How to Build a Thick Cobra Back

Building massive lats and traps is one of the surest ways to give yourself a powerful and intimidating looking physique. Huge lats are what will help you to get that classic ‘V-taper’ as your body gets wider at the top. Meanwhile, bulging traps will make your torso look thick and powerful.


They don’t just look mean either: building a huge back is a crucial way to increase your pulling power so you can perform better on the pull up bar or the rowing machine. This translates to real-world athletic performance too whether you’re rowing, swimming or rock climbing.


Read on to find how you can get a thick, cobra-like back.


Exercises for a Cobra Back


Your lats are the muscles found underneath your armpits on either side of your back and they’re used in pulling motions. As such, you can target them largely with:

  • Pull ups – overhand grip, as opposed to underhand chin ups
  • Weighted pull ups and variations such as ‘around the worlds’
  • Bent over rows – where you kneel on a bench and row a single dumbbell directly upwards
  • Upward rows – hold a barbell in front of you with arms straight then raise it up under your chin
  • Lat pull down – the resistance machine that mimics a pull up
  • Machine rows – like the lat pull down, but you pull the weight in towards your chest rather than down
  • Cable rows – like machine rows, but using the cable crossover machine



The traps are the muscles situated above the lats. These are what give your back that ’rounded look’ near the top and make you look like a teenage-mutant ninja turtle. They also bulge up on either side of the neck giving you a powerful Hulk-like look.


The best exercises for targeting traps are:

  • Shrugs – simply hold two dumbbells with arms extended and then shrug your shoulders up and down
  • Barbell shrugs – same thing, but with a barbell held in-front of you with straight arms
  • Bench press – the bench press doesn’t primarily target the traps, but they get a good workout during it as do many other muscle groups
  • Bent over lateral raises – bend slightly forward while holding dumbbells in either arm, then raise your arms up to shoulder height. This targets the lateral deltoids as well.


Erector Spinae

While the traps and lats are the stars of the show when it comes to the back, you also need to strengthen the lower portion of the spine if you’re going to be lifting lots of heavy weights. To this end, you need to target the erector spinae which are muscles used to keep your back strong and straight. The best way to train this? With the deadlift of course – which is also a handy way to hit the traps and the lats to an extent.

Anything that hits the ‘posterior chain’ is good for your erector spinae though and another great move is the kettlebell swing. This also happens to be highly effective for a range of other moves.



So those are the exercises you have to use, the question is how you go about combining them? The lats work well when inserted into a split and given their own day. They can also be paired well with biceps or with abs (there are so many hanging ab exercises that you can easily combine an ab and lat workout). Make sure to do lots of pull ups and weighted pull ups as these remain pretty much the best way to hit the lats.


Traps and your posterior chain meanwhile can be added into the rest of your workout. If you’re not already doing deadlifts then you seriously need to start doing them. If you can’t do deadlifts due to a lack of space/equipment, then get yourself a heavy kettlebell and start doing swings.


If you’re new to training your traps, try throwing shrugs into your workouts 2/3 times a week and you’ll find they respond and grow very quickly.


Follow these tips and it won’t be long before your back looks gigantic.

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