When you look in the mirror and flex (and you know you do), what catches your eye first?
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Probably the definition in your chest, biceps, and abs — the glamor muscles you’ve spent so much time sculpting over the last several months.
Now, turn around … flex your back.
Is it up to par with the rest of your gains?
The back muscles often get the short end of the stick. After all, you never see them anyway, and a few sets of barbell rows and lat pulldowns (or pull-ups) a week has to be enough, right?
Well, when you’re months into a program and still haven’t seen any sliver of gains or definition in your back, you’re doing something wrong.
Now, let’s find out if Jeremy Ethier’s Aesthetic Back Workout can give you back muscles you’re proud of.
About the Creator – Jeremy Ethier
Jeremy Ethier is the mastermind behind “Built With Science,” a website for folks of every shape, size, and gender looking to bulk-up or get shredded through methods that work.
In other words, “Built With Science” isn’t bro-science or workout fads … it’s legit.
Jeremy Ethier’s background speaks for itself, including feats like:
- A background in kinesiology
- NASM and FMS certifications
- Experience providing expert fitness and nutrition advice
- Over 3 million YouTube subscribers (and nearly 300 million views)
- More than 300,000 Instagram followers
- Creating workout programs available on his website
Ethier has also been featured on Men’s Health, Muscle and Health, and Women’s Fitness (among others) — making him a pretty big deal in today’s world.
What is Jeremy Ethier’s Aesthetic Back Workout?
Jeremy Ethier’s Aesthetic Back Workout has three goals in mind:
- Target all muscles in your back to build definition everywhere (not just your lats)
- Develop a V-shaped upper back, thick mid-back, and Christmas-tree shaped lower back
- Activate each back muscle in a way that’s scientifically proven to enhance gains
Now, that’s not all you need to know about this workout.
So, What Should You Expect?
For the most part, you should expect this workout to last about 45-60 minutes, assuming you’re sticking to 60-120 seconds of rest between sets — Ethier misses that critical detail.
But it’s up to you how many times a week you perform this workout.
If you’re on what Ethier calls a “bro-split” where you’re probably already committing an entire day to your back each week, once a week is just fine if you replace your current back workout.
Otherwise, you can swap in a few of these exercises to your weekly workouts to reap the same benefits. Plus, twice weekly may be better if you’ve got your eye on efficient back gains that scratch both your aesthetic and bodybuilding itches.
And last but not least …
Here’s everything else you need to know about this workout (before we get into the nitty-gritty details in the next section):
- Five exercises: Accounting for muscles — big and small — in your back
- 14-19 sets per workout: 2-4 sets for each exercise
- 6-12 reps per set: Smack dab between hypertrophy and strength-building
- Lasts “a couple of months”: A little vague, but we’ll take it
- Focus on progressive overload: Adding more weight when you reach your rep goals
Equipment-wise, you’ll need a barbell, weight plates, a bench (positioned at 30 degrees), and a lat pulldown machine. If you go to a legitimate gym, you can perform this workout without issue.
Aesthetic Back Workout Details
Below, you’ll see the sample aesthetic back workout that Jeremy Ethier provides.
Now, we have to warn you:
A bit of the information you might be looking for you just isn’t there — that’s because Jeremy Ethier either didn’t provide it, or it lacked sufficient detail.
For example, rest times and %1RM are left to your own interpretation.
So the first back workout you’ll see below is a replica of Ethier’s. Directly underneath that, you’ll find a little extra detail that we added to make this workout easier to follow if you’re a true noob.
Sample Back Workout
- Deadlift or Rack Pull – 3-4 sets x 6-8 reps
- Pull-Up – 3-4 sets x 6-10 reps
- Chest-Supported Row – 3-4 sets x 10-12 reps
- Lat Pulldown – 3-4 sets x 10-12 reps
- Scapular Pull-Up – 2-3 sets x 8+ reps
Sample Back Workout (With a Few Extra Details!)
- Deadlift or Rack Pull – 3-4 sets x 6-8 reps (60-120 seconds rest) at 80-85% 1RM
- Pull-Up – 3-4 sets x 6-10 reps (60-120 seconds rest) at 70-85% 1RM
- Chest-Supported Row – 3-4 sets x 10-12 reps (60-120 seconds rest) at 70-75% 1RM
- Lat Pulldown – 3-4 sets x 10-12 reps (60-120 seconds rest) at 70-75% 1RM
- Scapular Pull-Up – 2-3 sets x 8+ reps (60-120 seconds rest) at 80% 1RM
Aesthetic Back Workout Pros
1. It’s Backed By Science (As You Might Expect)
As the brains behind “Built With Science,” did you really expect Jeremy Ethier to develop this program on a whim?
Before you even get to the sample back workout, Ethier dives in deep to explain how and why he created this workout.
Ethier includes study references at nearly every step of the way.
For example, he chose pull-ups over chin-ups because the research shows that — while both hit the lats similarly — pull-ups also activate the infraspinatus and lower traps.
And another study suggesting that adding a lean to the lat pulldown can boost activation by 11%.
In other words, you won’t be scratching your head wondering why one exercise was chosen over another or why Ethier recommended doing it a certain way.
That oughta let you breathe a sigh of relief.
2. It’s More Than Your Standard Back Workout
Any split routine worth trying hits the back muscles in one way or another. But what are the two (or three) exercises that they always seem to include?
Pull-ups and barbell rows, and, sometimes … a random lower back exercise.
This carefully-crafted aesthetic workout does exactly what any other back workout does but cranks it up a notch (or two) and ensures every minor muscle gets some action.
Here’s why each exercise was chosen:
- Deadlifts: Nearly all back muscles, but mostly the traps
- Pull-Ups: Lats, rhomboids, lower traps, teres muscles, and infraspinatus
- Chest-Supported Rows: Lats, rhomboids, and traps
- Lat Pulldowns: Lats, rhomboids, lower traps, teres muscles, and infraspinatus
- Scapular Pull-Ups: Lower traps
And since every exercise requires a strong grip, you can consider this a pretty solid forearm workout for aesthetics too!
3. A Brief “How-To” Guide to Performing Each Exercise
Is there one right way to do a pull-up?
For example, you can go for the medium grip if you want a little extra emphasis on your biceps, and you may even be able to lift a heavier weight than you would with a wider grip.
The good news is that Ethier knows what works (and what doesn’t).
And he lets you in on the scoop.
There’s an image of Ethier performing each of the exercises so that you know how they’re done.
That’s on top of the images comparing pull-ups and chin-ups, diagrams pointing each activated back muscle during a specific exercise, and an explanation for how to do the exercise correctly.
Such as leaning back on the lat pulldown or going for a thumbless grip on the pull-up.
Aesthetic Back Workout Cons
1. Some Details are Uncertain
If you looked at Ethier’s back workout and began any question to yourself with, “But what about …?” then we’re on the same page.
First, rest periods just aren’t there.
Anything between 30 and 120 seconds would be ideal if you have back definition and mass on your mind — but again, we can only assume what he meant.
Okay, so what about substitutions?
Ethier does a good job of talking about different variations of exercises (including different hand placements and grips). But what if you can’t do pull-ups or are nursing a shoulder injury?
Maybe it’s asking too much, but exercise substitutions would’ve been nice.
And how about progressive overload?
Progressive overload is definitely a goal for this back workout.
But exactly when you’re supposed to add an extra weight plate to the bar is a bit unclear — though the answer is likely “when you max out the rep ranges for all sets of an exercise.”
2. Exercise Swaps May Be Necessary
Maybe your gym doesn’t have a pull-up bar, rows make your shoulders ache, or you don’t have enough upper-body strength to perform a scapular pull-up.
As it is now, this workout may not be feasible for you.
That means you may have to look into substituting some of these five exercises with those you can actually perform (i.e., doing inverted rows instead of scapular pull-ups).
But that’s not the only problem.
Frankly, this routine may not be a good choice if you’re brand new to lifting and are still working on building your functional upper body strength.
After all, 7 of the 19 sets are a variation of pull-ups. And mustering up the strength to do one pull-up won’t reap the same aesthetic benefits as four sets of 10.
3. You’ve Probably Already Been Doing These Exercises
The bad (and possibly good) news here is that you’ve probably been squeezing two or three of these exercises into your back routine already.
Good because you know how to do them.
Bad because, well, if you’re looking for an aesthetic back routine and this routine is already half of what you’re currently doing, it may not be some magic fix for your weak back physique.
There are only a few key differences between this workout and the one you’re already doing.
For example, you’ll be doing chest-supported rows instead of regular barbell rows. These take a little pressure off your lower back and provide more direct focus toward your upper back.
This workout also has more sets than your current back workout likely does (19, as compared to the standard 6-12). This extra focus on the back can be draining for the first few weeks.
Other than a few slight form variations and extra back work, it’s probably very similar to your current back workout — which will either be reliving or disappointing to you.
Jeremy Ethier’s Aesthetic Back Workout Conclusion
Jeremy Ethier’s back workout does work. And we can tell because of the selection of exercises focusing on each individual muscle and, well, Ethier’s progress photos.
It’s also based entirely around scientific evidence and — if you’re new to the gym — the explanations and pictures describing how to do each exercise will be of great use to you.
But this workout definitely isn’t the end-all-be-all.
It lacks quite a few essential details that beginners may need (like how long to rest between sets and how to know you’re ready to add an extra plate to the bar).
And if pull-ups aren’t your strong point, this routine is virtually useless to you.
This routine is great … if you have enough upper body strength to crank out 10+ pull-ups per set and have enough time to dedicate 19 sets to your back each week.
Want to take your physique to the next level? Check out The Best Aesthetic Workout Routine [Bodybuilding Program] to get started!