A Massive Upper Back Made E-Z

Brian Shaw's e-z back routine.

A Massive Upper Back Made E-Z

Most guys at the gym tend to train the muscle groups they can see when they look in the mirror: Chest, shoulders, and arms. However, the one part of the body that cannot be overlooked (both literally and figuratively) is the upper back. It has been said countless times that most bodybuilding contests are won from the back, and the best powerlifters and strongmen do have massive, very strong upper backs.

So the question is, how do you develop a thick, V-tapered, superstrong upper back? Well, you just have to put the work into it!

The most important thing is to always rotate variations of exercises to hit your back from all different angles. Having variety in your training routine will not only keep your body guessing, but it will also keep training new and exciting. Keep training hard! 



Yes, even at 440 pounds I can still do these. Most people will not be able to get very many reps with strict form, so I recommend putting a band on the overhead bar, pulling it down, and with your leg bent, hooking it just under your knee.

Bentover Row

One thing I always stress: Check your ego at the door with bentover rows. If you try to go too heavy, your form will be compromised and you’ll end up using your lower back erectors to do much of the work. Use a weight you can handle without having to compromise form. Position your torso at slightly above parallel to the floor with your knees bent slightly, and keep it that way.

Lat Pulldown

I recommend using different bar attachments for this exercise on an ongoing basis. Rotate from week to week using a wide grip, narrow grip, palms facing, etc. Always alternate what you’re doing to keep your body guessing so you keep growing and getting stronger. Get a full stretch and contraction. 

Cable Row/Dumbbell Row

I choose one of these for every session. If you are getting used to using one attachment for cable rows, throw on a different one and hit your back from a different angle. Or grab a heavy dumbbell, support your upper back, and knock out singe-arm rows without cheating the weight up.


This is one exercise that often gets overlooked in back-training programs. Well-developed traps bring your whole back together for a look of sheer power. I alternate between dumbbell and barbell shrugs in the same workout. Sometimes I’ll alternate them from workout to workout.

  • Pullup | SETS: 4 | REPS: 6-12
  • Bentover Row | SETS: 4 | REPS: 6-12 
  • Lat Pulldown | SETS: 3 | REPS: 8-12
  • Cable Row* | SETS: 3 | REPS: 8-12
  • Shrug | SETS: 3 | REPS: 20

*Alternate with one-arm dumbbell row every other week.