Build A Back Like Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger training back with T-bar rows
“We all have great inner power. The power is self-faith. There's really an attitude to winning. You have to see yourself winning before you win. And you have to be hungry. You have to want to conquer.”


If you’re looking to develop a back like that of the bodybuilding legend, then you have to get serious about back training hard. Arnold Schwarzenegger will tell you that having a big, wide and thick v-tapered back is the key to a truly impressive classic physique.

The back is a large and complex group of muscles that is a challenge to train effectively. Back training requires an effective plan of action and focused and intense training.

Follow these 8 pro tips to develop a wide, thick and strong v-tapered back that gets noticed:


The best back building movements are the basic compound movements.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his back with barbell bent over row
“My instinct was to win, eliminate anyone who is in competition, destroy my enemy, and move on without any kind of hesitation at all.”

Deadlift, barbell bent over rows, dumbbell rows, T-bar rows, pull ups and heavy cable pulls should form the foundation of your back training. These are the moves that will help you build a monster back.


Don’t just go through the motions or swing the weight when training your back. Really isolate and concentrate on the muscle group. Have a strong mind to muscle connection and feel the contraction and stretch in your back as you move the weight.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his back with T-bar row
“The resistance that you fight physically in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build a strong character.”

You can move heavy weights when training the back. While lifting heavy is important for growth, targeting the specific muscle group is also very important. So, don’t sacrifice proper form and muscle tension for weight. Maintain solid form and keep constant tension on the back muscles as you train them.


You want to fully stimulate all the fibers of your back muscles. Pull the weight completely to get a full contraction of the muscles, and then return the weight back all the way, getting a full stretch in the muscles.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his back with cable seated row
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”

Don’t sacrifice range of motion for heavy weights. Train with as heavy a weight as possible while maintaining solid form and a full range of motion.


Don’t let your grip hold you back from developing a thick, wide back and strong back. If you don’t have a strong grip you won’t be able to lift heavy weights with as many reps as you need to to really stimulate your back muscles. Use wrist wraps or rubber grips to maximize your pulling ability, especially during deadlifting and horizontal rowing movements.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his back with wide grip pull up
“Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”


Slowing down the negative portion of the lift is a great way to increase the stretch and time under tension of the muscle fibers for added growth. For example, when you’re doing a lat pulldown, take 3-5 seconds to return the weight back. This will provide a deeper stretch and tension on your lat muscles.


When training your back, it’s important that you maintain the correct angle in your torso. When doing a vertical pulling movement such as a lat pull down, maintain a vertical torso position with a slight backward arch to keep your chest up.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his back with barbell bent over row
“Just like in bodybuilding, failure is also a necessary experience for growth in our own lives, for if we’re never tested to our limits, how will we know how strong we really are? How will we ever grow?”

When performing a horizontal pulling movement, such as a barbell bent over row, maintain a horizontal torso position with a slight upward arch to keep your chest up.


The back contains multiple muscles that have to be stimulated from different angles. Make sure to train in the vertical angle by doing pull ups and lat pulldowns and in the horizontal angle by doing various types of rows such as barbell rows, cable seated rows, dumbbell rows. Do high rowing movements and low rowing movements as well.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his back with barbell bent over row
“Good things don’t happen by coincidence. Every dream carries with it certain risks, especially the risk of failure. But I am not stopped by risks. Supposed a great person takes the risk and fails. Then the person must try again. You cannot fail forever. If you try ten times, you have a better chance of making it on the eleventh try than if you didn’t try at all.”

Also train with varying grips. Do wide grip, medium grip, neutral grip and narrow grip vertical and horizontal pulling movements. Train with both underhand and overhand grip. Training with different angles and grips will ensure that you completely develop width, thickness and strength in your back.


The back is a large and complex group of muscles. Just like when training the legs, the back requires a mindset of focus and intensity. So, have your pre-workout and music ready and train your back with complete focus and intensity for impressive results.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's impressive back development throw heavy rowing movements
“Stay hungry, stay healthy, be a gentleman, believe strongly in yourself and go beyond limitations.”

To learn more about building a big back V-tapered back, also check out’s Back To Basics: Your Blueprint For Building A Bigger Back.