12 Best Back Exercises
If you are tired of having invisible lat syndrome, it’s time to start kicking your back training up a notch.
Building a big back takes time, consistency, progressively overloading, and choosing effective exercises. Machines are great for finishing off a muscle, but if your back workout contains mostly machines, it’s time to make some real gains.
Here are 12 of the best back exercises that you can start programming into your current back routine.
Best Back Exercises
While deadlifts aren’t technically a back exercise, it is on the top of this list for a reason. Training everything from your calves to your upper traps, deadlifts are the best for overall backside development.
Having proper form and good technique is important with this exercise — you can progress up to using heavy weights so you can elicit a huge muscle-building hormonal response. Deadlifts are great for strength and overall improvement including improving your bone structure.
Pull-ups are a great overhead pulling exercise to put into your back routine. Using different grip widths allow you to target certain parts of your back more than others.
A wider grip pull-up is great for putting more emphasis on your upper lats, while a closer grip may give you a longer range of motion.
Performing pull-ups properly is important so you work the muscles you’ve intended to train. If you’re having troubles performing pull-ups, use bands or assisted pull-up machine.
Just like pull ups, chin ups are another great back exercise. The difference here is your palms will be facing you, with an underhand grip.
This will put more emphasis on your biceps and is great to mix things up a bit.
Always start at a dead hang for every rep if you want the most out of this exercise — you don’t want to use momentum.
While lat pulldowns aren’t as effective at building a huge back as pull ups and chin ups, this exercise is still great for building muscle.
In fact, many pro bodybuilders swear by this exercise.
Keeping a slow and controlled tempo, perform 8 to 12 rep sets and maintain a rigid body throughout the exercise. While it can be fun trying to max out the machine, it’s much more beneficial to pick a weight that you really “feel your lats.”
Keep your ego at the door and make some gains.
Close Grip Lat Pulldowns
Instead of using the straight barbell-like attachment, switch up to the close grip attachment you usually see on the seated row machine.
Performing regular lat pulldowns and then jumping into the close grip lat pulldowns will destroy your lats and build that V-taper you want.
Research suggests that using a closer neutral grip allows us to activate our lats similarly to a regular grip. This means we aren’t missing out on any muscle fibers.
The close grip will allow for a longer range of motion, which means an increased time under tension and increased gains.
Barbell Bent-Over Rows
In terms of using heavy weights, barbell bent-over rows come in just behind deadlifts.
This exercise slams your upper and lower back. This is another technical move that needs to be mastered before you start throwing on more plates.
I invite you to perform this exercise early in your session due to the significantly greater load on your lumbar. If you are out of gas after deadlifts, pick another bent-over row like single arm dumbbell rows.
Single Arm Dumbbell Rows
When it comes to training, you really need to listen to your back. If you truly want a bigger back and you’ve completed some deadlifts, it’s time to assess how your back is holding up. It can be really easy to do a normal workload on deadlifts, you go to do bent over barbell rows and something gets tweaked.
This is a great unilateral exercise, which means each side works independently from the other. There’s a great range of motion and there’s no stress about one side failing before the other.
Place your hand on a bench or dumbbell rack and row, row, row, your boat. I invite you to try these as your last exercise and do a couple burnout sets.
Looking for something that takes a little skill and can work your core? The renegade row utilizes a plank position and adds a unique row movement.
Maintaining proper spinal alignment and positioning is important to rowing the weight in a push-up position. Grab a pair of light dumbbells and get into a push-up position.
Inverted rows are pretty cool because it is a good mix between a pull-up and a lat pulldown. Set a barbell or Smith machine to about knee height, lay down under the bar and grab it about shoulder-width apart.
With your heels out in front of you on the floor, hang your body so that your body forms a straight line. Row your body up to the bar and slowly return to starting position.
You can adjust your feet, bar height, and grip width to increase or decrease intensity.
Seated Cable Rows
Seated cable rows are a traditional upper-back exercise. Be sure to pull your shoulders down and back when rowing — using your biceps to row won’t grow your back.
Seated cable rows build an impressive physique, but they also improve shoulder stability and upper back strength that will carry over to presses and deadlifts.
T Bar Rows
If you are lucky enough to have a T bar row, you know you can pile some weight on.
T bar rows are best done in a controlled, yet explosive manner. These aren’t squats, so using your legs and momentum of your body to do the reps only slow your progress.
Try both a wide grip and a close grip row — find what feels best with your body and run with it.
You’ll see the great Arnold performing dumbbell pullovers because they are great for your back and core. While this is a single joint movement, you can torch your lats and build an impressive V taper.
Perform on a flat bench, but if you’d like more range of motion and more tension on your lats, try pullovers on a decline bench.
Wrapping It Up
I don’t know about you, but I like back day because I get to really throw some weights around. One thing I’ve learned over the years of lifting is that moving weight is all fun and games, but it won’t always build muscle as effectively.
Putting more emphasis on the quality of your contractions rather than the weight on the bar is how you build real mass. Anyone can learn how to swing some weights and improperly do an exercise — it’s those who strive for perfect form and progression that build muscle.