Build a 3-D Back

How to thicken your back to get that bodybuilder look.


The phrase "developing back thickness" refers to the act of adding knots of dense muscle throughout the rear of your torso. Sometimes a back that appears wide lacks the depth that ultimately gives it a 3-D illusion. To develop an overpowering back, you need thickness in abundance, and I’ll tell you how to do that.

There are four key points to building back thickness, which I’ll explain in detail. Then I’m going to give you a Y3T back workout specifically designed to focus on these areas. 


Within the back area you have several muscle groups work- ing together, which means there are many muscle fibers running in different directions. As a result, you need to work each specific area in order to stimulate all of these different fibers. In doing this, you can create more thickness and “knotty” muscle, which gives that 3-D look from every angle.

This is why I will include overhead pulling angles, bentover pulling angles, and variations between the two. Sometimes using the same exercise with a slightly different gradient can help attack a totally new area of your back.


Since there are many different fiber types running through the back, it’s essential for added thickness that you achieve overload in every rep range. This is why Y3T focuses on targeting every muscle-fiber population and forcing overload to take place. Many people find their back responds particularly well to moderate- and high-rep ranges, as well as the more standard lower- rep ranges. Becoming stronger will add thickness, but doing so in multiple rep ranges will, in my experience, compound this effect several times over. 


Adjusting your posture, grip, and the positioning of your “levers” (arms) will have a direct impact on the overall muscle recruitment within your back and, therefore, the level of density you’re able to build. In terms of adding thickness to your back, focus on these two things:

  1. When doing unilateral rows, keep your arms pinned to your sides, driving your elbows backward and contracting your scapulas together.
  2. When doing pulldowns, make sure your back is arched in order to maximize recruitment all the way through your back, again with your scapulas pushed together.

It’s also very crucial that you keep your head looking straight ahead or even in a position where you’re looking upward.


Taking control of rep tempo is essential because ultimately this is how you maximize the stress and load within the back muscles. No matter how much weight you’re lifting, if the rep tempo isn’t sufficiently causing your back to work hard enough, you are not going to see that thickness develop.

Tempo will change depending on the exercise and rep range within the Y3T training cycle. However, to activate muscle fibers optimally, you should combine explosive concentrics with slow- controlled eccentrics. On top of this, you should incorporate isometric holds in order to maximize muscle-fiber recruitment.

By doing this, you will optimize muscle- fiber recruitment, and as a result your back muscles will appear thicker and more developed over time. 


The workouts below, as designed, are really going to target maximum back thickness. That being said, you must keep your core tight on exercises like deadlifts, bentover rows, etc. This will help protect your lower back. Keep to a full range of motion, and incorporate rest- pause on each working set to maximize failure.

Maximizing stress and load in the area you are targeting is key for optimum results and progress. Make sure you’re keeping your back under tension throughout the positive phase of each rep. Contraction is king and key to forcing growth to take place in your targeted area.

Make sure you’re always in control of the negative phase of the movement, controlling the weight in this phase and increasing greater stress and load to the muscle group/area of the back you’re targeting. This will enhance your back’s overall thickness and development. Use lifting wraps and straps, as well as a belt to protect your lower back on exercises that put you in a vulnerable position. 


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