How To Get A Big Back Fast – Arnold’s Top Tips

How To Get A Big Back

Every muscle in Arnold’s body was fine tuned to its peak potential. Arnold reveals his tips on how to get a big back fast.

The back is the largest muscle group of the upper body.

The muscles that make up the back are:

  1. Latissimus Doris aka Lats: Involved in the flexion of pulling the shoulder blades downward towards the back.
  2. Spinal Erectors: The muscles of the lower back that assist in keeping the spine upright.

The Anatomy of The Back Muscles

In competition, a judge looks for three specific characteristics of back development:

  1. Thickness and muscular separation of the upper back.
  2. The extension and width of the lats.
  3. The muscular definition and development of the lower back and lower lats.

(P.S. If you’d like to download 19 tips to radically enhance muscle growth check out my free guide: Macro-Muscle Solution)

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.02.31 PM

The Upper Back

In a rear double-biceps pose (as displayed in the picture at the top of this post) all the muscles from elbow to elbow are emphasized. The dominant ones being the upper back muscles and traps. The biceps and rear delts also play their part.

The trapezius muscle lies in the center of the upper back. In a fully developed back the traps are full, massive and clearly defined.

Arnold’s tips for trap development are included in his shoulder workout.

The Lats

Arnold Lat SpreadThe lats make up the most significant area of a well developed back.

The sweep of the lats is what makes them most impressive.

In bodybuilding competitions judges’ keep an eye out for the lats right from the first round.

The V-shaped physique that so many strive for is directly dependent on proper lat development.

Wide lats can be built by vertical movements such as Lateral Pulldowns and Chin Ups.

Pulldown movements are varied based on the angle, grip, and whether you are pulling to the front or rear of your body.

With superior development the lats become clearly evident from the front view of the body as well.

They add to complement the chest with an appearance of a widened torso and act as a frame for the pectorals.

Lower Lats

Well developed lower lats sweep all the way down to the waistline and add to the aesthetic appeal of the lats.

When training the lower lats use a narrow grip with both pulldown and rowing movements.

Middle Back Thickness

Lower Back Revealed

From top to bottom: Chris Cormier, Dorian Yates, and Flex Wheeler display their back development. Notice the Christmas tree like effect created by the lower back

Arnold says that many bodybuilders have well developed lat width but lack thickness in their middle back.

Dorian Yates is a bodybuilder who’s superior middle back thickness immediately stands out.

Thickness in the back is achieved with rowing movements such as:

  • T-Bar Rows
  • Barbell Rows
  • Cable Rows

A wider range of motion through rowing movements allows for a full contraction of the middle back area.

Lower Back

Arnold says that many bodybuilders lack lower back development.

A well developed lower back displays two columns of muscle that stand out at the sides of the spine.

The complete physique needs to have lower back muscularity and thickness.

The body prefers storing fat around the waistline. A well defined lower back is proof that the bodybuilder has worked hard to cut down to low body fat levels.

Movements For The Back

The two basic movements for the lats are rowing and pulldowns.

When performing these movements it is easy to get the biceps overly involved. In order to see results it is important that you focus on really making the back muscles do most of the work.

The lower back muscles mostly act as stabilizers working to hold the body steady rather than going through contractions. The lower back is a muscle that takes a long time to recover. When you do lower back exercises such as Hyperextensions or Romanian Deadlifts, the lower back can take up to a week to recover.

Arnold recommends training the lower-back training no more than once a week.

A Complete Back Workout

In order for a workout to hit all parts of the back you will need to consider each of the back muscle’s functions and include exercises that target each of these areas.

A lack of incorporating exercises for the whole back will result in weak points.

For example:

If you only do Pulldown movements you will get a back that is wide but lacks thickness, lower lat development, and lower back development.

For beginners Arnold recommends fundamental exercises such as Deadlifts and Chin ups.

Once you have gotten a hang of these basic movements Arnold recommends including hyperextensions and good mornings to boost lower back development.

Serge Nubret, Franco Columbu, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar pose their complete back development

Serge Nubret, Franco Columbu, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar pose their complete back development

Weak Point Training

Arnold says that the most common problem amongst competitive bodybuilders today is a lack of complete back development.

The back is not a muscle we can observe in the mirror. This tends to cause many people to work harder on other body parts, such as the chest or arms, than they do on their back.

Another reason for incomplete back development is insufficient training technique.

The lats along with the other back muscles function to pull the shoulder blades down and back. It is very easy to get other muscles (shoulders, arms, lower back) involved while training the back. This results in the back muscles never really going through the full contraction and range of motion.

Arnold’s advice:

The trick to effective back training is to learn to isolate the various areas of the back, then make it harder on each individual area of the back instead of easier.

A common mistake in the gym is to use a weight that is too heavy.

For example:

I have observed people in the gym doing very heavy barbell rows using momentum to get the weight up by utilizing every muscle in the body.

Another common mistake is to get the biceps overly involved while performing pulldowns or rowing movements. The key is to focus on using the hands as hooks that merely connect the bar to the back.

Incorrect technique will never lead to complete back development.

The back is made up of a variety of complex muscles that work together and individuals may have some parts developing faster/slower than others.

As you gain experience in the gym, you will notice some parts of your back being more developed than others. This is the point where you want to modify your training regimen to bring further focus onto the parts of your back that are lagging in development.

Arnold's Big Back Transformation

At age 18 Arnold realized he was lagging in upper back development. In 3 years he was able to make the upper back his strong point through weak point training.

Upper Back DevelopmentArnold's Big Back Posed

Arnold recommends Bent-Over Barbell Rows as the primary exercise for upper back development.

Another exercise is Seated Wide-Grip Rows with a long rod.

To isolate either side of your upper back do One-Arm Dumbbell Rows .

Lat Width 

Wide lats are important because they are visible from both the front and back view of the body.

To develop lat width Arnold recommends Wide-Grip Chin ups and Wide-Grip Lateral Pulldowns.

Lower Lat Development

The sweep of the lats is accentuated when the lower lats extend into the waistline.

For lower lat development Arnold recommends close-grip movements such as:

  • Close-Grip Chin ups
  • Close-Grip Lateral Pull Downs
  • One-Arm Cable Rows

Middle Back Thickness

The Middle Back contraction is maximized with a long range of motion.

To bring out middle back thickness Arnold recommends rowing movements such as:

  • Seated Rows
  • T-Bar Rows

Lower Back Development

As mentioned earlier, the lower back is often a neglected body part.

For lower back development Arnold recommends:

  • Heavy Deadlifts
  • Good Mornings
  • Hyperextensions

Stretching and Flexing the Back Muscles

Arnold is a firm believer in stretching and flexing his muscles in between sets.

In The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding he reveals that doing so allows your mind to gain better control over your muscles.

Arnold says that stretching and flexing is especially important for the back.

Stretching your lats in between sets helps develop the sweep that ties into the waistline.

Flexing your back muscles in between sets work to maintain the pump.

When doing Chinups or Pulldowns, Arnold recommends stretching out your lats one at a time by holding on to something (as pictured below). He says that this allows for the lengthening of the muscles and allows for a better contraction when you get back to the exercise.

Arnold Stretching his back

Arnold’s Top Back Exercises

In The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding Arnold reveals the exercises he used to develop his barn-door back.

Chin Ups

Chin ups work to widen the upper back while adding to the full sweep of the lats.

Arnold did them with many variations:

  • Behind the neck
  • To the front
  • Close-grip

Behind the neck chin ups have the added benefit of working the scapula.

Chin ups to the front allow for a longer range of motion and is a less strict movement than behind the neck, i.e. you can use momentum to cheat after you are tired.

Close-grip chin ups put emphasis on the lower lats and serratus.

Arnold Doing Chin-ups

Lateral Pull Downs

Lat Pulldowns add width to the upper portion of your lats.

They work the same muscles as chin ups but allow you to use a weight that is less than your body weight. This allows for you to perform many extra reps if your upper lats are lagging in development.

You can vary this exercise by doing them with a wide, close, or medium grip.

Lat pull downs for a bigger and wider back

Bent-over Rows

Bent-over Rows work to add both thickness and width to your upper back.

They also work the lower back.

You can perform bent-over rows with either a barbell or a dumbbell.

Using dumbbells allows for isolating parts of your body.

Barbell Rows For A Bigger Back

T-Bar Rows

T-Bar Rows are great for adding thickness to both the middle and outer portions of your back.

T-Bar Rows For A Bigger Back

One-arm Dumbbell Rows

One-arm Dumbbell Rows allow for you to work each side of your back individually.

They allow for a longer range of motion and deeper contraction than Barbell Rows.

One Arm Dumbbell Rows For A Bigger Back

One-arm Cable Rows

One-arm Cable Rows are great for bringing out the lower portion of your lats that lead the sweep of the lats down into your waist.

Cable Rows For A Bigger Back

Seated Cable Rows

Seated Cable Rows work to add to the overall thickness of your back and lower lats.



Deadlifts recruit more muscles than any other exercise.

In terms of back development, Deadlifts work the lower back.

A strong lower back will allow you to lift more weight in other back exercises as well such as Bent-Over Rows and T-Bar rows.

Arnold Deadlifting for a bigger back

Good Mornings

Good Mornings bring further isolation on to the lower back.

Arnold Goodmorning for lower back


Hyperextensions work to strengthen the spinal erectors in the lower back.


How To Get A Big Back At Home

If you don’t have access to a gym, the best way you can build your back at home is with pull ups.

Go ahead and order a pull-up bar from Amazon.

When I first started working out I would do 100 reps of pull-ups throughout the whole day varying my technique with every set.

When you are able to do 20 reps without stopping, proceed to perform pull-ups with added weight.

One way to do this is by adding heavy books to your backpack and using it as additional weight.

(P.S. If you’d like to download 19 tips to radically enhance muscle growth check out my free guide: Macro-Muscle Solution)

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.02.31 PM

Sample of Arnold’s Back Workout

Remember that Arnold was constantly varying his training methods.

He would never stick to one routine for too long.

That being said, here is a sample of what Arnold’s back workout looked like according to

Big Back With Arnold










Arnold has revealed his methods on how to get a big back fast. What it now comes down to is how bad you want it and how much effort you are willing to put in order to achieve your goals.

Check out more of Arnold’s Top Tips:

Complete Chest Development

Complete Shoulder Development

Complete Leg Development

Complete Bicep Development

Complete Calf Development

Complete Abs Development

[thrive_leads id=’2377′]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.