Are you looking for a workout to build a big back and horseshoe triceps? We’ve got you covered. This workout is designed to increase the muscle mass of your back and triceps as much as possible when performed regularly.
This article gives you a complete overview of StrengthLog’s back and triceps workout routine for bodybuilding. It is one of many premium training programs in the StrengthLog app, and you can download it for free using the links below.
The Importance of a Big Back in Bodybuilding
In bodybuilding, there is a saying: “contests are won from the back”. You can look tremendous from the front, but if your back isn’t up to par, you’ll be struggling against bodybuilders who have put in the work to build a massive back.
And make no mistakes about it, building a good back is hard work. Your back muscles are some of the biggest and strongest in your body, and back workouts require effort and dedication. That effort is well worth it, though. A big and balanced back identifies you as a bodybuilder and helps provide that coveted v-taper.
The Importance of Tremendous Triceps in Bodybuilding
To the average person, big, muscular arms are one of the main hallmarks of being a bodybuilder. They immediately attract attention and show you’ve been lifting.
In a bodybuilding competition, they complement every pose. Ideally, you want your physique to be symmetrical, but if there is one body part no one minds being slightly overdeveloped, it’s the arms.
The biceps might get the most attention, but the importance of massive triceps if you want big arms and bodybuilding success can’t be overstated. The biceps are comparatively tiny, while the triceps on the back of your upper arms is a large muscle group. The triceps have a greater volume than the latissimus dorsi and the pectoralis major, which are typically considered large muscles.1 It is more than twice the size of the biceps and make up roughly two-thirds of your upper arm. It only makes sense that your triceps is the most crucial muscle group if you’re looking to add size to your arms. Stronger triceps also help you in any pushing shoulder and chest exercise.
If you want to build a big back and triceps, StrengthLog’s back and triceps workout is for you. Let’s get into it.
Can You Train Back and Triceps on the Same Day?
You bet! It might be less common than working chest and triceps or back and biceps together, but combining back and triceps into one workout offers several benefits.
- When you train your back, your triceps are not involved. With a back and triceps workout, both muscles will be fresh and at their strongest when you train them. Compare that to training triceps after chest or biceps after back: your arm muscle will already be partially exhausted when you get them. By working the triceps with your back, you’re able to attack both muscles with maximal efficiency.
- You can start with the muscle group that needs the most attention without the other one suffering. It’s good to begin a workout with the muscle you prioritize. Combining back and triceps lets you do that. If you start with back, your triceps will be fresh and ready when you get to them. Doing triceps first is also an option because the triceps isn’t as demanding to train and won’t harm your performance in the back workout.
Back and Triceps Workout: The Basics
In this workout, you’ll be training back first, then triceps. You can switch the order of the muscle groups around if you want, but most people will likely prefer doing the more demanding back work first.
The back and triceps workout is intended for the intermediate to the advanced bodybuilder. It’s a reasonably high-volume workout, not a beginner-friendly introduction to bodybuilding. If you are just getting into bodybuilding, give StrengthLog’s Barbell Training Program for the Beginner or StrengthLog’s Upper/Lower Body Split Program a look. They are perfect for taking your first steps into both the world of bodybuilding and strength training in general.
You need a barbell, a bench, and a cable pulley machine for this workout. You’ll be doing both compound exercises and single-joint exercises to hit every muscle fiber in your back and triceps with a rep range from six to 12.
- Barbell Row: 4 sets x 6–10 reps
- Lat Pulldown: 4 sets x 10 reps
- Seated Cable Row: 4 sets x 8 reps
- Shrugs: 3 sets x 8 reps
- Back Extension: 3 sets x 12 reps
- Barbell Lying Triceps Extensions: 4 sets x 8 reps
- Overhead Cable Triceps Extensions: 4 sets x 10 reps
- Pushdown: 4 sets x 12 reps
You’ll perform a total of 30 sets in the back and triceps workout: 18 sets for your back and 12 for your triceps. Your back is a complex set of muscles and requires more work to stimulate all parts fully.
According to up-to-date scientific evidence, 12–20 weekly sets per muscle group may optimize muscle growth.2 The back and triceps workout has you covered, even if you only train each muscle group once during the week. If you’re an experienced bodybuilder with a high tolerance to training volume, you could do it twice per week to ensure you hit your back and triceps with enough work to force them into growth. Doing so requires a greater focus on recovery, of course.
Take 2–3 minutes of rest between each set. Resting longer than a minute helps maximize muscle hypertrophy.3 You’re able to use a heavier weight for more reps, leading to more significant muscular overload and training volume, both of which are key to muscle growth.
It’s a good idea to warm up before high-intensity lifting. You increase your body temperature and the blood flow to your muscles, preparing them for the hard work to come. Other benefits of warming up include better mental focus, improved flexibility, and possibly a lower risk of injury.
Starting with five to ten minutes of low to moderate-intensity cardio is a great way to get your heart rate up and your blood pumping. You’re only warming up, not trying to improve your cardiovascular capacity here, so don’t overdo the intensity. You want to feel alert and ready to lift after the short cardio session, not mentally and physically exhausted.
You can skip that part if you don’t have time or hate cardio. It’s beneficial, but not essential.
You don’t want to jump straight into your heaviest sets. Doing so limits your performance and likely increases the risk of injury. Instead, perform a couple of ramp-up sets, increasing the weight with each set, before hitting your actual work sets. This is especially important early on in the training session.
Once you’re warmed up, get ready for the first exercise of the back and triceps workout: the barbell row.
The barbell row is the pillar of the workout, allowing you to target your entire back. If the bench press is the king of exercises for the front of your body, the barbell row is its equivalent for the back.
Starting your workout with a compound exercise like the barbell row is a good idea. You can use heavy weights to stimulate maximal muscle growth when your muscles are still fresh.
You can perform the barbell row in many different ways, but here we’re going for the classic version using an overhand grip. From the upright starting position, lean forward almost to the point where your upper body is parallel to the floor. Bend at the hips to just above a 90 degree angle. Standing almost upright like you see some lifters do allows you to use much heavier weights, but transfers more of the load to your upper back and traps instead of working your entire back. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we’re doing the bent-over barbell row in this workout, not the lean-forward barbell row.
Perform four sets, increasing the weight with each set. You can see the exact set and rep configuration in the StrengthLog app.
Muscles Worked in Barbell Rows
How to Do Barbell Rows
- Grip the bar with an overhand grip, and lean forward with the bar hanging from straight arms.
- Breathe in and pull the bar towards you.
- Pull the bar as high as you can, so that it touches your abs or chest if possible.
- With control, lower the bar back to the starting position.
Rest 2–3 minutes, then move on to the second back exercise, the lat pulldown.
Probably the most popular back exercise in gyms all over the world, the lat pulldown is an excellent exercise for increasing the width of your back. As a bonus, it hits your biceps effectively too.
You’ll be using a medium-wide grip with your palms facing forward for an extended range of motion and maximal activation of your latissimus dorsi muscles. Keep these points in mind for the best results:
- Don’t use body momentum. Rocking back and forth during the lat pulldown is a common mistake. It allows you to use more weight, but you reduce the amount of work your lats are doing, which is the opposite of what you want. Good form is key.
- Don’t lean too far back. Doing so turns the lat pulldown into a kind of rowing exercise and transfers the load to your inner back.
- Keep your chest out and shoulders pulled back to contract your back muscles fully.
Muscles Worked in Lat Pulldowns
How to Do Lat Pulldowns
- Grip the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you), slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Sit down with your thighs under the leg support, keep your chest up, and look up at the bar.
- Inhale and pull the bar towards you.
- Pull the bar down until it is below your chin or touches your upper chest.
- Exhale and slowly return the bar until your arms are fully extende
After two to three minutes of rest, head over to the cable seated row for more back action.
Cable Seated Row
The seated cable row hits your entire back, from your lower back to your lats to the rhomboids and the trapezius muscle in your upper back. It’s also easy to perform and doesn’t require balance or coordination, which makes it an excellent third back exercise now that your back is already partially fried from the barbell rows and the pulldowns.
Use a close-grip handle or a V-bar, keeping your arms low and your chest out as you pull the weight to your body. Focus on pulling your elbows as far back as possible and getting a maximal muscle contraction. Squeeze your lats and shoulders blades before extending your arms and leaning forward. Feel the stretch in your lats before repeating the movement,
Muscles Worked in Cable Close Grip Seated Rows
How to Do Cable Close Grip Seated Rows
- Grip a narrow handle, and assume the starting position.
- Inhale and pull the handle towards your abdomen, while leaning back slightly.
- Exhale and slowly return to the starting position by extending your arms and leaning forward.
Take another 2–3 minute pause to rest up. Then, it’s time to hit the traps with some shrugs.
The trapezius is a large muscle that goes from your neck, down over your shoulders to the middle of your back. Few things command more attention than a set of massive traps, and your back isn’t complete without them. Well-developed traps also complement your shoulders and arms and make your entire upper body more impressive.
The shrug is the most effective exercise to directly hit your traps. You can use a barbell or a pair of dumbbells, but the basics are the same: lift your shoulders straight up as far as you can and lower the weight fully for a good stretch. It’s tempting to use heavy weights in the shrug, but make sure you don’t load the exercise to the point where you can’t contract the traps fully at the top.
Muscles Worked in Barbell Shrugs
How to Do Barbell Shrugs
- Hold a barbell in straight arms in front of your body.
- Lift your shoulders straight up as high as possible.
- Lower your shoulders again.
Rest up, then prepare for the final exercise of the back workout: the back raise.
Your heavy back work is done! Now it’s time to finish off your back session with some lower back work. The back extension works your erector spinae muscles which run from your pelvis up to the back of your skull. Well-developed erector spinae muscles (in combination with low body fat) give you the characteristic “Christmas tree” look in your lower back.
If bodyweight back extensions aren’t challenging enough, you can hold a plate to your chest to increase the resistance.
Muscles Worked in Back Extensions
How to Do Back Extensions
- Adjust a back extension bench and get into position. Hold a weight plate against your chest or a barbell across your shoulders if you want to use additional weight.
- Lean forward as far as you can by hinging in your hips.
- Reverse the movement with control and return to the starting position.
Back’s done! Time for more back training: the back of your arms, that is! The first exercise of the triceps workout is the barbell lying triceps extension.
Barbell Lying Triceps Extensions
The barbell lying triceps extension is your primary triceps mass builder. It targets all three heads of the triceps, and using a barbell allows you to use as much weight as possible to stimulate maximal muscle growth.
We’re not talking about standard skull crushers where you bring the barbell to your forehead here. Instead, you’ll be lowering the bar down behind your head to get a full stretch and range of motion. Then bring the bar back up and contract your triceps as hard as you can at the top.
Muscles Worked in Barbell Lying Triceps Extensions
How to Do Barbell Lying Triceps Extensions
- Lie down on a bench which your head close to the edge. Hold a barbell with a close grip, and lift it up to straight arms over yourself.
- Lower the barbell down behind your head. Try to keep the same distance between your elbows throughout the movement.
- Reverse the motion and extend your arms again.
After another 2–3 minute rest, it’s time to do some overhead extensions.
Overhead Cable Triceps Extensions
Your triceps is made up of three heads: the lateral head, the short or medial head, and the long head. Of these, the long head is the largest, making up around half of the mass of the triceps.
In this workout, we’re doing the overhead cable extension, one of the best exercises to maximally stimulate the long head. Using a cable, you place constant tension on the muscle during the entire set. Be sure to fully extend your arms, contract your triceps at the top, and get a full stretch at the bottom.
Muscles Worked in Overhead Cable Triceps Extensions
How to Do Overhead Cable Triceps Extensions
- Fasten a rope handle in the lower position of a cable pulley. Stand with your back against the pulley, with a slight forward lean, and hold the rope behind your head and your upper arms next to your ears.
- Straighten your elbows until your arms are fully extended.
- Reverse the motion by bending your arms again.
Almost there! One final triceps exercise and you’re done!
The pushdown is the most common and popular triceps exercise. It’s an easy triceps exercise to do and effective at the same time. This will be the finisher where you go for the maximum pump possible with four high-rep sets.
Stand before a cable machine, keep your arms tucked to your sides, and keep the movement to the elbow joint. Put the squeeze on your triceps when you extend your arms. You can use either a straight bar or a rope attachment. You can use more weight with a bar, but rope pushdowns can be easier on the wrists and allow for a greater triceps contraction.
Proper form is more important than using a heavy weight here. Use a relatively light weight and go for 12 strict reps per set. You’re triceps will be burning when you’re done!
Muscles Worked in Tricep Pushdowns With Bar
How to Do Tricep Pushdowns
- Stand one step away from the cable pulley, and grip a bar about shoulder width apart.
- Pull the handle down until your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor. This is the starting position.
- Push the handle down until your arms are fully extended.
- With control, let the handle up again.
Frequently Asked Questions
You have questions, we have answers. Time for a little Q&A!
Can I Use Supersets With the Back and Triceps Routine?
Yes, you can! Combining back and triceps is better for supersetting than doing back and biceps supersets because the muscles don’t interfere with each other.
Supersets make for a time-efficient workout and are a great way to get a great pump. You only take the seconds of rest it takes to move between one exercise to the next, then rest properly between supersets.
A superset version of the workout could look like this:
- Barbell row + barbell lying triceps extensions
- Lat pulldown + overhead cable triceps extensions
- Seated rows + pushdown
- Shrugs + back extensions
You’ll be in and out of the gym in less than an hour, get a great workout, and leave with a massive pump.
How Do I Fit the Back and Triceps Workout into My Training Split?
It’s easy to fit the back and triceps workout into almost any training split. It’s very versatile, and you can match it to your schedule the way you want to.
Here is an example of a bodybuilding split where the back and triceps workout fits like a hand in a glove:
- Day one: chest and biceps
- Day two: legs and calves
- Day three: shoulders and abs
- Day four: back and triceps
You can train four days in a row, rest one day, then repeat the cycle. Or, you could train on Monday and Tuesday, rest on Wednesday, and train on Thursday and Friday to get the weekend free. And those are just a couple of suggestions. Your imagination is the limit.
What About Deadlifts?
You might have noticed the absence of deadlifts in the back and triceps workout routine.
The deadlift trains the entire posterior chain of muscles and is one of the best exercises to increase overall strength.
However, it also takes a lot out of you and is not necessary if you’re training for muscle hypertrophy. It is excluded from the workout to improve your overall recovery and allow you to go all-out on more hypertrophy-specific back exercises.
There is nothing wrong with deadlifts as part of a bodybuilding program, but for this one, it’s not part of the back workout.
Track the Back and Triceps Workout Routine in the StrengthLog App
There you go! The back and triceps routine hits the targeted muscle groups from all different angles to help you gain lean muscle mass.
If you want to grow bigger and stronger, the key to fast and consistent gains in strength and muscle is to increase the weight you use in your training or to do more reps.
It’s almost impossible to keep track of your progress without a workout log. Our app StrengthLog is 100% free to download and use as a workout tracker and general strength training app. All the basic functionality is free – forever.
You’ll also find a bunch of training programs and workouts in the app. Many are free, but our more advanced programs and workouts (such as this one) are for premium users only.
If you want to download StrengthLog for free and give it a spin, use the buttons below.
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Good luck with your training, buddy!
- Strength and Conditioning Journal: October 2017 – Volume 39 – Issue 5 – p 33-35. Large and Small Muscles in Resistance Training: Is It Time for a Better Definition?
- J Hum Kinet. 2022 Feb 10;81:199-210. A Systematic Review of The Effects of Different Resistance Training Volumes on Muscle Hypertrophy.
- Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 Sep;17(8):983-993. The effects of short versus long inter-set rest intervals in resistance training on measures of muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review.