The muscles in our back cover one of the largest areas of the body, so it’s ironic that they are often overlooked when it comes to strength training. Working this muscle group not only helps stabilize your core, but because these muscles are connected to your vertebral column, can help improve your posture and breathing, which in turn means that you will be more effective in all other areas of movement.
There are a number of great ways to train your back muscles;
our experts have multiple favorites to help you find some new exercises to really build muscle and gain strength.
Pull-ups. This exercise activates every muscle in your back and there are a number of grip variations to keep it interesting. There are modified versions if you’re not strong enough to do a body-weight pull-up yet, or you can use a super band to help you build the strength to do pull-ups alone.
Pull ups are my favorite back exercise and weighted pull ups are incredibly effective. You can hold a dumbbell with your feet, use a weighted vest, or a weight belt. Once you can get to around 10-12 pull-ups, you can start adding some weight. In fact, I think it’s a great way to increase the number of bodyweight pullups you can do. There are many different pull up variations as well (chin ups, cliff hangers etc.), which make pull ups a very dynamic exercise (See: 10 Pullup Variations Video) Honorable mentions include T-Bar Rows, Single Arm DB Rows, & Single Arm Lat Pull-Downs.
As I’ve said before, exercises that can help build muscle can certainly help increase calorie expenditure and help you lose fat as well. So these back exercises for building muscle are simply my favorite back exercises period. Keep in mind your back is not going to get bigger doing these exercise if you don’t eat enough calories and are only doing a few sets. Building muscle is very hard for most guys and especially women.
– Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT
For beginners or those who are not able to do 10 chin-ups, the best would be to work on chin-ups and do them as often as possible (at least two times per week). After that, it would be weighted chin-ups followed by an isolation movement for the lats.
Beyond that, Bent-over rows and Single-Armed Rows are great. Personally, I enjoy supersets on back, where the second exercise spares the hands a bit, as grip will tend to limit the amount of work you can do on the back muscles which tend to limit size. For example, a chin-up with a straight-arm pressdown movement. That combination hammers the “V-shape” a bit more than either movement by itself.
The conventional deadlift is hands down the best exercise to develop your back and increase overall strength. When properly executed, deadlifts need a powerful contraction of your body’s posterior chain muscles such as your hamstrings, calves, glutes and of course your back. Not only does it require 100% activation from all the muscles in your legs but it also requires full body dynamic stabilization.
Basically, you are working every muscle in your body especially the pulling muscles in your back. When it comes to strength you are only as strong as your weakest link so the best way to get strong is to hammer the full body exercises!
High Rep One Arm Rows: This one is my personal favorite! Chalking up, grabbing a heavy dumbbell, and rowing my heart out is a pastime of mine.Make sure to support your body as well, whether it is holding onto the side of a bench or the rest of the dumbbell rack. This exercise can get very tough around the 15-20 mark, as it combines qualities of strength, hypertrophy, and even cardio. Imagine how your heart will feel after performing a 100lb row 20 times!