One of the reasons it is so difficult to develop a thick, wide back is there are so many different muscles to train! It is hard to give enough attention to all of them. If you are stuck in a training rut then I have just the solution for you: a brutal back giant set workout!
- Part 1: Giant Sets For Giant Gains!
- Part 2: A Brutal Upper Back Giant Sets Routine
- Part 3: Training Program Notes
- Part 4: Conclusion
In this article I will teach you how to use giant sets to make some of the best upper back hypertrophy gains of your entire life!
I am going to teach you the scientific reasons why giant sets are AWESOME for building a bigger upper back, as well as provide you with an awesome upper back training routine that you can start using today!
I won’t be satisfied until you have the knowledge to build a back so wide that you can watch a movie on it!
Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: Giant Sets For Giant Gains!
Giant sets is a special high-volume training method that has been around for a very long time.
However, credit goes to IFBB Professional Bodybuilder Milos “The Mind” Sarcev for really popularizing giant sets!
Giant sets are really just a way to prolong the time under tension of a set in order to increase the potency of the muscle building training stimulus of a workout.
Let’s look at some simpler ways to prolong time under tension before we tackle giant sets.
Super sets involve performing 2 exercises back-to-back for the same body part.
- Exercise A x 10 reps
- Rest 10 seconds
- Exercise B x 10 reps
This is a superset.
By resting only ten seconds in between two completely different exercises for the same body part you cause a ton of muscular damage and build up a tremendous amount of fatigue within the muscle!
Tri-sets involve performing three exercises in a row for the same body part with very little rest in between sets.
- Exercise A x 10 reps
- Rest 10 seconds
- Exercise B x 10 reps
- Rest 10 seconds
- Exercise C x 10 reps
Tri-sets are very similar to supersets. The main difference is the amount of muscular damage and metabolic fatigue that you create is substantially higher!
I am a huge fan of using tri-sets with many of my online coaching clients. This is because they work extremely well for a huge percentage of the training population!
When in doubt I always know I can put together a kick-ass tri-sets routine that will help my client pack on some quick mass.
Giant sets are a similar but even more extreme version of supersets and tri-sets!
In fact, giant sets by definition include 4 or more exercises performed back-to-back with minimal rest in between exercises.
And this is all for the same body part!
Please keep in mind, 4 exercises is the bare MINIMUM.
Milos Sarcev commonly has his bodybuilding clients performing 10 or more exercises in a row for a bodypart with no rest between sets!
Before you think this is utterly insane, you should know that Milos Sarcev is one of the most decorated bodybuilding coaches ever.
In my experience, if there is one body part that responds really well to giant sets, it is the upper back.
There are many reasons for this. One of the reasons is that there are just so many different muscle groups in the upper back!
As John Meadows has correctly pointed out the upper back grows really fast on high-volume workouts with lots of different exercises.
Giant sets are perfect for this, because you get to tackle the back from many different angles in a short amount of time!
The upper back also has a very wide range of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers.
Basically the upper back NEEDS a huge variety of rep ranges, including some ultra-high rep sets, in order to grow as fast as possible.
Once again giant sets are perfect for this, as it is very easy to vary your rep ranges from one exercise to the next.
Besides, giant sets have a built-in mechanism for prolonging the total time under tension of a set to extreme levels which is perfect for targeting these slower-twitch muscle fibers that are so common in the upper back musculature.
Part 2: A Brutal Upper Back Giant Sets Routine
As promised here is an AWESOME upper back giant sets routine that you can start using in your own training today!
It hits all muscle groups of the upper back from a variety of angles and rep ranges to recruit and fatigue as many motor units as possible.
- A1: T-bar row, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Wide overhand grip lat pulldown, 3 x 10-12, 3/1/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Wide neutral grip lat pulldown, 3 x 10-12, 3/1/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A4: Seated v-bar cable row, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
- A5: Lying DB pullovers, 3 x 12-15, 2/1/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A6: Rear-delt pec dec, 3 x 15-20, 2/0/1/1, 180 seconds rest
Note: if you have any trouble reading the format of this routine then I highly recommend you read the following article: “How To Read A Training Program.”
It will answer any questions you may have!
To avoid any confusion here are video demonstrations of each of the exercises listed above:
A1: T-bar row
Dusty Hanshaw gives a picture-perfect demonstration of t-bar rows.
These can be a tricky exercise to get right.
I love how Dusty uses his lower back just a little bit to get the weight moving (almost like at the start of a deadlift) but then quickly shifts emphasis onto his upper back by squeezing his arms back and in.
This is one of my favourite movements for increasing the “thickness” of your back.
A2: Wide overhand grip lat pulldown
Make sure you respect the listed tempo and use a full 3-second eccentric phase and a 1-second pause in the fully stretched position.
It should feel like your armpits are being pulled out of your body in the stretched position. This is what we want!
A3: Wide neutral grip lat pulldown
This is a rather under-rated pulldown exercise. The wide neutral grip attachment gives a totally different “feel” to your lats and teres major while you do this exercise.
A4: Seated v-bar cable row
This is the technique I want you to use on this exercise!
Just like with the t-bar rows, I want you to use your lower back just a little bit to help accelerate the load, then immediately shift all the emphasis onto your upper back once you have the weight moving.
Then on the way back down make sure you keep the emphasis on your upper back and scapular retractors.
Doing seated cable rows this way allows you to slightly overload the eccentric portion of the movement. This will only increase the effectiveness of the exercise!
A5: Lying DB pullovers
I want you to perform these just like how John Meadows has his client do them in this video.
The key is to do your best to overload the lats in the stretched position of this exercise.
A6: Rear-delt pec dec
We are targeting the rear deltoids with this exercise, so I want you to really focus on keeping your rhomboids and middle traps out of the movement!
The key is to focus on extending your arms without squeezing your shoulder blades together!
This is rather difficult to get the hang of at first, but you will feel it a lot more in your rear delts once you get the technique down!
Part 3: Training Program Notes
By now you should have a very good idea of how to execute each of the exercises of this brutal upper back giant sets workout!
I know from personal experience in coaching hundreds of clients that giant sets are one of the more difficult training methods to explain over the internet.
Hopefully this questions and answers section makes things a little more clear for you..
In what order should I perform the exercises?
In a giant set workout you are to perform each exercise in a huge circuit with minimal rest between sets.
Only after the last exercise in the circuit do you take a longer rest break before repeating the whole giant set circuit two more times.
For example, this is exactly how I want you to perform this workout:
- Do exercise A1, rest 10 seconds
- Do exercise A2, rest 10 seconds
- Do exercise A3, rest 10 seconds
- Do exercise A4, rest 10 seconds
- Do exercise A5, rest 10 seconds
- Do exercise A6, rest 180 seconds
This is all considered to be 1 giant set. On this routine I want you to perform 3 giant sets in total, so you would rest your 180 seconds and then repeat the entire circuit again 2 more times for a total of 3 giant sets per workout.
How often can I perform this workout?
There is no such thing as the perfect training routine. No matter what training routine you are on, eventually your body will become bored of it and you will need to move on to something else.
After about 3-6 exposures to that specific routine they should move on to something else.
Of course I am a big proponent of using the accumulation / intensification periodization model for most trainees as I have found it to deliver superior results to most other models.
After 3-6 workouts of this specific routine I recommend you switch to a lower-rep intensification phase.
For example, a classic 5 sets of 5 routine, a 7/5/3 wave loading routine, or one of Charles Poliquin’s top 3 functional hypertrophy routines would all be excellent choices.
What training split should I use with this workout?
There are many possible training splits that you could choose from. Actually, I think there are at least 16 awesome training splits at your disposal to help you reach your goals!
However, if I had to choose, I would say a 4 days per week Poliquin-style split would be perfect.
- Day 1: Arms
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Chest / Back
- Day 5: Off
You could easily squeeze in a tri-sets workout for the chest before doing this upper back giant sets workout on your designated chest / back training day.
I am also quite fond of Dorian Yates’ preferred training split:
- Day 1: Chest / Biceps
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Shoulders / Triceps
- Day 5: Back
- Day 6: Off
Dorian’s split has the added bonus of giving you an entire day dedicated to back training.
Training the back can be pretty exhausting and I have used this exact routine with many of my bodybuilding clients in the past to great effect.
Is there anything else I should know about this giant sets back routine?
Giant sets workouts can be quite difficult to recover from.
I highly recommend you focus heavily on your recovery program outside of the gym in order to get the most out of this program.
That may include preparing a post-workout shake, getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and focusing on stress-management strategies outside of the gym.
If you are skipping meals and staying up until 3 am every night then this routine is going to eat you alive!!
Part 4: Conclusion
You are now armed with a brutally effective back hypertrophy workout featuring Milos Sarcev’s favourite training method, giant sets!
This routine is incredibly powerful, but it only works if you do!
You had better be prepared to put in the work in the gym and at the dinner table in order to get the most out of this routine.
Who knows, you may even find yourself having trouble fitting through narrow doorways after 2-4 weeks on this routine!
If you are interested in a customized training program to help you reach your goals in record time then you can always contact me regarding my online coaching services.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training endeavors!
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