the 5 best back building exercises

The 5 BEST Back Building Exercises

Backs are sexy.

At least that’s what the Instagram hashtag #backsaresexy tells me.

While booty-blaster circuits, core-crushing workouts, and bikini-body challenges are all the rage these days, nothing beats the magnetism of a well-chiselled, strikingly-shaped, muscular back.

Crafting a posterior that Olympian demigod The Incredible Hercules would be proud of is no mean feat however.

The lure of a chest-popping bench press day can override the desire to implement those mundane bent over rows, lat pulldowns, and rack pulls into your programme.

Not to mention your inability to bear witness to all your hard ‘pulling’ work and you can see why back movements often get shoved to the bottom of the exercise pile.

Pulling exercises don’t have to be boring.

Implementing well-designed and novel back exercises into your programme can be the difference between displaying a Quasimodo shaped spine and flaunting a v-shaped figure even our Greek superhero would be impressed with.

Spicing up your exercise selection in order to craft an impressive behind is the next step in taking your back training to the next level…

Let’s Start At The Beginning…

In order to supersize your back and manufacture a wide, dense, and sizeable physique, it’s important we understand what we’re actually training.

For reference, the back musculature we’ll be attempting to target will consist of the lats, mid and lower traps, and rhomboids.

Crushing all these muscle groups will enable you to create a dominant frame that’s masculine, eye-catching, and irresistible to the opposite sex.

Ditching ‘chest and tri’-focused days and spending some precious gym time dedicated to mastering the art of efficient and effective back exercises goes way beyond just developing slabs of back meat.

Not only will your posture improve as a result of crushing the musculature designed to keep you upright, but your arms will grow, you’ll be able to push more weight in other exercises, and you’ll look as if you actually train – not like you make sweet love to the bench press every day.

In order to optimise muscular hypertrophy in the upper torso there are various movements that must be incorporated into your programme:

  • Horizontal Pulls e.g. rows
  • Vertical Pulls e.g. pullups
  • Deadlift Variations e.g. conventional deadlifts
  • Pullover Movements e.g. pullovers
  • Rear Delt Exercises e.g. rear delt flys
  • Loaded Carries e.g. farmer’s walks

Utilising all these types of movements within your programme will ensure all the requisite muscle groups are hit and you aren’t left with the posture of an 80-year-old woman.

The muscles of the back are some of the largest and most powerful in the human body. They respond favourably, therefore, to high volume and heavy loads.

It goes without saying, therefore, these two training variables hinge on perfect form and movement execution.

Your Upper Back Top Training Tips

  1. Pull From The Correct Musculature

On all rowing exercises keep your chest out, shoulder blades pulled back and down, head tall, and core tight. Focus on pulling with your middle to upper back – with your lats, rhomboids, and lower traps; not from your shoulders, upper traps, or neck muscles.

  1. Initiate Vertical Pulls With Your Lats And Tuck Your Shoulder Blades Into Your Back Pockets

When performing pulldowns or pullups, always initiate the movement with your lats. That means avoiding bending the elbows until you can’t contract your lats any further.

In addition, think about bringing your shoulder blades back and down; this will ensure you get the most out of your movement.

  1. Pull To Your Sternum On Vertical Pulls

On all vertical pull movements, focus on pulling to your sternum rather than to your clavicle. Pulling to your sternum requires a large amount of lat activation, which ultimately means greater growth.

  1. Squeeze The Shoulder Blades Together on Horizontal Pulls

When training the upper back on horizontal pulls, squeeze your shoulder blades together as tightly as possible. The training cliché ‘stretch and squeeze’ should apply to these movements.

  1. Select An Appropriate Weight

Most people transform into a dry-humping, pigeon impersonator whenever they perform rows; namely because they attempt to lift too heavy. Choose a weight that allows the rep range to be completed with only 1-2 extra possible reps left in the tank, and your rows won’t turn into something out of a horror film.

The 5 Muscle-Building Back Exercises You’ve Never Tried Before

  1. Handle Bent Over Row

Slipping a couple of handles onto your bent over rows will not only cause you to slow your movements right down to execute on-point technique, but will initiate a squeeze in your upper back like you’ve never felt before.

The straps force you to employ smooth, symmetrical, and precise rowing mechanics to ensure you don’t tip the bar from side to side, and will simultaneously stimulate functional strength and size in the upper torso.

Top Tips:

  • Take your time – perform the movement in a controlled, well-executed fashion
  • Don’t pull your elbows too high at the top of the movement – just think about the squeeze with the shoulder blades
  • Grip the hell out the handles throughout the whole movement

2. Eccentric Chin Ups

The eccentric part of any movement – the ‘lowering’ phase – has been consistently found to stimulate increased strength and muscle growth, as well as improving mobility in some parts of the body.

By starting your chin up in the top position – with your chin over the bar – you’ll be able to performing the negative – or lowering – part of the movement in a controlled manner, emphasising the stretch in the appropriate muscle groups as you slowly drop towards the floor.

Top Tips:

  • As you slowly lower yourself keep your core as tight as possible and focus on ‘lengthening’ the lats as you lower yourself downwards
  • Ensure you reach full extension at the bottom before returning to the top position
  • Focus on performing this movement as slowly and as controlled as possible

3. 2:1 Vertical Pulldowns

Not only does the neutral grip of this movement increase the range of motion in the lats, but performing the raising and lowering part of the movements with varying grips will provide a unique contrast for stimulating strength and hypertrophy.

Performing the concentric part of the movement with two arms will enable you to focus on smooth mechanics with a strong contraction in the lats. Whilst performing the eccentric part with just one arm will not only possess some carryover to core stability, but will promote increased size in the lat musculature.

Top Tips:

  • Initiate the movement by pulling your shoulder blades back and down into your back pockets first
  • Let go with one hand at the bottom before slowly letting the weight back up, focusing on letting the lats do the work
  • Remain as upright as possible throughout the whole movement – don’t sway to one side to compensate for the instability

4 Banded Single Arm Dumbbell Row

A single arm dumbbell row should be performed with the intent of rowing back towards the hip in an ‘arcing’ movement pattern. In addition, the unilateral nature of the single arm row challenges the entire body, while targeting the major musculature of the upper torso.

Adding a band to your movement will cue increased activation to the required muscle groups and will not only ensure the shoulder is kept in a stable position, but the movement is performed in the correct fashion.

Top Tips:

  • Ensure the band is set up parallel to the ground during the row and you have a suitable grip on both the band and dumbbell
  • Initiate the row by driving the dumbbell back to your hip against the band
  • Control the lowering part of the movement by stretching the lats out in front of the body at the bottom

5. Alternating Chest Supported Rows

Not only do chest supported rows crush and develop the upper back (specifically the forgotten muscles of the back ‘the rhomboids’) but the constant tension – or ‘isometric hold’ – will ensure your back muscles are constantly functioning throughout the whole of the movement.

Most sets of rows usually last 9-10 seconds; employing this alternating variation will not only ensure the movement will become extended, but increase the amount of time the back musculature is ‘under tension’.

Top Tips:

  • Pull the weights up towards your rib cage as high as you can and squeeze your shoulder blades as hard as possible at the top of the movement
  • Again, the lowering phase on each side should be performed in a controlled and efficient manner
  • Avoid using momentum to drive the dumbbells upwards and keep a constant squeeze with the shoulder blade when in the top position

About the Author

Daniel Harrod helps people get lean, strong, and sexy. This is mainly achieved through the magic of the internet with his online coaching service. He doesn’t have any fancy letters after his name, hates Zumba, and wants to help as many typical gym-goers embrace the art of lifting weights, avoiding fad diets, and shedding body fat. He wrote a pretty epic eBook on how to win at fat loss, which you can download here.