Training your back might not be as sexy as hitting chest, triceps or biceps but it’s crucial to developing a well round physique as well as reducing injuries. Having a thick strong back allows for better weight distribution when doing heavy barbell squats and will save you during your deadlifts. Here are the 5 best exercises to aid you in developing a strong muscular back.
Hands down, this is my favourite back exercise. It’s super easy, low risk and can be varied by adding reps, weight or changing hand position. Start out with a neutral grip on the bar and think about driving your elbows down as you pull your chin above the bar. Keep your core tight and grip firm throughout the entire exercise. Add 4 sets of 6-12 reps to your workout with 90-120 seconds rest between sets. If you’re unable to perform a chin-up, you can use a band to assist you.
2. Seated Row
Seated cable rows are not only a great compound back exercise, but they will also help correct poor posture. When you retract your shoulders during the end part of the movement, you stimulate your rhomboids, rear delts and middle portion of your traps. These are critical to balancing out all the pressing movements that are performed in the gym. Add 3 sets of 8-15 reps.
3. One Arm Row
The one arm row is another essential back exercise that should be in everyone’s program. Pendlay rows is an even better option for advanced lifters, but the one arm row is a smart way to build up to this advanced movement. Simply grab a dumbbell, position yourself with one arm and knee on a bench (other leg planted firmly on the ground) and pull the weight to your hip with a flat back. Just like the seated row, you should think about contracting your shoulder blade hard. Try adding 3 sets of 6-10 per arm.
4. Landmine Row
The landmine row is one of the more advanced exercises out of the list but when done correctly, it can help add serious size to your back. When performing this movement, you must keep your low back neutral and core braced since you’re in a compromised position. Just like all rowing movements, squeeze the shoulder blades together for a full contraction at the top of the movement. Try 4 sets of 4-8 reps for this exercise.
5. Wide Grip Lat Pull Down
In my opinion, this exercise hits the lats most directly but only when your form is strict. Slightly lean back with your chest proud and pull the bar toward your sternum while maintaining position. While doing this, make sure to focus on squeezing your lats to stimulate these muscle fibers. I prefer higher reps on this movement such as 3 sets of 8-15 reps.
A notable mention for back training is the deadlift. Even though the majority of muscles in your back are used in this movement, I program it as a lower or full body compound exercise. There’s just too many joints and muscle groups to consider it just a back movement.
Below is an example of a typical back workout I would go through.
Back Workout Routine:
- Chin-ups = 4 sets of 8-10
- Lat Pull Down = 3 sets of 12-15
- Landmine Rows = 4 sets of 3-7
- One Arm Rows = 3 sets of 10 per arm
- Seated Cable Rows = 3 sets of 8-10