The Ultimate Guide to a Ripped Back

Don’t Forget About Your Back

If you’re like a lot of men, you might be overtraining the muscles that “show” the most or be focusing the most on the exercises that give you the most respect in the gym, aka bench press and curls. While a strong and broad chest and perfectly peaked biceps are definitely worth achieving, you don’t want to place more attention on the anterior side of your body than your back. This can lead to a weaker developed physique and an increased risk of injury. A strong, ripped back is something that goes a lot further than just your appearance.

Building a strong, broad back goes far beyond simply improving your aesthetics. Keep reading to find out how to get a ripped back and why it is more important than you may think. 

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Reasons It’s Important to Build a Strong Back

There are more reasons to building a strong and ripped back than you may think. It is not all about looks, but also about functionality. Your back has a lot to do with your everyday activities, so sit back, drink your pre workout or BCAAs, and let’s dive in.

Aides in Daily Tasks

Your back muscles are important for not only improving your physique but also in a lot of daily tasks. Your lower back aids in lifting, carrying, and supporting your upright posture, and your upper back is responsible for supporting your shoulder girdle, head, and neck. 

Improves Your Body Composition

Dylan Wolfinger showing off a back double bicep

After your legs, your back contains the largest muscles in the body, so training these muscles expend a lot of energy and will improve your body composition.  

Having a broad, ripped back will not only make it look good and strong, but you’ll make your physique look better. That’s because a broad back will make your shoulders appear wider and give you a V-shaped look, which is a sign of physical attractiveness in males (1).

Correct Your Posture

Although it’s impossible to grow taller, working your back muscles will fix your posture, making you stand taller. 

And I know a lot of men out there want to build the strongest and biggest chest possible, but you’re costing yourself muscle if you only focus on your chest. The stronger your back muscles are, the more weight you’ll be able to do on chest exercises. They help stabilize your shoulder joints, which will allow you to lift more. 

Prevent Muscular Imbalances

Furthermore, since many men focus too much attention on their chest muscles, this often leads to muscular imbalances. If you’re working your push muscles a lot more than your pull muscles, your much more likely to injure yourself. If you have a desk job and sit behind a computer for most of your day, it’s actually recommended that you focus a little more on pull movements than push movements. This will help keep your shoulders from protracting forward and other muscular imbalances. 

In fact, a 2019 study of employees found that at least 75 percent of call center workers were in back pain (2). 

Lower back pain is common, especially as we get older so it’s important to strengthen your lower back muscles (3). 

Plus, many sports such as rock climbing, swimming, and boxing, rely heavily on the development of your back muscles. 

As an added bonus, you’ll develop bigger and toned arms by training your back. That’s because you work your biceps as a secondary muscle on many back movements. A lot of people loop back and biceps together during their workout split for this reason.

Back Muscles, Exercises, Reps, and Sets 

So what muscles make up the back? What exercises should you do to have a ripped back? Reps? Sets? Let’s take a look at what goes into crafting a perfectly ripped back.

Back Muscles

The back is composed of a few key muscles: 

  • Latissmus Dorsi – (responsible for the v-shape) – the outer back muscle that forms the “wing” shape
  • Rhomboids – located in the midsection of your upper back and used to pull your shoulder blades together
  • Trapezius – large triangular muscles extending over the back of your neck
  • Erector Spinae – runs vertically along your spinal vertebrae and straightens the back and provides side-to-side rotation 

Therefore, you’ll want to focus on exercises that target all of these muscles when trying to build a ripped back. 


back exercise

Weighted Pull Ups 

Weighted calisthenics is a measure of one’s true relative strength. When you’re doing pull-ups, you have to lift up deadweight fighting against gravity — it’s very taxing, to say the least. Now, imagine throwing weight on top of your bodyweight. This will build you the strong and chiseled back you want. 

Barbell Bent-over Row

This is a classic compound movement that’s a cornerstone in back workouts for a reason. You’ll load a barbell full of weight, which will allow you to use heavier weights to build strong, ripped back muscles.

Lat Pulldown 

The name speaks for itself, but the lat pulldown is designed to specifically target your latissimus dorsi. You’ll do this exercise on a cable machine, and it allows you to overload your lats without tiring out your arms. 

Dumbbell Single-arm Row

Another classic exercise, and all you need are some dumbbells. The dumbbell row is designed to isolate your lat muscles to give them more volume. They’ll also improve your core stability. 

Dumbbell Pullover 

The dumbbell pullover is a good exercise that not only targets your back but also hits your chest and triceps. Sports physiologists and researchers have also noted its effectiveness in good posture (4). You might recognize this movement from Arnold Schwarzenegger, as it was one of his staple bodybuilding movements. 

Reps and Sets

To build a ripped back, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing the right volume for adequate muscle growth. Certain movements are better with lower reps and more weight, while others are better with a little lighter weight and a few more reps. 

For example, with weighted calisthenics — e.g. weighted pull ups. — I recommend heavier weights and sticking in a lower rep range. A big compound movement such as barbell bent-over row is another exercise I recommend that you keep the weight heavy and reps low. That’s because these movements are built for strength, and your lats will pop if you overload them with enough weight on the right movements. 

On exercises such as dumbbell single arm row and dumbbell pullover, you can lower the weight a little bit and increase the reps slightly. The biomechanical makeup of these movements isn’t meant for the same taxing weight as the ones mentioned above. They’re mainly for volume and to add some more definition to your back muscles. Going too heavy on these movements will cause you to use bad form and risk injury. 

Example Back Workout 

  • Weighted pull ups 3 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Barbell bent over row 3 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Lat pulldown 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell single-arm row 2 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell pullover 2 sets x 8-10 reps 

Body Fat Percentage

It’s worth mentioning that in order for your back muscles to truly shine, you’ll want to make sure you’re a lower body fat percentage. Aim for 8-12% body fat if you want your back to be ripped and to really make your back muscles pop, but anything under 15% will show them off. 

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Remember, diet is a huge part of your workout plan when you are looking to hit your goals. Make sure you are getting the correct amounts of proteins, fats, and carbs to help build the physique of your dreams.

Ripped Back Recap

Having a strong, broad back is often overlooked by the chest muscles. However, a chiseled back will give you the V-shape physique you desire and will also make you overall stronger and prevent injury. Try some of the exercises laid out in this article, and you’ll be well on your way to a ripped back. 

What’s your favorite back exercise? Let us know and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter


1 –   Braun, M. F., & Bryan, A. (2006). Female waist-to-hip and male waist-to-shoulder ratios as determinants of                 romantic partner desirability. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(5), 805–819.

2 – Bontrup, C., Taylor, W. R., Fliesser, M., Visscher, R., Green, T., Wippert, P. M., & Zemp, R. (2019). Low back pain and its relationship with sitting behaviour among sedentary office workers. Applied ergonomics, 81, 102894.

3 – Meucci, R. D., Fassa, A. G., & Faria, N. M. (2015). Prevalence of chronic low back pain: systematic review. Revista de saude publica, 49, 1.

4 – Nucharapon Liangruenrom, Kanyapat Suttikasem, Melinda Craike, et al. Physical activity and sedentary behaviour research in Thailand: a systematic scoping review. BMC Public Health. 2018, Vol.18, No.1,

Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.