Back Workout to Gain Muscle (SKINNY GUYS!)

If you have been looking for a full back workout to gain muscle and build a bigger wider back, especially if you are a skinny guy, then this is the video for you. Jesse from ATHLEAN-X is back to show you the exact back workout he used to develop thicker wider lats and traps from the top down. There is no doubt that the changes are noticeable and every part of the back are developing as a result of the hard work being put in.

To start, Jesse picks a staple compound lift to form the centerpiece of his back workout. For him, this is the deadlift. Not only does this movement have tremendous carryover to other elements of his training and function but it did a great job in helping him to overcome some of the postural deficits that were causing him significant problems early on in his training.

From here, he moves onto a horizontal rowing movement. There is a choice between two back exercises at this point. The first is the barbell row to gain muscle. This classic movement is done to help thicken the back from front to back by building more depth in the interior muscles of the back (namely the rhomboids, paraspinals and even the lats). The movement is done from the more traditional hang position as opposed to from the floor in a pendlay variation of the exercise.

If the barbell row is not chosen then the alternative option is the seated row. This is typically done with a cable machine but of course can be done with bands if you are training at home. The key to this is the hand position in relation to the torso. Rather than holding the hands at the level of the navel, it is helpful to set the hands at a position lower. This demands that you reach forward and down, which will create a great stretch on the lats and prime there for a stronger contraction on every rep due to the stretch reflex created from this position.

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Moving on, the next focus is a vertical pulling movement. Here the back exercise options are either the classic pullup (this can be done weighted or unweighted) or the lat pulldown. Obviously, the pull-up is going to be more accessible of an option to those training at home but either will suffice. If able to use the pulldown machine, make sure to experiment with the rocking variation shown. This allows the elbow to not only have an easier time getting into adduction (driven into the side of the body) but also behind the body into extension. The combination of these increases in range of motion allow for a better recruitment of the lats on this key pulling movement.

This is the point when many back workouts would end. That said, given Jesse’s history of chronic postural issues, there are three additional exercises that are done every time he trains his back. The first is one that is actually done at the end of every workout he does (along with facepulls not shown here), and that is the weighted carry.

There is no need to do lots of volume here. The key to gain muscles is consistency, and the accrued volume over time that makes the biggest impact. A few laps with dumbbells at the end of the workout is enough to stimulate the traps additional to the work they are already doing on the heavier deadlifts and rows.

Next up is the plate trap raise. This works on the all important lower traps. If you fail to acknowledge the traps as two separate areas you will likely overlook the benefit gained from working this area of the muscle with a different exercise. You will gain much more stability with overhead movements when the lower traps are strong and developed. This back exercise is one of the best ways to achieve that.

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Finally, the hyper row is an exercise that helps to target the lower back. The addition of the dumbbell row to the movement will have some direct impact on the rear delts but the act of rowing is actually done to prolong the time that you must stay in the extended position and therefore allows for better recruitment of the lumbar paraspinals on every rep. Don’t focus on the number of reps here but rather the quality of the rep if you want to make the most of this back exercise.

As you can see, Jesse’s complete back workout is focusing not just on the different functions of the back but on the different muscles that make up the back.

For a complete program that walks you through every workout step by step and overlooks nothing that needs to be in a comprehensive training plan, be sure to head to via the link below and get the ATHLEAN-X Training Plan that matches your specific goals.

For more back workouts to gain muscle videos and the best way to build a bigger back for skinny guys, be sure to subscribe to our youtube channel via the link below and don’t forget to turn on your notifications so you never miss a new video when it’s published.

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78 thoughts on “Back Workout to Gain Muscle (SKINNY GUYS!)

  1. ATHLEAN-X™ says:

    *NEW “FAST ACTION” Q&A* – Leave your most burning question about this video or any other training, PT or nutrition question within the first 2 hours of this video’s release (AS A SEPARATE COMMENT!!) and I will pick 8 to get a detailed reply from me right here in the comments. Answers will be posted within the first 24-48 hours of you leaving the question. Good luck!

  2. Sexy Beast says:

    Jeff gets pulled over .
    Officer: your license please.
    Jeff: pulls out his license.
    Officer (reads the name) : whatsupguysjeffcaviliereathleanxdotcom

    • Dia Akin says:

      @Chris Lore
      The problem with your assessment is that you assume he has a phone on a tripod in the living room like the rest of these clowns. Look at the quality of his production versus those of everyone else. LIGHTYEARS apart!
      Professional film crews, or people with even a LITTLE training, don’t need multiple takes. I’ll give you an example.
      While in the Marines, we had our “combat camera” crews recording our training. We weren’t doing multiple run throughs of extensive training just for them to get good shots. We VERBALLY went over our training with them, which directions we would be moving and where our positions would be, and THEY set up their angles and camera shots centered around US! One run through, and they got their footage. And they’d have some pretty amazing stuff once we saw the completed work.
      So no, he DOESN’T have to do 15-20 takes of the same thing just to get some good footage.

  3. paratirisis says:

    Q: breathing techniques. I feel that in my squats, lat pulls and even loaded bar bells my breathing gets “in the way” inhibiting the move.

  4. Ryokael says:

    Hey Jeff, I have a question about being a physical therapist.

    I am in my 30s. Lately, I dont want to be in my 40s and still holding a near minimum wage job. I want to do something different. I want to hear your opinion on the physical therapy field because I’m inspired by you to plan to get into DPT program.

    I don’t have a college degree, is it too late for me to start?

    • Strongman Dustin Smith says:

      I have been a PTA for 7 years and have a bachelor’s degree. I have thought about doing a bridge program for a while, but financially it didn’t make sense. Being debt free now and being able to invest, I couldn’t imagine having 100k in student loans and having to pay that all back when I could invest it elsewhere. Everywhere I have worked the PT does the evals and tons of paperwork, while the PTA works more with patients. That is one reason I chose the PTA route over PT.

      However, if that’s really what you want to do and your main goal, I would say go for it. Make a pros and cons list and see what makes the most sense for you and your situation.

    • Matt F says:

      It’s flippin hilarious seeing these kids born in the 90s appropriating the visual aesthetics of the 80s. He really needed the Robin Leach voiceover to nail this one.

    • john ricciardelli says:

      @Matt F I was born in 1993 I missed the 80’s by a decade. I did grow up on 80’s movies, and music. I love Airplane, The Karate Kid, E.T., Predator, Die Hard, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Back to the Future, The Outsiders, The Terminator, The Goonies, The Princess Bride, Robocop, Rambo, Blade Runner, Coming to America, Batman, Who framed Roger Rabbit, The Shining, Hellraiser, Ghostbusters. I also love Miami Vice.

    • Matt F says:

      @john ricciardelli First, you have excellent taste in 80s movies: Airplane, Batman, Coming to America, The Shining and Who Framed Roger Rabbit are among my favorites. And I was just talking about The Outsiders and The Shining yesterday with friends (for realz). Also add: Top Gun, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
      My comment was more of a response to the images of conspicuous consumption in his intro without the posh British voice-over.

  5. davistuber36 says:

    Question for Jeff: Several short workouts throughout the day or one extended workout?
    Since being quarantined at home I’ve found it convenient to do 3 15-20 minute workouts throughout the day vs one 1 hour session. The short workouts are a nice break from remote work and make me feel like I have sustained energy throughout the day, but I was wondering what the drawbacks/benefits are compared to a conventional workout.

    I’m a longtime viewer and your channel has been a huge help in guiding me towards my goals. Thank you!

    • b1uezer says:

      Good question. I actually started something similar, but since I work, I can only get in 5 minutes or so every hour. I blast a quick set of rep for whatever body parts I’m working today, and I get 6-7 in by the time I knock off. No joke, it’s still providing good stimulus at least in my case, and even have some more muscle growth too.

    • Jean Jayson Nobleza says:

      15-20 mins is good if you’re doing high intensity work outs. You can build strength with that time frame. However it could also help to have a long work out like 45-60 mins which may help you focus on improving endurance and cardiovascular strength.

    • Grom76300 says:

      @b1uezer I’m sure it does. I wanted to do the same but can’t shake off the idea that it will probably create long term problems with the joints. But I didn’t find conclusive data on it.

    • Murg Maggleramaxis says:

      I’ve had good mileage working out in two separate workout blocs in one day and doing an extended single session.

      That said, I’ve also been doing it daily for the first 2 and a half months of the lockdown, so either intensity, frequency, or both contributed to my progress.

  6. Abigail459 says:

    So happy to see Jessie again! (his intro is still over the top but we love to have you here handsome!)
    Can the two of you do a home workout for the back? Like minimal to no equipment. Pleaaaaaaseee!

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