The ultimate back building routine you had been waiting for – best back exercises to turn your back into literal wings
Let’s all be honest here, the majority of people are visual beings who can’t seem to break their attention away from other folks, places, and things immediately in front of them – right where they can see them. This extends even into their workouts, where most of the attention is given to exercises that focus on the mirror muscles (front-facing muscle groups they can see immediately reflected in a mirror. The back muscles aren’t given the same attention as the front ones, and they’re equally (if not more) essential.
If you’re working out for the sake of appearance (and, honestly, who isn’t?), you’re probably looking for a “V taper.” However, a broad, powerful back that makes you look more powerful and dominant doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time to perfect your physique.
Ok, so now you agree with me that training your back is super important and its that time of the week again (back day) when you crack open your exercise toolkit and are immediately overwhelmed by the sheer array of movements available. With every exercise seemingly more effective than the other, which ones to choose, tough job, eh?
If that’s the case, your search has brought you to the best back exercises of all time. These should be included in your back workouts to produce significant muscle development.
Don’t think for a minute that the pull-up is less effective than any other exercises on this list just because it’s a bodyweight exercise. Heck, I would rate it among the best back building workouts, which is precisely why we are beginning our list with it. Not just your back but your core muscles are recruited too while pulling your body weight in order to provide stability. Also, if you’re overweight, you’re still putting a lot of strain on yourself. Finally, it’s always fantastic to only need little equipment to get a solid workout.
- Minimum equipment required: All you need is a pull-up bar to do this move, which you can easily find at a park or buy for your home gym.
- Since you have to stabilize your own body weight it also recruits the muscles in your core.
- Different variations have their own advantages: Wide-grip chins and pull-ups, for example, are excellent for the upper lats while close-grip chins or neutral-grip pull-ups provide a wider range of motion.
How to Do the Pull-Up
Go for an overhead grip on the bar, slightly wider than shoulder-width. Contract the core and upper back as you begin the pull-up with the arms relaxed and shoulders elevated up to your ears. Ideally, you should aim to pull your chin at or past the bar level while arching your shoulders away from your ears.
Ah, the good ol’ deadlift – the deadlift is a fantastic compound exercise for building substantial amounts of strength and muscle to the back (as well as the hips and hamstrings). It can stress the back with moderate to heavy loads, and it can often be trained at larger volumes and loads, resulting in a one-of-a-kind training stimulus.
Although the back muscles do not directly impact deadlift’s range of motion, their involvement is critical for maintaining spine stability and holding the loads required for growth.
- While your back gets an excellent workout, your hamstrings, glutes, and the muscles in your hips are all strengthened by dead lifts too.
- To create significant strength increases, you may load the deadlift up with a lot of weight (once you’ve acquired sufficient strength).
- It is possible to build muscle and strength in the upper and lower body by doing deadlift with high loads or training volumes.
How to Do the Deadlift
Stand in front of a barbell that is loaded, with your feet shoulder-width apart, hips back, and back straight. Knees should be bent slightly to allow you to grip the bar firmly while keeping your back flat and chest up. As you pull, tighten the back muscles and straighten the arms. With everything locked, push your legs into the floor and pull your torso up. Thrust your hips forward as you stand up with the barbell.
3. Inverted Row
The inverted row is a bodyweight exercise that can develop comparable(to an extent) back, arm, and grip strength as the pull-up. The inverted row is generally easier to perform since you aren’t rowing your complete bodyweight. This is a fantastic exercise for people who are new to workout because it improves their back strength and body control and can serve as a stepping stone for full pull-ups.
Inverted Row Benefits
- Engages your arms, back, and grip quite similar to the pull-ups which results in excellent muscle activation.
- This is a fantastic introductory exercise that may be used to advance to more difficult inverted row variations and eventually pull-ups.
How to Do the Inverted Row
Place a bar in a rack to keep it stable and supported. Your hands should only just reach the bar when you lie down underneath it. Adjust the height as needed. Firmly grasp the bar and place the body in a rigid plank stance. Pull your chest to the bar while avoiding flaring out your elbows.
4. Lat Pulldown
The ever-popular pulldown has you pulling a bar connected to a cable pulley towards your chest. The constant tension of the cable gives you more time under tension for greater stimulation and growth. Also, this is an excellent option for individuals who haven’t yet mastered the pull-up. If you look at it, a pulldown is basically the same motion as a pull-up, except you do not have to lift your entire bodyweight since you are sitting down.
Lat Pulldown Benefits
- The pulling motion of cables leads to constant tension which leads to more muscular activation of the back muscles.
- This is a great exercise to help you get to your first pull-up since it mimics a pull-up.
- The pronated grip is ideal for working the upper back, biceps, and lats.
How to Do the Lat Pulldown
Put your legs beneath the pad and grasp the bar attachment with your palms pronated (palms facing away) with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. With the core tight and the torso upright —pull your shoulders back and down and bring the bar down to your chin (or chest). Pause, then slowly resist the weight as you return to the starting position.
5. Neutral Grip Pulldown
The grip is identical to the previous pulldown variation. You should, however, pull a neutral grip (palms facing one another) attachment to your chest in this pulling-down variant. This is a cable-based exercise that allows you to utilize constant resistance. The neutral grip enables you to target muscles such as the lats and biceps more effectively.
Neutral Grip Pulldown Benefits
- The constant tension from the wires provides a more consistent resistance for the back muscles.
- The motion resembles a chin-up, so it’s an excellent exercise to help you get your first chin-up repetition.
- The neutral grip helps you target the lats and biceps muscles.
How to Do the Neutral Grip Pulldown
Set up a cable pulldown with your legs under the pad and your hands around the attachment/handle, in a neutral grip. With the core taut and the body straight, draw the attachment down to your chin. As you return to the start, slowly resist the weight.
6. Bent-Over Row
The bent-over row provides a lot of possibilities for exercise variation. You can use kettlebells or dumbbells instead of the barbell variation if you have them available. When you hinge at your hips to row the weight to your stomach, you target your entire posterior chain, from calves, hamstrings, glutes to even your traps.
Bent-Over Row Benefits
- You can use a variety of equipment to do the bent-over row, such as kettlebells, dumbbells, or even a cable machine.
- You overload your muscles more effectively because you can lift a lot of weight in the bent-over row posture.
How to Do the Bent-Over Row
The initial stance remains similar to deadlift by standing feet shoulder-width apart in front of a loaded barbell placed close to shins. Hinge at your hips until your body is roughly parallel to the ground. Grab the bar with a grip that is somewhat wider than your normal deadlift grip. Put your weight on your heels and pull the barbell to your belly button, leaning back until it comes into contact with/around your belly button.
7. Chest Supported Row
As the name says, chest support is, the key element of this row variation. It removes the momentum from the equation, forcing you to rely only on your muscles to move the weight. You don’t have to support yourself in a hinge position when you do this variation, which relieves strain on your lower back.
Chest Supported Row Benefits
- This move is great at isolating your back muscles and thus activates them to the fullest extent.
- Since your spine is not overloaded trying to stabilize a ton of weight, it relieves low back pressure while still doling out a hearty workout.
- The bench also enforces strict technique, making it a favorite accessory movement for heavy lifters and anyone looking to improve their posture and build overall back muscle.
How to Do the Chest Supported Row
Set up a workout bench at a 45-degree incline and lie face down on it with your chest and stomach supported. Begin with your arms straight and a neutral grip on each dumbbell. Begin Rowing the dumbbells to your side by retracting the shoulder blades and flexing the elbows. Pause at the top of the motion, and then return to the starting position under control.
8. Single-Arm Row
The single-arm dumbbell row is a unilateral row variation that helps to increase your upper back strength, hypertrophy, and correct muscular imbalances. It also very well assists in the development of arm and grip strength.
Single-Arm Row Benefits
- Working one side of your body at a time makes it easier to spot and address muscular imbalances very efficiently.
- You’ll also improve your grip strength considerably as you squeeze a heavy dumbbell as hard as feasible, which of course is in addition to targeting your back muscles.
How to Do the Single-Arm Row
Position yourself on a bench so your left knee and shin are resting on it, as well as your left hand, and firmly plant your right foot onto the floor. Reach down with your right hand and grab a dumbbell. Keep your back flat and your head in a neutral position. Row the dumbbell to your side pulling your elbow toward the ceiling while ensuring to keep it close to the body. Slowly lower back down to the start position. Complete all of your reps on one side and then switch.
9. Seated Cable Row with Pause
Who doesn’t love seated cable rows? A seated cable row is a standard upper-back exercise. Adding a three-second pause when the bar reaches your torso may help you get bigger and stronger faster. A pause keeps your scapular retractors engaged, allowing them to contract for a longer period of time. Strengthening these muscles is critical since a lack of strength can lead to shoulder instability which of course would limit your strength and muscle gains in almost every upper-body exercise.
When you start this movement, pull your shoulders down and back. Otherwise, you’ll keep your shoulders elevated, which stresses the shoulder joint. Over time, this can cause your joint to become unstable, which often leads to injury.
Seated Cable Row Benefits
- The constant tension from the cables provides a more uniform resistance for back muscles.
- This seated variation is ideal for developing back muscle and strength, which can prove its effectiveness across your entire training.
- The neutral grip allows you to target the lats and biceps effectively while avoiding muscular imbalances..
How To Do Seated Cable Rows With Pause
Attach a straight bar or a neutral grip to a cable machine pully and position yourself with your feet braced. Sit upright and grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Pull the weight to your upper abs. Take a three-second pause, then slowly lower the weight back to the beginning position. Throughout this exercise, your upper body should be straight and motionless. Don’t lean forward or backward while performing the movement.
10. Landmine Row
This time-tested free-weight variation has been a staple of many bodybuilding legends. It is performed by grabbing a handle attached to, or around, a barbell. This is a good example of an exercise that requires you to isolate and use your back muscles and can very well be substituted for the chest-supported row. It requires core strength, lower back strength, and may be done in a variety of rep ranges depending on your objectives.
Landmine Row Benefits
- The best thing about this this variation is that it can be done anywhere you have access to a barbell. Its equally effective when done with the barbell locked in a landmine attachment or wedged into a corner.
- It provides a tough and engaging workout which builds up core stability and strength. Its an excellent full body exercise and places large amounts of tension on the back muscles.
- You can also use attachments to create a variety of resistance patterns with different settings..
How to Do the Landmine Row
Slide the barbell into the landmine attachment sleeve or wedge it in a corner of the wall to set it up. Stand over the barbell with one foot on each side. Fix the attachment of your choice to the barbell and grasp the handles or just grasp the barbell with your hands locked together. Pull the weight up toward your chest while leaning slightly forward, core tight, and a rigid upper body. Slowly return the weight back to the starting position.
So there you have it, the top 10 best of the best back workouts which are guaranteed to blow your back from all possible angles
Your back muscles may play a larger role than you might imagine in helping big-time compound movements, such as the bench press. Your upper- and mid-back muscles help to keep your shoulder joints stable, and the stronger your shoulders are, the better they function – and that results in more weight you can lift in just about every upper-body exercise. You’ll have to use your hands in back-focused exercises to manage the load, so you’ll be met with a pleasant surprise when all of those rows end up producing bigger arm muscles.
Also, it’s quite effective to use a cable machine for back workouts, you may want to check our article for that.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.