement are for thickness and vertical pulling movement are for the width of the back . True or another BS ?

    • Hey Briscan,

      1. It’s somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t involve as much musculature as, say, deadlifts, but it’s certainly more “compound” than curls.

      2. Meh, honestly they both help with both of those goals. It’s really more accurate to say that they both help with width and thickness by stimulating the muscles in those areas in slightly different ways.

  • Greg Holden

    Hi mike if you struggle will pull ups and chin ups you mention focusing on lat pull down and band assistance pull ups. However, I have heard people mention you should also focus on inverted rowes and the eccentric motion of pull ups and chin ups. Is it worth focusing on the latter two and if so what rep range?

    • Hey Greg,

      You’ll be fine just focusing on the assisted work, really.

      • Greg Holden

        Hi Rodger
        By assisted work to do you mean assisted pull ups?

        • That’s correct.

          • Greg Holden

            Thanks Rodger, have two questions, Firstly are there any particular resistance bands you recommend off Amazon ( my gym has none) to help with Pull up. second when doing Lat pull down should the bar touch your chest or will between your chin and chest do? Sorry I didn’t get back sooner been without internet access. Thanks

          • http://www.roguefitness.com/rogue-monster-bands or similar.

            You can also use the assisted pull-up machine, if your gym has one. Between chin/chest is fine.

          • Greg Holden

            Thanks Rodger, Big help mate!

  • Carlos Arteaga

    Any recommendations for wide hips guys?

    • Hey Carlos, can you be more specific what sort of recommendation you’re looking for? If you have naturally wide hips, making your lats bigger can help make your waist appear smaller.

  • Jack96

    Underhand grip cable row with wide bar pulldow bar. I found that many coaches recommend this exercise for the lats and say that it is the best horizontal pulling exercise because It has smaller influence on traps, rhombodieus, erector spine… and emphizes the lats more.I didnt find any study to confirme this.

    • Thanks for the tip! Using an underhand grip can increase lat involvement. The wider your grip, the more you’ll emphasize the posterior delts, though.

      • Jack96

        Then the best grip would be a little wider than shoulder width. I tried barbell row and dumbbell its a little bit uncomfortable and that i dont overload the lats as much as I want. I find the underhand grip row is the best. I have naturaly wide lats and big traps. But i cant get the thickness in the middle part of my back. I found that T-bar row helped me the most. This is the workout that I have been doing 2 months already.

        Deadlift 3×12 3×4-6
        T-Bar Row 3×4-6
        Wide grip pull up 3×4-6
        Dumbbell row 3×6-8

        Is there anything that you could recommend to me?

        • Yeah, I like the T-Bar row a lot. It looks like you’re doing all the right exercises, so just focus on progressive overload and getting stronger, and your back will develop. Since you’re aiming for a thicker middle back, you may want to focus more on the rhomboids, rather than the lats. You could try rows with a wide, overhand grip.

  • JackieChun

    Diffrence in muscle activation between:

    1. Narrow and Wide rowing exercise
    2. Overhand and Underhand grip
    3. Close grip and Wide Grip Pull Up

    I also want to know if you have read any good fitness book that talks about the biomechanics and muscle activation (EMG) in various exercises. There are 20 researches for example for chin ups and pull ups. Some say the first is better than latter. Than some say the opposite. And there are some that say that there is no significent diffrence in muscle activation.

    • Hey Jackie,

      Well, first of all muscle activation isn’t the only, or necessarily the best, predictor of an exercise’s effectiveness. It’s a clue, but that’s about it.

      Second, Bret Contreras has written about this a lot. I recommend you check out his site.


  • Ovince

    Thoughts on these two lat exercises for advanced lifters at the end of the back workout

    Lat Pull-ins
    One Arm Pushdowns

    I know that you are a big fan of Lat Pushdowns 4 sets od 8-10 reps at the end of the workout

  • Ethan

    Hey Mike, what do you think of the straight arm pushdown to train the teres minor?

    • It’s good if you want to isolate that area. I prefer more compound movements for the back 🙂

  • Matt

    Hi Mike! Call me crazy (and I know you will disagree with this based on your own experiences) but am I the only one who finds the deadlift slightly…overrated?

    I have run BLS for over a year now and seen amazing results (ty by the way, I love this program. First one I have ever stuck with long term) without doing them; my back day on the 4 day split is simply Weighted Chins, Barbell Rows, Weighted Hammer Grip Chins, Curl and depending on how tired I am I recently discovered standing one arm DB Row and have been trying those.

    Anyways not knocking the DL, I see it’s merits and why people consider it a great exercise but I just personally fucking HATE it and feel like the hive mind has now become “you need to do DL no matter your goals!’

    • Hey Matt! Great to hear you’re doing well with BLS! Keep it up 🙂

      You certainly don’t have to deadlift to build a great physique, but that doesn’t mean it’s overrated. It’s a fantastic exercise that hits almost every muscle group, so it’s very efficient, and great for building overall strength. Of course, following a workout routine that includes an exercise you hate won’t be so easy to stick to, so it’s great that you’ve found something that works for you.

  • Cuzjudd

    Hey Mike, my lats have an imbalance where the right side is about an inch shorter than my left side. Is this genetics or a true muscle imbalance? It’s worth noting that the mind muscle connection on my right hand side is rubbish where as I have no problem getting a superb contraction on the left hand side. Thanks as always.

  • Jay24

    Hey Mike,

    On your regime it says 3 mins for 4-6 reps… does that apply to pull ups / chin ups as well?

    • Yes, 3 sets of 4-6 reps of weighted pull-ups or chin ups

      • Jay

        Hey, what do you mean by weighted? i have an assist of 10kg on as I cannot complete pull ups 4-6 reps without assists yet

        • Weighted pull-ups are just pull-ups with weight attached via a dip belt. No worries if you can’t do them yet. You’ll build up to it as you get stronger 🙂

  • Briscan Andrei

    Hey Mike & Co. ,
    I have a couple of questions .
    1. Can we still build an very impresive back only with pull ups / chin ups , barbells row, one arm dumbbell row and cable row ?
    2. How do I warm up if I have to do incline dumbbells bench press ( 3×4-6 ) as my first exercise in my chest workout ?
    3. How to train and eat if we want to bulk or cut and we have an physical demanding job ? Cut off some sets , sleep more and beside this ? An article would be awesome .
    4. Squats and deads thicken up your waist by putting to much muscle on your lower back , abs and obliques = destroy the v-taper proportion . What do you think about this statement because I find all kinds of opinions on the internet ? It is legit or just some bs to avoid hard training ( aka squats and deadlifts )
    like Martin Berkhan said in his ,,Fuckarounditis” article ?

  • Jim Walker

    Hello Mike!
    I’m currently doing the following back routine from the bonus report:
    3 sets DL (all in 4-6 rep range)
    3 sets db row
    3 set front lat pull down
    3 sets cable rows

    It’s going well, however, I’ve been wanting to do weighted chins as one of my biceps exercises 2 days later on arm day. I know these also hit the lats hard so I was wondering if this would be too much. I know you say 12 sets a week is optimal but I really want that wide back, and considering chest gets hit 2x per week I would think back/lats could be as well since it’s a stubborn area too. Btw, I’m bulking as laid out in BLS.


    • Hey Jim! You can definitely do weighted chins on arm day. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

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