The Key to a Thick Back
- You've got to build it to develop it
- Think you're eating enough? Eat more.
Don't be afraid of being a bodybuilder
In the powerlifting world, the working style of a bodybuilder is often overlooked. Sure, many bodybuilders don't train specifically for strength, but you don't have to look very far to get an idea of how strong some of these monsters are. Ronnie Coleman, for example, doubled an 800lb squat (suit and wraps) in his prime. There are countless other examples of bodybuilders performing acts of incredible strength. So, what gives? These guys are usually working with lower weights, higher reps - hypertrophy style. Hypertrophy is a method of training that incorporates higher rep ranges in order to more effectively stimulate the muscle used, and with proper recovery, leads to a high rate of muscle growth. This is one of the reasons why you see many bodybuilding routines incorporate sets of 10+ reps. Powerlifting training, however, is usually slightly different, focusing more on max effort sets of 1-5 reps in order to better develop the body for strength. So on one hand, you have a training style that is focused on muscle building (bodybuilding) and another training style that is centered more around muscle development (powerlifting). Both of these styles are great, however, for powerlifters, sometimes we get caught up in squeezing out as much weight as we can - which is our goal for competitions. But if you want to get stronger, you have to do more than just lift heavy ass weight. You have to develop it. This is where the hypertrophy style training comes into play. In order to develop our muscles to lift more weight, those muscles have to be present. Strength plateaus are regularly caused by a lack of muscle, which can be turned around with a temporary focus on building additional muscle mass, which can then be developed for strength. For these reasons, it is often a great idea for powerlifters to embrace assistance movements or exercises that follow a bodybuilding training method. Generally, a transition to a bodybuilding training method does not mean throwing away strength training entirely. Training for strength and for mass can work together to break through plateaus and ruts, and combined with proper nutrition and recovery, will bring you to a new level of performance. What does a bodybuilding assistance workout look like? Here's an example of a back day accessory workout: [table id=1 /] Notice that the rep ranges are very high - and ultimately, leading up to a final set of failure (in which failure constitutes breakdown of good form). Including this style of assistance work will help give your muscles the stimulation they need to really start building mass. While building up your back means it'll be stronger and healthier, the journey there isn't always smooth. Too much volume or intensity too quickly can set you up for injuries and setbacks. The shoulder joint is an especially fickle component of our back, and chronic injuries in that area are extremely frustrating. Facepulls are a great way to build up back mass, structure and in the long run, will help protect your shoulders. They can be done on back days, or to warm up on bench/chest day.
Eat, eat, eat
Another important strategy to getting that thick back you've always wanted is to eat more. Now, you may be saying to yourself "But Silverback Power, I already eat myself sick!"- but 9/10 times, the people saying this are not eating nearly enough. Why do you need to increase your food intake? The reason is this: without a caloric surplus (eating more food/energy than your body can burn), it is basically impossible to increase your body weight. All that back mass has to come from somewhere, and a caloric surplus is the best way to get it. A great way to check if you're eating enough food is determine how many calories your body burns every day. This can be done a variety of ways, but the most common is to use a TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) calculator, like the one found here. Input your height, weight, age and activity level (generally just choose sedentary unless very active), and it will spit out a number for you. This number is the amount of calories that your body uses, or burns, every day throughout normal activity. Let's take an example TDEE of 3000 calories. The general accepted guidelines for weight loss and weight gain are to either decrease caloric intake by 500 calories or increase caloric intake by 500 calories (yes, weight loss is that simple: eat less). By increasing your caloric intake, you're providing your body the energy it requires to build additional muscle mass. Almost as important as how much you eat is what you eat. For someone looking to increase muscle mass, there should be an emphasis on protein intake. The amount of protein differs per person but should be around 1-1.2g/lb of bodyweight. So, if you weigh 175lb, you should be taking in approximately 175-210g of protein per day. The other macronutrients (other than protein) such as carbs and fats are also important but less so when trying to add mass. Balancing carbs and fats can be a bit trickier when trying to lose weight, but that's another story. Additionally, when trying to gain weight, its likely in your favour to choose meats that contain a bit more fat - red meat in particular. While chicken is a great source of protein, red meats also contain a higher fat content, taking up more of your caloric intake for the day. Between these two strategies of increasing your total volume and eating a caloric surplus, you are providing your body the best conditions to increasing your back mass. Your dream of a thick back just got that much closer to becoming a reality.
- The Silverback Power Team