Back workouts are essential to building a solid and impressive physique. Since the back can’t be seen immediately from the mirror, it is often neglected by those first starting their muscle building journey. Many might rush some half-hearted pull-ups or seated rows, quickly moving to the bench-press. Not only will a strong, broad back make your upper body bigger, but it will also make your waist look smaller. So it is important not to turn your back on back workouts.

The back is the pièce de résistance that rounds off the perfect physique. Wide, v-shaped lats and strong, towering traps look great, and will also help with building a balanced look. It’s no secret that Arnold Schwarzenneger’s secret to Olympia success was his full back that seemed to be carved by the gods.

Many often struggle with building back muscle. The groups that make up the back are large muscles that require added attention and discipline. Building an effective back workout routine that incorporates heavy lifts, proper technique, and adequate rest is vital.

Comparison Table – Back Workout Equipment

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Benefits of Back Workouts

a woman carrying weights on her shoulders as part of her back workouts

Back workouts don’t only help to build wide lats. The phrase “a strong backbone” also has literal meaning besides the description of a firm and resolute character. Strengthening the back targets weaker muscles that are often responsible for bad po​​sture. That will allow you to stand taller, prouder, and more confident.

Many heavy compound lifts that are essential in building muscle also rely on a strong back. Why is it that athletes who move heavy weight in the squat rack and on the bench always seem to have huge backs? The back is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joints and keeps your spine straight during nearly every exercise. Back strength, therefore, transfers to all of the other muscle groups. Thick traps will also cushion the heavy bar during squats so that you can ditch the bar-padding.

Being a major muscle group, the back requires heavy stimulation to grow muscle mass. Many of the back workouts like rows and pull-downs also work the arms as a secondary muscle group. That means that back workouts will build the biceps and strengthen the forearms at the same time.

Breaking down Target Muscle Groups in Your Back

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Growing back muscle is often a confusing and challenging task. Focusing on individual target muscle​​ groups is essential to building a balanced physique. To develop our list of the best back workouts, we utilized professional research and experience to select exercises that drive results and target the critical muscles.

Upper back: Traps and Rhomboids

The traps (trapezius) start from the backbone and extend up each side of your neck. Traps are essential in head movement and also stabilize the shoulders during movement. Slightly lower, and appearing as a centerpiece of a well-rounded back are the rhomboids. These muscles, attaching to the shoulder bone, are essential in the movement of the shoulder. Back workouts like the upright row or those that focus on pulling weight vertically will build the trap and rhomboids.

Middle back: Lats and Teres Major

The back muscle that often gains the most attention is the lats (latissimus dorsi), and for a good reason. The lats are the most massive muscle in the upper body and responsible for several movements like pulling, rotating, and stabilizing. They sit directly under your arms and connect at the hips. Slightly above the lats lies the often overlooked teres major. This muscle complements the lats and assists with the movements of the arms. These muscles work to create the famous v-shape that we all love. Back workouts that target the middle-back include lat pulldowns and heavy rowing exercises.

Lower back: Spinal Erectors

A strong lower back aids with posture, stability, and strength. Specifically, the spinal erectors (erector spinae) connect the hips to your head, running up the length of the spine to allow back movement. A strong lower back, therefore, translates to a strong figure. Although active in many back workouts, exercises such as the deadlift are great to grow solid spinal erectors.

The Best Back Workouts for a Stronger, Wider Back

a female weightlifter doing a lat pulldown exercise, one of the best back workouts

Whether you’re just starting off building that perfect v-taper, or you’ve already earned solid mass and looking to refine it, these back workouts are sure to do the trick. The following list is in no particular order and combination is encouraged.

Wide-grip Lat Pulldown

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Synonymous with “back day” is the classic wide-grip lat pulldown. This exercise is found on most popular workout routines and is one of the most prevalent in the gym.

  • Instructions
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The wide-grip lat pulldown requires either a cable machine or a dedicated lat pulldown machine. Depending on the equipment at your gym, begin by either sitting or standing underneath the bar, keeping the chest tall. Position the hands slightly wider than the shoulders, gripping the bar and pulling straight down while squeezing the lats at the bottom end of the movement.

The wide-grip lat pulldown is a great back workout that primarily works the lats. However, the extensive range of motion also means the traps and rhomboids get a workout. Heavy vertical pulling exercises such as the wide-grip lat pulldown are; therefore, one of the best ways to grow back muscle fast.

Wide-grip lat pulldowns are designed to target the lats and grow a wider back. To maximize efficiency, ensure that the elbows are pointed straight down during the entire range of motion. This better contracts the lats and allows the lifter to pull more weight. Like all back workouts on this list, keeping the spine straight and the chest up also reduces the risk of injury.

Pull-ups

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If you’ve got a bar, you’ve got a great way to build back muscle — pull-ups reign supreme in the world of back workouts. They are also iconic as a symbol of strength and physical ability.

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Pull-ups are one of the best back workouts as they don’t require a gym membership. By simply using body-weight, the pull-up allows for a powerful exercise that builds strength, power, and muscle mass. Begin by holding onto a horizontal bar at roughly shoulder-width with palms facing outwards. Lift the feet off the ground, suspending your body from the bar and pull yourself upwards until the arms reach a 45-degree angle. Slowly lower the body back down and repeat until failure.

Another heavy vertical pull exercise similar to the wide-grip lat pulldown, the pull-up primarily targets the lats but also gives the middle and lower back a workout. Utilizing body weight as resistance rather than conventional weights also means that it is a more natural movement. Natural movements better translate to functional strength that can be used to improve athletic ability in a wide range of sports and activities. Bodyweight back workouts like the pull-up also require stabilization to keep the body straight, resulting in an effective abdominal workout at the same time.

Pull-ups are always difficult to master when first starting to build muscle and strength. Nobody accomplishes a full pull-up on their very first try. To slowly work towards efficient pull-ups, it is best, to begin with assisted pull-ups. That allows the muscles to develop by performing essentially the same movement but with less weight pulled. Assisted pull-ups require a training partner or spotter providing light upward force by pushing up under the arm-pits. For those without a gym partner, some gyms also have assisted pull-up machines which enable you to adjust the compensation, as required.

Bent-over Row

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Bodybuilders and weight-lifters alike swear by heavy, com​​pound exercises for building muscle and strength. The bent-o​​ver row is one of those back workouts that is on nearly every muscle building regimen.

  • Instructions
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  • Important tips

Begin in the standing position and hold the barbell shoulder width apart with an overhand grip. Slowly bend your body at the hips, keeping the back straight and chest out, until the chest is nearly horizontal with the floor. Begin the lift by pulling the bar towards your torso, roughly above the belly button in a slow, controlled movement. Slowly lower the bar until it reaches it’s initial position and repeat for as many repetitions as necessary.

The bent-over row is one of the best compound exercises for building muscle mass. Due to the large working muscles in the back, lifters can move much heavier weight than smaller, pump-training exercises. The exercise is designed to target mostly the upper back, including the traps and rhomboids. However, this also fires the lats and biceps, while using the lower back, abdominals, and quads to stabilize the body. Although technically a back workout, the bent-over row is a tremendous all-body exercise that should be on the list of everybody’s back day routine.

Like many heavy compound lifts, proper form is crucial to avoid injury. When first starting, the bent-over is one of the most intimidating back workouts. A great way to develop an appropriate technique is to begin by lifting a lighter weight, and progressively increasing weight as you gain confidence. A straight lower back, with the chest pointing outward and shoulders retracted are critical. While compound lifts such as the bent-over row are often more effective at building muscle than lifts like the lat pulldown, a combination of various exercises is encouraged.

Deadlifts

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Similarly to the bent-over row, deadl​​ifts are one of the big players in the muscle building game. Another compound lift that incorporates all of the muscles found in the back, this is an exercise that delivers excellent results.

  • Instructions
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  • Important tips

Begin the deadlift by standing over the bar, feet roughly mid-point underneath the bar and hip-width apart. Fold over at the hips, also bending the knees slightly and keeping the lower back straight and chest facing upwards. Grab the bar, and stand up with the weight, driving the force through your heels and allowing the bar to be lifted upwards naturally along the shins. At the top of the movement, lock your hips and knees and avoid leaning back before gently lowering the weight back to the starting position.

The deadlift is one of those back workouts that incorporates the entire back. It also allows the lifter to move the most weight out of any other back exercise — the rhomboids and traps contract to keep the shoulders in place. The lats and teres major also aid in keeping the weight close to your body. Working against gravity, the lower back, abdominals, arms, and legs stabilize and help to push the weight upwards — one of the best whole body workouts and also one of the quickest ways to get back gains.

For those that have never heard of the deadlift, it certainly bears an intimidating name. It is essential to keep the lower back neutral and avoid rounding it during the lift. That will prevent potential pressure on the spinal discs. Beginners should work with lower weight to practice proper form. Not only will this prevent injury, but proper form is also the best way to grow back muscle as it will allow you to lift heavier weight progressively.

T-Bar Row

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Although a less conventional back workout, the t-bar row is a great way to build your back muscles. Utilizing a single end of the barbell while fixing the other end to the ground provides a unique leverage point to work the back muscles and better target the lats.

  • Instructions
  • Target muscles
  • Important tips

Begin by fixing one end of the barbell in the corner, or more ideally, a No products found.. Add the desired weight to the other end and stand with the bar between your legs. If you’re not using a dedicated t-bar machine, grab a v-bar handle attachment and place it underneath the bar. Begin the lift by bending the legs slightly higher than the squat position while folding the body forward to a similar position as the bent-over row. Keep the legs firmly on the ground, with weight centered in the heels and pull the weighted end of the bar towards your torso slowly. Finish by lowering the weight to the starting position, keeping the back straight and chest forward.

The t-bar row is very similar to the bent-over row. However, it allows for a vertical hand grip, targetting the lats more than the upper back. It does, however, provide a whole-back workout similar to the other heavy lifts. For exercise enthusiasts looking to grow big, wide lats, this is one of the best exercises to achieve your muscle building goals.

Again, for best results, the correct form is king. Start with lower weight and focus on contracting the middle back and driving the elbows close to your body for the duration of the movement. Slowly lowering the weight to the ground rather than dropping the bar will also help to develop those deep, stabilizing muscles in the arms and back.

Putting It Together to Grow Muscle Mass

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Researching back workouts that truly deliver those muscle building results that you’ve been looking for can be a struggle. Our round-up of great back workouts incorporate heavy compound lifts, targetted muscle groups and result-driven standards. Putting all of these powerful back workouts together while focusing on your desired repetition ranges, is an excellent start in building the back you’ve always wanted.

However, don’t just focus on on the workout! Remember to complement your training with an effective dietary plan to get the best results. Also, be sure to rest in between back training sessions to give your muscles recovery time. A day or two of rest, while you work other muscle groups is best. Performing these great back workouts with a training partner will also help to develop form and grow confidence. See you in the gym!

We’d love to hear what you think about building a great back. Which back workouts have you found to be the most effective at building back muscle? Let us know in the comments.