Back Workout Routine for a Stronger Back
If you want to know what it takes to produce the “best back workout,” read this article because it discusses the finest back exercises.
I used to be like other gym-goers in that I focused on exercising the muscles that everyone could see while ignoring the ones that they couldn’t. We spend all of our time working on the chest, shoulders, and biceps, and as a result, we ignore the back and legs.
Aside from not taking their back workout seriously, most people choose the incorrect combination of exercises.
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Back muscles that are well-developed and proportionate now contribute A LOT to an attractive figure. Fortunately, I noticed this and began putting more attention and effort into my back workouts. Only when I began adopting the evidence-based workouts described in this article did I begin to notice major gains.
Do you not believe me?
Here’s where I’m at with my back development right now:
Personal Development of the Back
Although I still have a long way to go, I believe I’ve done a good job of building my (previously lagging) back musculature.
So, what are the finest back workouts to incorporate into your routine?
So, first and foremost, let’s consider what we hope to achieve with these exercises.
What Causes an “Appealing” Looking Back?
One all-too-common mistake in back training is using too many isolated exercises and failing to address all of the back musculature. This includes muscles both superficial and deep. The four primary muscles that make up the majority of the back and are the ones we want to work on building are as follows:
The trapezius muscle (which have an upper and lower portion)
Rhomboids (which lay under the trapezius muscle)
The latissimus dorsi muscle (lats)
The erector spinae muscle group (the lower back muscles)
Here’s how they appear:
Muscles of the Back
As you can see, there are a few lesser muscles that play vital roles as well, such as the teres major/minor and the infraspinatus. We want to concentrate on these muscles as well because they will help to improve our shoulder through stabilization while also providing aesthetic appeal.
We can efficiently achieve the following features by focusing on growing the musculature mentioned above:
Upper traps for thickness that are large but not overdeveloped
Lats that are broad and muscular, extending down low to generate that elusive V-taper
Lower traps and rhomboids that are strong for mid-back thickness
The teres major and infraspinatus muscles have distinct development and separation.
In addition, the erector spinae and lower lats form a well-defined “Christmas tree” configuration in the lower back.
Each of these characteristics can be seen in the photograph of myself below:
These characteristics are EXACTLY what contribute to a pleasing appearance of the back. It’s the “secret recipe” that no one reveals to you.
But how exactly do we obtain these characteristics? Well, this is where we’ll need to go deeper and start talking about the greatest back exercises, as well as how to mix it all into the “best back workout” program.
Cues for Muscle Activation (Mind-Muscle Connection)
Before we begin the workouts, I’d like to discuss muscle activation briefly. We know that developing a strong mind-muscle link is essential for increasing muscular activation AND muscle growth. It has been demonstrated numerous times in the literature.
Muscle Activation Research
For example, one 2009 study by Snyder et al. discovered that by integrating a few back-activation cues during the lat pulldown, subjects were able to increase lat activation.
And, according to a 2018 study by Schoenfeld and colleagues, focusing on a strong mind-muscle connection with the biceps during arm curls resulted in nearly double the biceps growth as compared to simply trying to “get the weight up.”
So, to cut a long tale short, it’s critical to focus on feeling your back work during these exercises.
But how precisely should we go about doing this? Easy! We employ a few activation cues as well as various tips and methods I’ve picked up over the years.
Here are a few examples:
1. Instead of tugging with your hands, consider “pulling” using your elbows. This holds true for all back exercises.
2. Before (and during) each exercise, bring your shoulders down and away from your ears to depress/relax your traps.
3. Try a “thumbless grip,” which involves taking your thumb from underneath the bar/dumbbell/grip and placing it over the grip with your fingers. This frequently works wonders in terms of reducing bicep involvement in the movement and making it easier to feel the back actually working.
Using these cues will allow you to activate and grow the muscles that should be active in the following back workouts to their full potential.
Deadlifts OR Rack Pulls are the top two exercises.
If deadlifts aren’t already a part of your lifting practice, I strongly advise you to incorporate them. It’s a fantastic compound action that targets almost all of your upper and lower back muscles.
They primarily increase thickness to the back by strongly stimulating the trapezius muscles, but they will also help to grow the lats because they will assist throughout each rep. Furthermore, the fact that this exercise can be readily overloaded and progressed to big weights makes it a no-brainer to include for general back hypertrophy.
And, for those who are curious, they are safe. Numerous studies have demonstrated that deadlifts are not only safe for the back, but they also appear to prevent back ailments by strengthening the core muscle.
The catch is that you must do them correctly and prevent excessive rounding/arching of the lower back. Although this is a topic for another essay, I strongly suggest you to complete your research on how to perform them effectively first.
If you are unable to do deadlifts or would like to do them on your legs day, I would recommend doing above-the-knee rack pulls instead.
Why? Because it is the only other exercise that allows you to bear very large loads while fully stimulating the traps and total back muscles. Because the range of motion with this exercise is significantly shorter than that of a deadlift, it is a suitable option for those who have difficulty with deadlifts owing to previous injuries.
To perform them, simply position a power rack just above your knees and pull the bar up like you would for a standard deadlift. The main difference is that the range of motion has been considerably restricted.
Pull-ups are the second exercise.
For a variety of reasons, this is perhaps my favorite exercise. Not only does it engage almost all of your back musculature, including as your lats, lower traps, and rhomboids, but it also significantly increases the role of your all-important shoulder and scapular stabilizers, such as the teres muscles and the infraspinatus.
Muscles for Pull-Ups
Furthermore, the fact that it is a closed chain exercise (hands held at a fixed anchor point) suggests that it may result in increased motor unit recruitment of the back muscles. This has been established in various studies that contrasted open-chain activities such as lat pulldowns to closed-chain workouts such as pull ups.
Chin-Ups vs. Pull-Ups
In terms of whether you should do pull-ups or chin-ups, research has shown that both promote equivalent lat activation.
However, according to the same study:
With the pull-up, you activate more lower traps and infraspinatus.
The chin-up activates more pectoralis major and biceps.
Pull ups appear to be the preferable alternative for this reason, considering that we are aiming on optimizing back growth.
Chin ups, as opposed to pull ups, may provide superior general back activation for some people. Although EMG studies provide useful information, they do not account for individual differences. So give them both a shot and evaluate which one feels best for you; you can always incorporate both into your workout if you like.
Personally, I find that an overhand thumbless grip pull up with a pretty broad (a bit wider than shoulder-width) overhand grip works best for activating my back.
When it comes to progressive overload, I recommend starting to gradually add weight to the activity once you can easily do 10-12 clean reps of a bodyweight pull up. This can be accomplished by wearing a weight belt or holding a dumbbell between your feet to consistently progress this workout.
If you can’t do a pull-up right now, I’d recommend using an assisted pull-up machine and combining pull-up “negatives” to gain the strength to do bodyweight pull-ups.
Chest-Supported Rows (Exercise #3)
Then you’ll want to switch to a horizontal rowing motion. According to one study, the row delivers “identical degrees of lat activation as lat pulldowns but higher activation in other parts of the back such the traps and rhomboids.”
Rowing Exercises for the Chest
So, to target these other muscles, I strongly advise you to incorporate a rowing-style activity into your back workouts.
In this workout, I’d recommend a chest-supported horizontal row to reduce the involvement of the lower back in the movement. This is because studies demonstrate that back exercises that involve less of the lower back frequently offer better upper back activation. And because your erector spinae have already gotten a nice workout from the previous deadlifts, let’s just say your lower back will thank you!
Lat Pulldowns (Exercise #4)
Although the pull-up is unquestionably a superior workout to lat pulldowns, the lat pulldown is a fantastic additional exercise to employ. It works the same muscles as a pull-up, but with less emphasis on the shoulder stabilizers.
In terms of the best ways to perform them, I believe that overhand middle and wide grip front pulldowns with a slight lean back are the finest possibilities.
Grip (Middle vs. Wide)
Why is this the case? So, let’s have a look at the various factors.
Front pulldowns have been proven in numerous studies, including this one by Barros and colleagues, to be superior in terms of lat activation when compared to other variations such as behind-the-neck pulldowns and V-bar pulldowns.
Don’t forget that front pulldowns don’t put your glenohumeral joint in jeopardy like behind-the-neck pulldowns do, so stick to front pulldowns!
Slight Lean Back: Based on the findings of this study, I propose a slight lean back during the pulldown. “A slight lean back at 135 degrees resulted to an 11 percent increase in lat activation as long as no momentum is used.” As a result, a modest lean back is ideal, but you don’t want to swing every rep!
Hand Grip/Placement: One study by Lusk and colleagues reported that a “pronated (overhand) grip exhibited considerably higher lat activation during lat pulldowns as compared to a supinated (underhand) grip.” As a result, I advocate utilizing an overhand grip.
Grip Width: In terms of grip width, Andersen and colleagues investigated the activation of various back muscles using three distinct grip widths: narrow, medium, and wide. The researchers came to the conclusion that the three various grip widths resulted in substantially equal lat activation. However, the middle grip engaged the biceps the most and allowed individuals to lift the most weight.
So the middle grip appears to be superior to the other grips because it gives similar lat activation but higher biceps activation and the capacity to lift heavier weight. However, the same study found that the infraspinatus (one of our rotator cuffs) was better stimulated during the eccentric portion of the action. Given that a broader grasp will engage more of your teres major muscles owing to its anatomical position and function, I believe we can conclude that a combination of both the medium and wide grip is optimum for back development.
Scapular pull-ups are the fifth exercise.
This final exercise is something I strongly recommend you incorporate into your back training sessions to round it off. Scapular pull-ups are a type of pull-up that primarily strengthens your lower traps. This aids with the improvement of scapular stability and the health of your shoulders.
Muscles of the Scapular Ribcage
Simply hang from a bar, lower your shoulders down and away from your ears, and raise your body up without allowing your elbows to bend, with a little pause at the top.
You may always develop this exercise as you get stronger by performing more reps, utilizing a slower tempo, or using a weight belt to progressively add weight to the movement.
Back Workout Routine Example
So, to summarize, here’s a sample back workout that incorporates the five exercises I outlined.
3-4 sets of 6-8 repetitions for deadlifts
3-4 sets of 6-10 reps of pull-ups
3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions on the chest-supported row
Lat 3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions for pulldowns
Pull-ups on the scapula: 2-3 sets of 8+ reps
You should stick to this practice for a few months and focus on gradually overdoing these exercises. Once your strength has plateaued, you can try new variations of the workout, change the order, and so on to maintain growing.
And for those who are thinking, “Is this back workout only for men?” No! If you’re a woman trying to develop a strong backbone, all of the information above applies to you as well.
Including Back Exercises in Your Current Routine
Many of you are unlikely to do standard “bro-splits” with a whole day dedicated to your back training. As a result, if you’re doing an upper/lower split or a push/pull/legs regimen, I’d recommend putting 2-3 of the above back exercises into one of your upper or pull days and the rest on the other. If you’re still unsure, I demonstrate how to do it in my upper body training article.
How to Get a Wider Back in a Hurry (4 Science-Based Tips)
How can you get a bigger back? In this post, we’ll go over a few training strategies that will help you quickly grow a wider back.
When I initially started lifting, one of the key things I wanted to attain, like many other gym-goers, was more width in my back.
A wider back helps to define your V-taper and gives the appearance of a smaller waist.
If you want to build a wider back, the key muscle that you’ll want to develop is the lats, as increasing this muscle will effectively provide the width to your back that you’re looking for.
Unfortunately, doing so isn’t always as straightforward as hammering away at the lat pulldown machine.
Because getting a good amount of width in your back involves more than just doing the appropriate workouts.
If you’re serious about increasing your back width rapidly, there are a few back training tactics that research shows will significantly speed up the process.
Over the years, I’ve personally implemented and benefited from these training tactics.
That’s exactly what I’ll explain in this essay so you can get a broader, wider back as soon as feasible.
Before I go any further, if you’re searching for a training program that will help you set up every single one of your workouts for optimal muscle growth (not just for the back, but for ALL muscle parts! ), I’ve got precisely the solution for you. The Unorthodox Training Membership Program is intended to be an all-in-one, science-based membership that will bring you to your ideal physique as quickly as possible. And the best part? Everything is based on science. We have also added resources, tools and other interesting content to the membership area.
Properly Activate the Lats
First and foremost, you must guarantee that you are able to maximally activate and utilize your lats.
The lats are one of the most challenging muscles for most lifters to activate and actually feel moving during training.
Other muscle groups, such as the biceps and traps, take over if the lats are not sufficiently activated. When these other muscle groups take over, the lats’ gains are virtually stolen during back exercise.
This is problematic since, according to a recently published 2018 study, building a strong mind-muscle link with your muscles when training them appears to increase growth.
If you aren’t actively feeling a significant contraction in your lats during your various back exercises, you should work on it.
You might begin by practicing lat activation drills.
One drill I’d definitely recommend attempting is one I learned from John Meadows that involves various lat movement functions to help you feel them operating.
To do this lat activation drill, follow these steps:
Lean slightly forward.
Straighten one arm in front of you, thumb up.
Experiment with flexing your lats.
At this time, you should see your lats contracting somewhat. You can also assist by tapping it with your other hand.
Then, using your lats, lower your straight arm. Maintain your arm tight to your sides until it reaches almost behind your back.
Next, rotate your arm outwards while gently bending it, which strengthens the lats.
Finally, bring your elbow back and in towards your spine, concentrating on squeezing your lat. Maintain this posture for a few seconds.
You should feel a powerful contraction in your latissimus dorsi, almost to the point of cramping.
I’d recommend doing this drill a few times on both sides before beginning your back conditioning.
Prior to training, perform this lat activation exercise to help you build the essential mind-muscle connection with your lats.
In addition, I’d recommend including multiple cues to employ throughout your real back workout, as this has been shown to dramatically increase lat activation.
Among the changes I would recommend are:
Consider pulling the weight with your elbows rather than your hands. Consider your hands to be hooks, and imagine dragging your elbows down and into your back pocket.
During your pulling activities, use a thumbless grip. Since you pull, try to keep most of the pressure on your pinkies, as this seems to assist limit biceps involvement.
Make sure to lower your shoulders down and away from your ears before pulling during vertical pulling actions. This will assist in better involving the lats.
Using these cues, together with the activation practice discussed previously, will help you greatly increase lat activation during back training.
Upper and lower lats should be targeted.
Following that, you must ensure that your training emphasizes both the upper and lower lats.
Although we all know that the lats are the major muscle you’ll want to work on if you want to build a wider back, most people are unaware that anatomical studies have revealed that the lats are divided into an upper and lower portion.
As a result, if you want to maximize your back breadth, you must target both zones appropriately during your workout. Most people do not do this, which is one of the reasons why many people do not have a wide back.
However, we can accomplish so by paying attention to how the lat fibers run.
For example, the top part of the lats runs approximately perpendicular to the body or more horizontally.
Exercises that include more shoulder adduction – where the angle of pull is better aligned with the upper lat fibers – will target this region more efficiently.
Wide grip pull-ups and wide grip pulldowns are examples of such exercises.
The lower lats, on the other hand, run more parallel to the body and are practically straight up and down.
As a result, workouts involving higher shoulder extension and a more vertical angle of pull, such as close grip pulldowns, chin-ups, and close grip rows, will more effectively target this region.
As a result, you’ll want to make sure that your back workout incorporates both sorts of movements for full lat growth.
Alternatively, if one section of your lats, such as the lower lats, is underdeveloped and requires more work, giving more volume to that region and less to the other will dramatically enhance the overall width of your back.
Make your rowing more latissimus dorsi-fibularis-fibularis-fibularis
Next, we’ll modify your rowing exercises to emphasize the lats.
Most people think of pull-downs and pull-ups when they think of lat exercises.
However, it’s crucial to note that many rowing workouts, when done correctly, are equally as beneficial at developing the lats.
In fact, as demonstrated by this EMG analysis from a 2018 study by the American Council of Exercise, many rowing exercises elicit lat activation similar to pull-ups and lat pulldowns.
When doing rowing movements, there is an unique strategy to maximize lat recruitment.
Let’s take a look at the seated row, for instance.
If you do the seated row by angling the elbows out and away from the sides more and concentrating on squeezing the shoulder blades together with each rep. By doing so, you will primarily emphasize the traps and rhomboids.
When done correctly, these two minor changes should feel like two entirely separate workouts.
You may incorporate this into all of your rowing actions. This will help you focus all of your rowing actions on the lats and increase your back width.
During deadlifts, engage the lats.
Finally, make sure you’re using your lats properly during the deadlift.
Because, when done correctly, the deadlift is an excellent exercise for increasing not only back thickness but also width.
I’d even say that the years I’ve spent increasingly stressing the deadlift have contributed significantly to my back width.
To get the most out of the deadlift for back breadth, make sure you use your lats during the movement. The lats are essential for stabilizing your upper body during the deadlift.
Pull the bar into your shins before lifting and consider completing a straight arm pulldown with the bar. This will help guarantee that your lats are activated.
As a result, you should feel your lat muscles engaged and turned on.
Maintain lat engagement as you bring the bar up from the floor. You may do this by imagining your elbows pointing back towards the wall behind you.
Try not to imagine pointing your elbows out to the sides.
If you still have trouble feeling your lats, I propose connecting a resistance band to the bar. Warming up using a resistance band on the bar will help you feel your lats better during the deadlift.
Using a resistance band during the deadlift will assist you in appropriately activating the lats. Lat activation during the deadlift will also aid in maintaining proper form. Furthermore, you will notice improved lat development with time.
It is crucial training ideas like these that will make a significant difference in your results.
Building muscle quickly is achievable, but it’s critical to follow a step-by-step approach that’s truly backed up by science to achieve the best results.
The Ultimate Guide to Barbell Rows for Building a Bigger Back
Have you ever wished you could have a bigger and thicker back? No longer are you perplexed. I’ll lead you through a step-by-step lesson on how to execute barbell rows for maximum back growth.
It’s not a surprise. Learn how to execute barbell rows if you want a mean-looking back. The barbell row is one of the most effective workouts for increasing back thickness and width.
According to the findings of this 2018 EMG investigation of various back workouts, “If a person had to choose one back exercise, the barbell row would be the best option, because it stimulates several of the back muscles to a greater degree than other back exercises.”
Unfortunately, many people perform the bent-over barbell row incorrectly.
And if you’re one of them, you’ll not only hinder your back’s growth, but you’ll also risk major injury, particularly in the lower back.
What muscles are worked by bent-over rows?
Let’s take a breather for a moment. Before I go into the appropriate barbell bent-over row technique, it’s important to understand the muscle worked in this exercise.
The bent-over row with a barbell exercises the entire back. However, the latissimus dorsi (lats), traps (both middle and lower), and rear deltoids will be the primary muscles recruited.
When you perform the bent-over barbell row correctly, you should primarily feel these parts of your back working as you pull the weight.
However, if you make slight changes to your form, you will be able to target specific back muscles more than others.
This, in turn, is determined by whatever back muscle you wish to activate. Both visually and functionally.
The lower back is also extensively involved in the row; the lower back is in charge of the isometric contraction throughout the exercise.
Now that you know which back muscles are worked by the barbell row, let’s talk about how to do bent-over rows correctly.
How to Perform Barbell Rows
Let’s start with the best way to set up the barbell row. This phase, as you’ll see, differs based on your stature and ambitions.
positioning of the feet
To begin, position your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. In general, your feet should be positioned narrower than shoulder width.
However, you can experiment with this; taller people tend to do better with a broader position.
You can also slightly rotate your feet outwards to make the movement more comfortable for you. When you glance down, the bar should be above your mid-foot to your toes.
Your grip width
It’s now time to take a hold of the bar. Grip the bar just outside the breadth of your knees as a general guideline. Depending on your training goals and what feels most comfortable, you should experiment with grip width.
A wide grip barbell row, for example, allows you to draw the bar higher towards your chest while also allowing you to flare your elbows out more.
As a result of the increased transverse extension, more of the traps, rear delts, and upper back muscles will be hit.
A tighter grip, on the other hand, allows you to bring the bar lower towards your belly button while also tucking your elbows closer to your sides.
As a result of the increased engagement in shoulder extension, your lats are in a more mechanically advantageous posture. In this form, you will focus the growth of your lats.
Grip type (underhand or overhand)
But how can you know whether to use an underhand or overhand grip?
A barbell row with an underhand grip helps you to tuck your elbows even closer to your sides. As a result, you’ll prioritize your lats more, however this increased participation comes at the expense of increased biceps activation.
Evidence of greater biceps engagement can be found in a thorough EMG analysis performed by Bret Contreras in 2010.
As a result, based on your unique training objectives, I have two options.
You want to work on specific muscles – Do the variant that targets the muscles you want to work on more.
If you want a balanced back development, do a few sets of both versions.
But, in any event, avoid getting too narrow. An overly narrow grip will cause your forearms to become misaligned, resulting in higher wrist and elbow discomfort.
Going overly wide, on the other hand, would result in undesired excessive flaring of your elbows.
In this post, I’ll use a wider overhand grip, but the same methods and ideas apply to any grip variant you pick.
When learning how to do barbell rows, the beginning position is likely the most important. By deadlifting the weight up into a standing position, you can get into the proper beginning position. Maintain a neutral back position while doing so.
Then, while lowering the barbell, press your hips back with a slight bend in your knees. You want to stop when your hamstrings’ flexibility prevents you from going any further without rounding your back.
For most people, this will be between between 15 and 45 degrees.
However, as your flexibility increases and you learn how to do barbell rows, you can gradually try to get more parallel to the ground. You can work the back more effectively now that you have broader range of motion.
Common starting position blunders
Here are two frequent errors to avoid while assuming the starting position:
If you do the exercise too erect, your upper traps will be emphasized rather than your back. Your bent-over barbell row will resemble a shrug.
Avoid going beyond your hamstring’s range of motion. Your back rounds when you get too low. As a result, you would be putting a lot of strain on your lower back. Always stay within your range of motion so that your back remains neutral throughout.
That’s all there is to the setup once you’re in the starting position. You’re now ready to go on to the second step of learning how to do barbell rows.
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2) The row (concentric movement) Begin by squeezing your abs to maintain your core firm. You can achieve this by imagining that someone is ready to punch you in the stomach.
Then, row the weight up while concentrating about forcing your elbows up and back slightly. Stop the motion when the bar is ready to come into contact with your torso.
And, as previously said, where the barbell comes into touch with your body is determined by your grips:
Narrow, underhand barbell row – The bar should come into contact with your lower body, around your belly button. Your elbows should be tucked in closer to your sides as well.
Wider, overhand barbell row – The bar should be tighter over your sternum, higher on your body. Your elbows should be at a 45-degree angle (approximately).
Whatever variant you use, you should always squeeze your shoulder blades together as you row the weight up. In addition, your hips, back, and head should be aligned at the top.
Mistakes in rowing (concentric)
The following are some things to avoid when performing the bent-over barbell row:
Pulling the bar too high and flaring the elbows out are also bad ideas. You’ll shift tension to your upper traps and put your shoulders in jeopardy if you do so.
When performing the barbell bent-over row, avoid curving your back too much. To maintain a neutral back, keep your chest up and your core engaged.
Allowing your shoulders to move forward while rowing the weight up internally twists your shoulders. Instead, reduce your weight. Pull your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
After you’ve rowed the weight up, it’s time to return to your starting position.
3) Descending (eccentric row)
Finally, here is the final stage in learning how to do barbell rows. We’re almost there!
You want to keep your core engaged and your hip, back, and head aligned while lowering the weight back down. Continue to move your arms until your arms are straight.
Allow your scapula to naturally protract outwards as you reduce the weight rather than keeping them pressed together.
Before starting the following rep, activate your triceps (contract them) to limit biceps involvement while maximizing back activation.
Why? It’s all due to a notion known as reciprocal inhibition.
Common rowing (eccentric) errors
Here are some things to avoid during the barbell bent-over row descent:
Avoid allowing your back to round and become out of alignment.
Avoid merely losing weight. The eccentric component of the lift should be actively controlled because it is a substantial contributor to muscle building.
You’ve finished one rep of the barbell row after the descent. Using the advice I’ve provided, you can now continue performing the rest of your required reps in a calm manner.
Now that you know how to execute barbell rows correctly, here are some more things you should be aware of.
Reps and sets
To incorporate the barbell row into your regimen, I recommend performing 3-4 sets of the exercise at a rep range of 8-12 repetitions. Lift moderate to heavy weights at first.
However, if you believe that a higher rep range of 10-15 reps and lesser weights will allow you to better feel activation in your back muscles, go ahead and do so.
Lower back requirements
If the bent-over barbell row puts too much tension on your lower back, you can do it off the rack instead.
Allow the weights to rest on the rack after each rep to limit the amount of work your lower back must accomplish.
This change also allows you to train your upper back more effectively – a win-win situation.
It’s all about basic etiquette.
And there you have it – you now know how to execute barbell rows correctly!
If you want to construct an even meaner-looking back, you should read this essay, which teaches you everything I know about quickly growing a broader back.
Finally, it’s critical to understand that knowing which exercise helps build muscle the fastest or what to eat after a workout is pointless if you don’t execute it correctly.
Not only would you be limiting your muscle development, but you’d also risk injuring yourself.
Do you want to lose out on training sessions for months on end due to a slipped disc?
14 Best Exercises for a Perfect Back
Do you want a wider, thicker, more balanced back? Please read this article. I go over 14 of the best back workouts you can do to improve your back growth.
If you desire a wider, thicker, and more balanced back, your back workouts should focus on four key areas. In this article, I’ll go through 14 of the finest back workouts for each of these areas. Then I’ll teach you how to put them into action for the best outcomes. By the end, you’ll have a customized back routine that you may begin immediately.
Of course, if you’re not just wanting to improve your back, our membership program might be beneficial. The membership provides the main fitness routine we provide our clients and walks you through the process of developing a well-rounded physique. The membership contains tools, resources, and additional member’s only content!
Back Training Mistakes That Are Hurting Your Gains
Before we get into the exercises, let’s go over the most common mistakes people make when selecting back workouts.
The first blunder. Most people consider the “back” to be a single muscle. As a result, they will haphazardly put together a back workout, paying little attention to what each exercise targets. For example, as demonstrated in our exercises, simply shifting your elbow position while rowing will drastically change the muscles that are being addressed (lats vs upper back). Unaware of these distinctions can result in a back that has a lot of width but lacks thickness and definition. Alternatively, vice versa.
Speaking of muscular imbalances, the second mistake people make involves muscles that aren’t visible in the mirror. The “hidden” muscles are located beneath the large back muscles that we all notice. These are essential for keeping your shoulders healthy and your posture upright. The “large” back exercises we emphasize do not adequately strengthen these muscles.
The final blunder is in your workout planning. Even when people are aware of the optimal workouts for the various back muscles, they frequently overdo it for some and underdo it for others. As a result, the back fails to develop in a well-rounded manner.
But don’t worry. We’ll solve each of these issues by doing the following:
Providing you with the most effective back exercises AND
Show you how to use them correctly.
Let us begin with the upper back.
Upper Back Exercises That Work
The majority of your back thickness and definition will come from this region, which is one of the four primary zones of our back. It is made up of the following parts: upper traps
Traps in the middle
Teres muscle mass
Given their distinct architecture and function, these muscles are best targeted during activities in which the elbows pull at a 45 to 60-degree angle away from the body. This, along with a few additional pointers, will be applied to six exercises. This will help them become the ideal options for building a thicker, more defined back.
Barbell Row (Exercise 1)
The barbell row comes first. The crucial thing to remember here is that it will be done in a method that concentrates on the upper back muscles. The keys to accomplishing this are as follows:
AND your elbow angle
How far you can pull the bar
Tuck your elbows to around 45-60 degrees as you pull, rather than keeping them too close or too far out from the torso. Then, using an overhand grip, experiment with grip breadth until you find a placement that permits you to draw the bar to your mid-chest level. Drive your elbows back and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top.
Seated Rows (Exercise 2)
Then there are seated rows. However, like with barbell rows, the key here is the elbow angle. Instead of having your elbows too tight to your sides while you pull, keep them at a 45-60 degree angle out from your torso. As you pull, keep your shoulder down. Also, in the conclusion, make sure to push your shoulder blades together. Using a wider angle here can increase its effectiveness.
Meadows’ Row (Exercise 3)
The Meadow’s Row is a fantastic exercise for preventing imbalances by working one side of the back at a time. Make use of a landmine attachment. Load it with smaller weight plates to extend the range of motion of our back muscles. As if you were doing a barbell row, take an athletic stance. Pull the bar up while keeping your elbow inclined at around 60 degrees. It’s worth mentioning that grip can be difficult here. So, if necessary, employ a lifting strap to prevent your grip strength from limiting your back increases.
Chest-Supported Dumbbell Rows (Exercise 4)
The following exercise is one of my personal favorites because it eliminates the requirement for stability. Set up your incline bench first. A bench angle that is excessively steep will place too much focus on the upper traps. So, what you want to do here is drop the angle to roughly 30 degrees, which is usually the second notch on the bench.
After that, take a pair of dumbbells. Lay on your stomach on the bench and raise your arms to your chest, with your elbows angled at 45 to 60 degrees. At the peak, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Allow them to open up at the bottom of each rep to allow for a full range of motion.
Pull-ups with an overhand grip (Exercise 5)
We’ll now move on to vertical pulling actions like the pull-up. Keep your elbows pointed out to the sides to target the upper back muscles rather than the lats. You can accomplish this by employing an overhand grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width.
Lat Pulldowns (Exercise 6)
Given the name, the final exercise may come as a surprise. However, because of the wide elbow angle employed during lat pulldowns, this will biomechanically favor the upper back muscles over the lats.
Speaking of lats, let’s take a look at how we may best target this portion of our back.
Lat Exercises That Work
The lats are a triangular, wide muscle that wraps over the back. It is in charge of increasing the width of the back. Unlike the upper back muscles, the lats are best targeted during workouts when the elbows may pull as near to the chest as feasible, based on the way the muscle fibers flow. We’ll use this (along with a few other pointers) to make the next five exercises your best option for developing a wider back.
Barbell Row (Exercise 1)
Remember how you did the barbell row to work on your mid-traps? With a few changes, we’ll be able to focus the lats more. Begin with a narrower grip that is about shoulder width. When pulling, keep your elbows as near to your sides as possible. Finally, instead of lifting up to the chest, pull lower down towards your belly button to increase the range of motion in your lats.
Seated Row (Exercise 2) (Lats-Focused)
We’ll make similar changes to the seated rows you saw previously to make them more lat-focused. Tuck your elbows in tight to your sides first. Maintain their position while you row. Second, avoid arching your back when pulling because this moves the load to your upper back. Instead, keep your body straight or, if possible, bend forward slightly to favor the lats even more. Finally, rather than “squeezing your shoulder blades together,” imagine forcing your elbow down and back as you pull.
Exercise 3: Dumbbell Lat Rows with a Chest Support
Returning to one of my personal favorites. It’s the chest-supported row, except this time the elbows are angled close to the sides. You’ll also be tugging lower down your body as if trying to tuck your elbows into your back pockets.
Dumbbell Lat Rows (Exercise 4)
To prevent imbalances from developing, we can practice single dumbbell lat rows, similar to the meadows row for the upper back. Again, we’ll want to keep the elbow tucked. Pull down into your back pocket as well.
5th Exercise: One-Armed Lat Pulldown
The final exercise will be a pulldown. But one that specifically targets the lats. To do it, take a kneeling position in front of a cable machine. Grab the handle with a neutral grip and lean slightly forward. Then, draw your elbow down, keeping it as near to your torso as possible.
Exercises to Strengthen the Lower Traps
Okay, so we’ve gone through the major muscles that will add thickness and width to our back. We must now balance this by working the lower traps. This is a small but vital muscle that is often overlooked. This muscle is best worked by matching our arm angle to the direction the lower trap muscle fibers run, according to research such as this 2008 publication. And that results in a 90 to 120-degree angle.
Prone Y Raise is the first exercise.
Laying on the floor or bench and raising your arms to form a Y shape is a simple yet effective exercise for this. Do you find this too difficult? Using an incline bench will make it easier. While studies indicate that completing exercises with your shoulder internally rotated (thumbs down) results in somewhat higher lower traps activation, this may not be the most comfortable position for everyone. So, give it a try with either thumbs up or thumbs down. Determine which of these exercises best engages your lower trap muscles.
Standing Cable Y-raise is the second exercise.
Another excellent exercise is to train the lower traps with cables or a band. This is because it helps to maintain continuous tension during each rep. Set up a wire to around waist level to accomplish this. To crossover, hold the right cable with your left hand and vice versa. To keep your lower back from arching, brace your core and clench your glutes. Then, at around 120 degrees, elevate your arms in the same Y-shape.
The Best Lower Back Exercises (Erector spinae)
Before we get into how to do these back exercises, we need to talk about the last one: the lower back. According to research, when we undertake complex exercises like rows, squats, and deadlifts, these muscles are already highly stimulated. Even if you don’t do many of these lifts, including some type of isolation training for the lower back can be useful. Alternatively, if your lower back appears to be a weak link restricting your strength in these complex lifts.
Back extensions will be our go-to isolation motion. However, it is critical that you get the configuration perfect in order to get the full benefits. Position your pelvis at the top of the pad, or slightly past it, to do so. Then, while maintaining a neutral spine, lower yourself to the lowest position. Raise your arms again, but don’t go into hyperextension. Stop until your torso is parallel to your legs and no further.
Organizing Your Back Workout for Maximum Growth
The most crucial step is to incorporate all you’ve learned into a balanced back program that works for you.
Here’s what I’d suggest you go with:
2 workouts from the category of upper back
2 workouts from the lats AND 1 exercise from the lower traps
Depending on your current lower back training volume, you may want to incorporate some back extensions as well.
Here’s how you could do it if you have access to a gym, and here’s how you could do it if you only have dumbbells.
Back Workout Routine Example (gym)
Upper Back Focused Barbell Rows (Exercise 1)
Lat Pulldowns (Exercise 2)
Exercise 1: Dumbbell Lat Rows with Chest Support
2nd Exercise: One-Arm Cable Lower Traps Lat Pulldown
Standing Cable Y-Raise is the first exercise.
Back Workout Routine Example (Bodyweight Or Dumbbells)
Upper Back Exercise 1: Dumbbell Upper Back Rows Supported by the Chest
Overhand Grip Pull Ups (Exercise 2)
Single-Arm Dumbbell Lat Rows Exercise 2: Chest-Supported Dumbbell Lat Rows Lower Traps
Prone Y-Raise is the first exercise.
You can incorporate these exercises into one back workout per week or sprinkle them throughout the week. For the majority of you, 3-5 sets of each exercise will be sufficient volume to maximize your back growth. But give it a shot.
Guys, perhaps you can see that there is a lot of care that goes into selecting the perfect exercises as well as properly putting them together.