Thick isn’t a word most want to hear when discussing their fitness goals and progress– unless you are trying to build an impressive back!
In that case, both THICK and WIDE should be your goal!
In previous articles, we’ve shown you our favorite exercises for back width.
Today we are going to focus on BACK THICKNESS.
If you want a balanced back, it’s important to learn to differentiate between exercises that are best for back thickness versus back width…. and do both!
How do you do that? It takes some strategy, which we are going to help you with today! If you don’t care about any of that and just want the exercise, CLICK HERE.
Before we dive in, it may help to understand the basic anatomy of your back.
The back consists of several powerful muscles that are all interconnected — the lats, traps, teres major, rhomboids, and spinal erectors (and that doesn’t even include all the other muscles in your lower back.)
Your back is a POWERHOUSE with many different muscles, so there will always be some overlap. But if you are strategic with your back training, there are plenty of ways to bias specific back muscles over others — which is crucial in whether you are targeting muscles responsible for width or thickness.
TRAINING FOR THICK -VS- WIDTH
Something as simple as how you set up an exercise, your grip, arm path, hand placement, how much you lean forward or backward, etc., can all dictate what part of your back you are working.
We are focused on back thickness, so the exercise we are showing you today favors the parts of your back most responsible for creating density.
What muscle is that?
It’s actually pretty much every muscle in your upper and middle back — and to an extent, even your rear delts!
Biasing muscles like traps, rhomboids, and spinal erectors are touted for helping develop a thicker back — while isolating your lats is how to get a wider back.
However, lat density is also important for “thickness,” and your lats will no doubt get hit hard with the row variation we are showing you today!
HOW TO BUILD BACK THICKNESS
The best way to achieve density will be by incorporating heavy multi-joint compound movements designed to hit ALL of your upper and middle back muscles!
Deadlifts and Bent Over Rows are great examples — keep doing those!
But there is another exercise for a thicker back that most people don’t think about doing. And that is … The Single Arm T-Bar Row.
It is also often referred to as “The Meadow Row” and less frequently, “The Perpendicular Landmine Row.”
WHAT IS THE SINGLE ARM T-BAR ROW
Dumbbell rows are staples on back day for good reason. They are excellent at building strength and density.
This exercise is very similar to a one-arm dumbbell row, except you use a bar instead of DB’s and stand with both feet planted on the floor instead of one knee up on a bench.
Another key difference is that this row allows for a more significant elbow-out arm path that does an even better job of hitting the upper back — while also providing a more extensive range of motion so that you can hit the lats pretty hard as well.
That extra “stretch” puts additional stress on the lats, promoting even more overall muscle damage and growth — which is what you are looking to do if muscle density is your goal!
Some secondary muscles will also be used for this row – like your lower back, abs, biceps, and shoulders. It is also great for developing grip strength.
Oh .. and the reason it is sometimes called The Meadow Row is because this movement is said to have been made popular by the legendary bodybuilder John Meadows.
Whatever you choose to call it — Single Arm T Bar Row, Meadow Row, or Perpendicular Landmine Row, this is hands down one of the best row variations out there, especially if you have “outgrown” the DB selection at your gym.Just make sure you carefully read our “form tips” below as you DO NOT want to use large 45 lb plates for this exercise!
HOW TO MASTER THE SINGLE ARM T-BAR ROW
WITH PERFECT FORM
We are breaking everything down step-by-step and giving you some fundamental setup and execution tips to help ensure you focus on doing what you need to do to achieve BACK THICKNESS.
If you are more of a visual learner or need a little more in-depth help on how to perform this row variation, we filmed a short video you can check out below!
We really suggest you watch first– because remember, one tiny change in arm path or grip, and you could be focusing on width instead of thickness. Or even worse, not even your back at all!
Set and rep range will vary based on your fitness level, where you place these in your program, etc. In general, we suggest aiming for 3-5 sets of around 12 reps.
- Position a barbell wedged into the corner of a wall (or a landmine attachment if your gym has one.)
- Load the t-bar/barbell with the desired amount of weight.
- Do not use big 45 pound plates! Instead, you will want to use smaller plates so you can reach a full range of motion!
- This is really important for this exercise and one of the biggest mistakes we see people make.
- Due to the circumference of the barbell, you may want to use lifting straps or grips to eliminate wrist pain.
- Your body will not be positioned behind the bar like a typical row. Instead, you will position yourself in a “staggered stance” with your leading foot perpendicular to the bar.
- Grab the end of the barbell with the hand opposite from your leading foot with an overhand grip. (ex: If your right foot is leading, grasp the bar with your left hand.)
- Rest your right elbow on your thigh for support if needed.
- Experiment with head position to see which works best for you.
- Most prefer to look slightly up. Hinge forward, slightly turn your body and get the hip of the side you are working up in the air as high as possible so that you get a really good stretch!
- Row the weight up, out, and away from your body.
- Stop when your elbow is at (or just past) the midline of your body and squeeze your upper/mid back hard!
- Slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position (as close to the floor as possible.) **see form tips**
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Switch and do the same number of reps on the other side.
- Keep your core tight.
- Do not arch through your spine or let your back “rotate.” You want to focus on keeping your back motionless!
- Do not jerk or use momentum to pull the bar up. If you feel you need to do this .. lower the weight!
- Do not allow the weight to slam back to the starting position. You want to control the movement from start to finish! **The eccentric (lowering) should take TWICE AS LONG as the concentric (lifting) portion of the lift.
- While biceps will slightly be used, if you feel this movement in your arms more than your back, try adjusting your grip a little. For example, you may want to use what is called a “false grip” – where you DO NOT wrap your thumb around the dumbbell.
- Allow your arm to hang down for a greater stretch and better range of motion, but don’t lock the shoulder blade down. ** This is why you do not want to use large 45lb plates. They are too large and will hinder your range of motion.
- Don’t forget to breathe!!! Exhale as you lift up and inhale as you lower down.
— ONLY DOING REGULAR DB ROWS WILL ONLY GET YOU SO FAR —
If building a thicker (denser) back is your goal, try adding this unique row variation to your current back program!
BUT KEEP IN MIND…
You can’t only hit the weights hard and expect your back to grow!!
Even with a perfectly structured training program that includes plenty of exercises that bias back thickness — your back will never get the density you desire if you aren’t eating for your goals!!
You have to know your macros and then hit them consistently.
In addition to helping you determine your macros and calorie needs, this quiz will tell you the 3 most important things you can do to get in shape faster and easier, based on your genetics!
It’s only a few questions, free, and your results are instant. So if you are interested, you can CLICK HERE!