Want a bigger, stronger back? Put on your muscle tank and get ready to grow!
1. Barbell Deadlift
Referred to as the “king of weightlifting”, the barbell deadlift helps you grow muscle, burn fat, and gain strength. Besides working the lower, middle, and upper-back muscles, this full-body exercise recruits the traps & lats, as well as muscles in the lower body including the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
Instructions: Squat down bending at your hips and knees. Grab the bar at shoulder-width using an overhand grip. Push your hips forward and pull your chest up as you lift the barbell to thigh level. Pause for a second, then lower the bar to the floor and repeat.
2. Front Squat
Even though the front squat is a somewhat unexpected choice, it’s actually great for building the upper back. Since the barbell is in front of your body, the back muscles work to prevent you from tipping forward.
Instructions: Hold a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. The barbell should be placed in front of you, across the shoulders. Raise your arms so they’re parallel to the ground. Place your fingertips under the barbell just beyond shoulder-width. Without letting your elbows drop, squat down. Stand up out of the squat squeezing the glutes at the top. Make sure your chest & elbows stay up throughout the movement.
3. Dumbbell Single Arm Row
Besides working the lats, this exercise also hits the traps and rhomboids. It also prevents you from relying on one side of your body and highlights any weaker spots you need to work on.
Instructions: Place your left hand against a bench under your shoulder and keep it straight. Plant your left knee on the bench and your right leg on the ground. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and allow it to hang straight down from your shoulder. Keeping your back flat and your torso locked, pull the weight up to your side. Once your upper arm is parallel with the ground, stop for a moment, then lower the dumbbell to starting position (make sure that your shoulder doesn’t drop). Once you finish all reps, switch to the other side.
If your goal is to have a V-shaped physique, you need to do pull-ups. This back workout is great for building width because it targets the lats, i.e. the muscles just below the arms.
Instructions: Grasp a bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than your shoulders. Start by hanging fully relaxed in the shoulders. Pull the shoulders down, then start pulling your chest towards the bar. Once your chin is above the bar, stop for a moment then return to starting position.
5. Lat Pulldown
Unlike the pull-ups, this back workout doesn’t require glute and core strength, which means that the accent is even more on the lats. To reap all the benefits from the lat pulldown, make sure that your upper body stays fixed throughout the whole exercise and move at a slow, controlled pace.
Instructions: Sit at a lat pulldown machine, grasp the bar with the hands facing forward and positioned beyond shoulder width. Draw your shoulders down and back, then pull the bar down to chest level, making sure your torso remains fixed throughout the movement. Stop for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position.
6. Kettlebell Swings
Besides working the posterior chain, this back workout also works the front of your core. Start with a lighter weight, then gradually move to heavier loads to develop body control and power.
Instructions: Place a kettlebell on the ground in front of you. Stand with your feet just beyond shoulder-width and bend your knees to grab the weight’s handle using both hands. Keeping your back flat and your core tight, pull the kettlebell between the legs (make sure not to squat). Thrust your hips forward and pull the weight up to shoulder level with the arms straightened in front of you. Return to starting position and repeat.
7. Seated Cable Row
This back workout is perfect for building the upper-back muscles, including the traps and rhomboids. To increase the gains, stop for about 3 seconds when the bar gets to your torso.
Instructions: Sit at a cable row station with your feet firmly placed on the block in front of you. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, your hands shoulder-width apart. Sit upright, draw the shoulders down and back, then pull the bar to the upper abs. Make sure that your torso remains straight and your elbows motionless throughout the movement. Pause for 3 seconds, then slowly return to starting position.
8. Farmers’ Walk
This back workout is great for building the back and shoulders, while at the same time effectively burning belly fat.
Instructions: Hold two dumbbells or kettlebells by your sides. Walk short & quick steps while keeping your arms strong. Turn around and repeat.
5 Tips for Building a Bigger Back
Read these tips to ensure you’re making the most of your back workouts.
1. Keep proper form
When performing back workouts, make sure to pull with your middle-upper back, instead of your shoulders or traps. On pulldowns, pullups, and rows, keep your core tight, your shoulders pulled back and down, chest out, stomach in, and your head straight.
2. Be focused on what you’re doing
In order to maximize growth, you need to establish a connection between your muscles and your mind. This means you should actively think about engaging and contracting your upper and middle back muscles throughout the movement. For instance, when you’re performing a pull-up, focus on working with the traps instead of the chest or arms.
3. Don’t let the bar touch your chest
Resist the urge to let the bar touch your chest on chin-ups and pull-ups. The bar should stop just below the chin. Going lower not only minimizes lat activation, but it can also result in inflammation or injury.
4. Pull to the sternum
When performing chin-ups, pull-ups, and pulldowns, pull to the breastbone (sternum) instead of to the collarbone (clavicle) to ensure that your lats are maximally activated.
5. Don’t forget to pause
Whatever back exercise you’re performing, make sure to pause in the contracted position for about two seconds and squeeze the muscle. Then, slowly lower the load, pause in a contracted position for an additional two seconds, and repeat. This way, you’ll activate the right muscle fibers and stimulate growth.
The Benefits of Back Workouts
Back workouts offer a number of benefits, including the coveted V-shaped torso!
Developed V-Shaped Physique
In order to get a V-shaped torso, you need to create the illusion that your waist is smaller. How do you do that? By stacking your back and growing your upper body.
Better Posture & Reduced Back Pain
A number of factors can get in the way of good posture – it may be due to injury, a disease, because of genetics, or result from spending hours in front of the computer. Back workouts will help you prevent/fix muscular imbalances that lead to improper posture. In addition, back workouts will strengthen your core, shoulders, and spine, thus erasing the strain of lower-back pain.
While working your back, you also indirectly work the arms. That being said, experienced lifters will still need special biceps workouts to fully develop the arms, but if you’re a beginner, performing back exercises will allow you to keep biceps work to a minimum.