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The best back and tricep workout routine for mass 

These 3 back and triceps workout routines will add mass to your upper body.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 2nd May 2022
A man demonstrating the best back and tricep workout routine for building muscle mass

Performing a back and tricep workout routine makes a lot of sense because, like it or not, the triceps are involved in just about every back exercise that you perform. This is because the long head of the triceps assists your lats with shoulder extension.

Since many back exercises warm up the triceps without overworking them, training your back and triceps together is actually a great idea.

Of course, there are many different ways to program a back tricep workout. You can do all of your back exercises first (recommended), all of your tricep exercises first, or you can perform back and tricep supersets to save time.

I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each option later on in the article. But first, let’s take a look at the most effective back and tricep exercises for building muscle.

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The 8 best back and tricep exercises for gaining mass

Here are 8 of the best back and triceps exercises for gaining mass and building a more muscular upper body. You can use these exercises to create your own custom workout, or you can follow one of my sample back and tricep workouts, which are laid out in the next section.

1. Pull-ups

A man doing pull ups at the gym

Although many bodybuilders train their back muscles with machines nowadays, pull-ups remain one of the best back-builders of all time. After all, anyone who’s good at pull-ups typically has the back development to “back up” their strength.

Pull-ups are also incredibly convenient because you don’t need to rely on any fancy equipment to do them. So if the gyms are closed or if you’re training somewhere else, you can always do pull-ups in the park or with a cheap doorway pull-up bar.

Additionally, you can keep progressing with pull-ups for years on end. Although most lifters never get past bodyweight pull-ups, you can keep building your back by adding extra resistance to your pull-ups via a weighted vest or a pull-up/dipping belt.

See Also: Do pull ups work your triceps?

  1. Grab a pull-up bar with a shoulder-width grip and arch your upper back slightly to engage your lats.
  2. Tighten your abs and look straight ahead.
  3. Pull your chest toward the bar by squeezing your lats and driving your elbows down to the ground.
  4. Keep pulling until your lats are maximally contracted.
  5. Lower your body back down under control until your elbows are almost locked out.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps.

2. Barbell rows

A man doing barbell rows

Barbell rows are a versatile exercise because you can do them for either your lats or traps. To be sure, barbell rows work all of the muscles in your back; it’s just that you can emphasize certain regions by altering your grip, bar path, and degree of elbow flare.

To keep more of the tension on the traps, commonly referred to as the “upper back,” you want to use a wider-than-shoulder-width grip, flare your elbows out to 45 degrees, and row the bar higher up on your body to your sternum area. Since most vertical pulls naturally emphasize the lats, I recommend doing rows for your traps.

If you want to train your lats with barbell rows, use a narrower grip (about shoulder-width), tuck your elbows in more, and then row the bar into your stomach. Using an underhand grip will also help you to keep your elbows tucked, but such a grip could also put your biceps at risk of an injury if you’re rowing heavy.

  1. Load some weight onto a bar and then deadlift it off the floor.
  2. Push your hips back while keeping your spine straight. Aim to get as parallel to the ground as possible without rounding your back.
  3. Tighten your core and flare your elbows out to a 45-degree angle.
  4. Squeeze your upper back muscles and row the bar toward your sternum.
  5. Keep rowing until you feel a massive contraction in your back.
  6. Release the contraction in a controlled manner and lower the bar toward the floor.
  7. Allow your shoulders to pronate at the end of the rep so that you can really stretch your traps.
  8. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps.

3. Lying tricep extensions

A man doing a lying dumbbell tricep extension

Lying dumbbell extensions are an excellent exercise to start the triceps portion of any back and tris workout because they train the single biggest muscle in your upper arms, the long head of the triceps.

In addition to building triceps mass, lying extensions also help you to develop triceps symmetry by making you lift two independent weights. This makes sure that both of your triceps get worked relatively equally, which, in turn, helps you to build more proportional upper arms.

This movement also makes a great addition to a chest and tricep dumbbell workout because it’s a very safe and effective exercise for gaining triceps size.

  1. Grab a pair of weights and lie back on a bench.
  2. Press the dumbbells up with a neutral grip so that they’re positioned directly over your head.
  3. Tuck your elbows in, and then bend your elbows to lower the weights behind your head.
  4. Descend until you feel a strong stretch in the long head of your triceps.
  5. Reverse the movement by flexing your triceps forcefully until your elbows are locked out.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

4. Close grip bench press

A man performing a close grip bench press

Although I recommend training your back before your triceps, the close grip bench press is actually a great exercise to begin your back and triceps routine with.

The reason for this is that the close grip press is naturally suited to heavy, explosive, low rep lifting, which is best done at the start of your session when you have the most energy.

The CGBP will grow and strengthen the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your triceps (of which there are many) while simultaneously boosting your pressing power, which is helpful for a variety of other compound exercises.

  1. Load some weight onto a bar and then grab it with a slightly narrower than shoulder-width grip.
  2. Unrack the bar and retract your scapula by pulling your shoulder blades back.
  3. Tighten your core, tuck your elbows in, and stick your chest out.
  4. Lower the bar down toward your chest by bending your elbows.
  5. Once the bar is almost at your chest, push it away from you by pressing your hands into the bar and extending your elbows. Keep going until your arms are completely straight.
  6. Perform 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps.

5. Lat pulldown

A man doing a lat pulldown

If you ever feel lat pulldowns in your triceps, it’s because the long head of the triceps assists with shoulder extension, which is the main anatomical function that’s trained in a pulldown.

So even though pulldowns aren’t a 100% lat isolation exercise, they’re still one of the best mass building movements for sculpting a wider, more aesthetic back. They’re also a great exercise for building up enough back strength to be able to do pull-ups.

Of course, many bodybuilding purists perform pulldowns as opposed to pull-ups so that they can more easily keep the focus of the exercise on their lats.

  1. Grab the pulldown bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  2. Sit on the seat and arch your upper back slightly.
  3. Tighten your core and look straight ahead.
  4. Squeeze your lats and drive your elbows toward the floor to pull the bar toward your chest.
  5. Keep pulling until you feel a strong contraction in your lats.
  6. Slowly release the contraction and let the weight stretch your lats as you do so.
  7. Keep going until your elbows are almost locked out, then perform your next rep.
  8. Do 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps in total.

6. Lat pushdown

A man doing a lat pushdown

The lat pushdown makes a great addition to any hypertrophy-focused triceps back workout because, when performed correctly, a lat pushdown makes your lats burn like no other exercise can.

Being a pure shoulder extension exercise, the lat pushdown will naturally put some tension on your triceps as well. However, if you have a solid mind-muscle connection with your latissimus dorsi, then you can make your lats do the vast majority of the lifting.

The trick is to keep your elbows locked out (or almost locked out) and think about moving the bar/rope toward your body purely by contracting your lats. Don’t try to lift massive amounts of weight on this exercise because it really is all about the pump and contraction in your lats.

  1. Connect a bar or rope to a high pulley.
  2. Grab the attachment with your elbows almost locked out, and then bend over slightly so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Tighten your core, look straight ahead, and ensure that your spine is straight.
  4. Push the attachment down toward your body by contracting your lats as hard as you can.
  5. Keep going until your lats are maximally contracted.
  6. Hold the peak contraction for a second and then allow the bar to move upward by way of a big lat stretch.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps.

7. Overhead extension

A man performing a standing dumbbell overhead tricep extension exercise

No mass-building back triceps workout is complete without some kind of overhead extension because overhead extensions train your triceps in their maximally stretched position.

Although they can be quite elbow-intensive for some lifters, overhead extensions are supremely effective for building slabs of triceps mass when you perform them with a full range of motion—deep eccentric stretch and full elbow lockout.

Many people perform this exercise with a single dumbbell, but you’ll likely be able to establish a stronger mind-muscle connection (very important during isolation exercises) when you train each arm separately with a dumbbell.

  1. Grab a dumbbell in one hand and press it over your head.
  2. Lower the weight behind your neck by “breaking” at your elbow. Keep going until you feel a massive stretch in your triceps.
  3. Flex your triceps to lift the weight back up. Keep going until your elbow reaches full extension.
  4. Perform 10-15 reps and then repeat with your other arm.
  5. Do 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps per side.

8. Tricep pushdown

A man doing a cable rope pushdown exercise for his triceps

If you want to pump up your triceps with smooth, constant tension resistance, then the cable pushdown is the ultimate exercise and one that you should include in any good back and tricep workout.

I like using the rope attachment so that I can “split” the ends of the rope and achieve a stronger peak contraction in my triceps while also keeping my wrists in a more neutral (well, semi-pronated) position.

If you want to do your pushdowns with as much weight as possible, however, then you’ll want to use a bar and an overhand grip, which will grant you greater stability—in order to apply more force—but less freedom of movement.

  1. Connect your attachment of choice to a high pulley.
  2. Grab the attachment firmly and take a step or two away from the machine.
  3. Bend over slightly and pull your shoulders back so that they’re in line with your torso (don’t let your shoulders drift in front of your body).
  4. Flex your triceps to push the rope/bar down toward the ground. Keep going until your elbows reach full extension.
  5. Hold the peak contraction for a second.
  6. Release the contraction by moving your forearms toward your biceps while keeping your shoulders still.
  7. Perform 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.

The best back and tricep workout routines

Here are 3 tricep and back workouts that you can perform to improve your v-taper, build more back thickness, and grow your arms.

Back and tricep workout for mass

A man demonstrating a good back and tricep workout for mass gain

If you want to do everything that you can to build your back and triceps and aren’t shy of high-volume training, then this is the back and tris workout for you.

You’ll be training your back muscles with a variety of rep ranges and from different angles so that no lat or trap muscle fiber is left understimulated.

You can do some optional rear delt work as well, which you can easily pair with one of your tricep exercises to save time.

Rest 1-3 minutes between sets or until you feel recovered. Rest longer between sets of compounds and less between sets of isolation exercises.

1: Barbell row — 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps

2: Lat pulldown — 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

3: Lat pushdown — 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps

4: Lying tricep extension — 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps

5: Tricep pushdown — 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Back and tricep workout at home

A man doing a back and tricep workout at home

If you’re training at home without much equipment, then this is likely the best back and tricep workout for you. You can, of course, switch the exercises around depending on your equipment availability.

For example, you can do resistance band rows instead of dumbbell rows.

All you need to do this particular back and tricep workout at home is a dumbbell and a place to do pull-ups. For tricep dips, you can use the edge of your bed or a chair, so there’s no need to have a weight bench.

1: Pull-ups — 4-5 sets of 6-12 reps

2: Dumbbell row — 4-5 sets of 8-15 reps

3: Overhead extensions — 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps

4: Tricep dips — 3 sets (leave 1-2 reps in reserve per set)

Superset back and triceps workout

A man demonstrating a good back and triceps workout routine

I’m not a massive fan of performing a back and tricep superset workout because of the overlap between the two muscles.

I like to train my triceps when they’re at least somewhat fresh, not immediately after a back exercise.

Still, if you have a really good mind-muscle connection with your lats and traps, then you can definitely do back and tricep supersets without hindering your progress.

I’ve tried to create supersets that you can realistically perform in the gym, so they either use the same equipment or no equipment at all (i.e., diamond push-ups).

1A: Barbell rows — 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps

1B: Close grip bench press — 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps

2A: Lat pulldown — 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

2B: Tricep pushdown — 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

3A: Face pull — 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps

3B: Diamond push-ups — 3-4 sets (leave 1 rep in reserve per set)

Should you train your back and triceps on the same day?

A man training his back and triceps on the same day

Should you train your back and triceps on the same day? Yes, since the triceps are naturally involved in many back exercises, it definitely makes sense to train your back and triceps on the same day. The better question is, how should you structure a back and triceps workout routine?

Your best bet is to do all of your back exercises and then perform some tricep isolation exercises. This is because you want to do your heavy compound movements at the start of your session when you have the most energy. Obviously, this means that close-grip bench presses are the exception and can be performed at the beginning of your back and tri workout.

If you already have great back development but need to work on your triceps, then it could make sense to train your triceps first. But if you really do need to improve your triceps, then why not work them separately or create an arm day?

Back and tricep supersets are another possibility. However, since many back exercises train your triceps to an extent, you might be sacrificing the amount of weight that you can lift and also the quality of your sets if you do a tricep exercise immediately after a back exercise. 

The verdict: What makes a good back and triceps workout routine?

A man doing a back and tris workout at home

Any good back and tricep workout should include at least one horizontal pull (a row) and at least one vertical pull (pulldowns). One of each is enough, so there’s no need to do every exercise that you can think of to get a great workout.

As for the triceps, you want to perform at least one exercise that targets the long head, which requires special consideration since it’s the only head of the triceps that acts on the shoulder joint. This is usually either a lying tricep extension or an overhead extension.

Since pretty much every back exercise works the rear delts, you may also want to throw some rear delt isolation work into your back and triceps workout routine.

References

  1. Talbot, J., & Maves, L. (2016). Skeletal muscle fiber type: using insights from muscle developmental biology to dissect targets for susceptibility and resistance to muscle disease. WIREs Developmental Biology, 5(4), 518–534. https://doi.org/10.1002/wdev.230
  2. Sangwan, S., Green, R. A., & Taylor, N. F. (2014). Characteristics of Stabilizer Muscles: A Systematic Review. Physiotherapy Canada, 66(4), 348–358. https://doi.org/10.3138/ptc.2013-51
James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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