Summer is just around the corner and before you know it your back will be exposed to the masses. I’m sure you have read tons of articles and watched an endless number of videos on “How to sculpt the perfect back” just to leave you more confused on what back workout will work for you. If you are overwhelmed you are not alone. The list below will hopefully give you a reboot or restart for your next back routine.
This approach may be a little different this time around we took experience and science and molded it into one amazing back workout! We composed this list to make it easy for you to follow and understand. Other things we considered were:
- Availability of equipment at gyms
- How Popular exercises are
- Muscle intensity and Stimulation
Here are the top exercises for muscle growth, plus four complete workouts that you can add to your arsenal to get a perfectly toned back!
Top Back Exercises
- Bent-Over Row
- T-Bar Row
- Seated Row
- Straight Arm Pulldown
- Dumbbell Pullover
Why we choose this: Deadlifts are the king of all exercises (in my opinion) This pull exercise targets more than just your back. This is a full-body workout in itself, from your legs, traps, calves, and more this exercise is crucial for overall back development.
No, this move is just not for powerlifters or bodybuilders, EVERYONE can do it! Remember everyone was a beginner! Once you master this move, you can start to master the other variations, lift crazy amounts of weight, and build more muscle to help you burn more fat!
Barbell Rack Pull
Barbell Deadlift (From the floor)
When developing a strong back is the goal stick with the traditional deadlift as well as the rack pull. Although the sumo deadlift does target parts of the back that exercise is more geared towards the glutes.
Your training session: If you are aiming to go heavy (between 6-8 reps per set) start with the deadlift first then proceed to other back exercises. If you are doing deads at a higher volume then you can perform them later in the workout. They might not be as taxing but they will surely challenge your body,
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Why we choose this: This is an ultimate back builder. It hits multiple parts of the back, upper, lower, traps, lats, and the spinal erector. There is so much research to back up this claim! This workout will benefit men and women.
Bent-over row variations for overall back growth:
- Overhand grip bent-over rows
- Underhand grip bent-over rows
- Bent-over dumbbell or kettlebell rows
- Pendlay rows (each rep starts from the floor)
Your training session: Start with these at the beginning of the workout in lower rep ranges. Start with 6-8 or 8-10 reps, try not to go too heavy. Remember we are not powerlifters (unless you are). If you are too taxed from deadlifts skip this exercise or move it to your second back day during the week.
Why we choose this: Ah, Back to the basics. Having an overhead pulling exercise in your arsenal is always a good move. This move has so many variations. Each variation has its own advantage. You can choose from the wide-grip, close-grip, or neutral grip. Pull-ups are a great stretch for your lats and overall range of motion. Time to mix it up!
Pull-up Variations for a massive back:
- Wide-grip pull-ups (overhand grip)
- Chin-ups (underhand grip)
- Neutral grip pull-ups (palms facing inward)
- Weighted pull-ups or chins
- Machine-assisted pull-ups
- Band-assisted pull-ups
People think assisted pull-ups are a bit wimpy. These pull-ups can be just challenging or can assist you with learning and perfecting the traditional pull-ups. If you are totally taxed out these are a great finishing move.
Your training session: If you have already perfected the pull-up you can use this exercise as a warm-up. If you seem to be struggling with this movement you can definitely use it as a way to build strength. Try all variations to give your workout a twist.
Why we choose this: Although it seems like the bent-over row many serious lifters know this move is not. Bonus! You can add much more weight.
Your hand placement can change many times with this exercise. Changing your grips and hand position will target different parts of the back. For example, a wider grip will put more emphasis on the latissimus dorsi.
T-bar row variations for total back growth
Your training session: Keep this movement in the front end of your workout, especially if you plan on going heavy. You can perform this after deadlifts because it’s easier on the lower back. Always be mindful of your lower back. If you find you are struggling with form, try a seated cable row.
Why we choose this: We love our barbell exercises but this exercise is a tad different in compared to the traditional row. Why we love it: This movement keeps constant tension in your muscles the whole time. WIN! So many variations of this move and plus most gyms have a wide range of handles that you can choose from.
Seated Row Variations for muscle growth:
- Cable row (narrow, wide, medium, overhand, underhand, neutral grip)
- High-cable standing row
- Machine seated row
- Single-arm cable row (seated, kneeling, half-kneeling)
Your training session: Similar to machines, you can load up cables without completely taxing your system. Machine and cables are best done towards the end of your training sessions, so do not be afraid to add more volume upwards in the 15-20 range.
Straight Arm Pull-down
Why we choose this: A variation of the classic lat pulldown. This variation requires you to stand keeping elbows locked the entire movement. The straight-arm pulldown has a long-range of motion and is very helpful for those not able to feel their back during conventional pull-down exercises.
Straight Arm Pull-down Variations for a Wide Back
- Straight Arm Band Pull-down
- Straight Arm Pull-down with dumbbells
- Alternate Lat Pull-down (with handles)
- Wide Grip Pull-down
- Traditional Lat Pull-down
Your training session: If you are using it as a mass-building move aim for 8-12 reps. This can also be used as a warmup or finisher.
Why we choose this: This compound move gives you more bang for your buck. Working both your back and chest simultaneously your lats and pecs will be activated immediately. Your lats will be on fire by the time are done.
Pullover Variations for a Thick Back::
Your training session: This move is a great finisher. Keep the reps in the 15-20 range for an awesome pump.
Why we choose this: This is a classic exercise that works on each side independently. You can move a lot with this exercise. You can move even more with the use of straps.
It’s back day baby!
The strongest powerlifters or lifters in general still use straps to this day. Why, wouldn’t you? Go hard or go home! Even better go heavy!
You definitely will get a greater range of motion when training each side separately. Try putting one of your hands on a bench or a rack to give you better support. Remember to always keep your core tight
Single-arm dumbbell row variations for back growth:
- Single-arm row with one hand on a bench
- Single-arm row with one hand and one leg on a bench
- Single-arm “Meadows row” (landmine to the side)
Your training session: This is probably one of the most crucial exercises to perform. Do this towards the middle or end of your workout and aim for 8-12 reps.
Get Rid of Back Fat – Best Back Workouts
Heavy Back Workout
Everyone loves a heavy back day focusing the majority of the workout on compound movements. Time to build that massive back.
- 4 Sets, 8-12 reps (rest 2 minutes in between sets)
2. 3 Sets, 6-8 reps (rest 1:30 in between sets)
If the movement is rather difficult using a band or weight-assisted machine is just fine.
3 Sets, 6-8 reps (rest 1:30 in between sets)
Perform with one hand on an upright bench, if possible
3 sets, 12-15 reps (rest 1:30 in between sets)
Row Your Boat Workout
Rowing crucial to back width. If you are doing two back days a week this workout will help complete that task. Great as a standalone workout, these movements focus mostly on horizontal pulls.
Bent Over Row
- 4 sets, 6-8 reps (rest 2 minutes in between sets)
Don’t rest between sides, rest between sets. Perform all reps on one side before switching to another side.
2. 3 sets, 10-12 reps (rest 1:30 minutes in between sets) (left side)
3 sets, 10-12 reps (rest 1:30 minutes in between sets) (right side)
Seated Cable Row
3 sets, 10-12 reps (rest 1 minute in between sets)
Free weights although a very important aspect of back training, is not always a necessity for an effective back day. That high rep and short rest time type of workout will get your heart pumping in no time. The great thing is you can still move a massive amount of weight without putting tremendous stress on your joints.
Time to get an awesome stretch in your back, you can always perform assisted pull-ups if needed.
1. 4 sets, 10-12 (rest 1min.)
Seated Cable Row
Use a wide-grip utilizing an underhand or overhand grip.
2. 4 sets, 12 reps (rest 1 min.)
Smith Machine bent-over row
Use an underhand grip but overhand is just as good. Use straps as needed
3. 4 sets, 12 reps (rest 1 min.)
Are you ready to bring sexy back? Looking for a custom workout? Contact Jay here for more info.