This article contains 17 back exercises that will help you grow a big back. Every zone of your back is targeted with these exercises, and you will see a video reference of how to do each back exercise below!
Let’s first dive into the “7 Back Exercises that grow your back fast” which you can see in my YouTube video above.
I have to admit that back development was a big-time struggle for me.
The best thing that helped me make back gains, is diversifying my pulling workouts, using different angles to target every back muscle and fiber possible.
As you can see on the picture below, the smart & hard work I put in, paid off overtime.
Now, I want YOU to make the same gains I did, while avoiding the things that don’t work.
The anatomy of the back musculature is quite unique, as it is made up of a variety of muscles.
I dare to say it is one of the most pleasing, aesthetic groups to look at.
Now, beneath the surface of the back, there are many other little muscles that have stabilizing functions.
However, the ones on the surface are our main target today.
- Latissimus dorsi
- Teres major
- Spinal erectors
One of the most underrated back muscles is the Teres major.
As it’s placed on the upper, outer portion of the back, it accounts for the width of your back.
If your goal is building an aesthetic physique, this muscle might as well be what makes or breaks your physique.
Properly developed Teres Major & Latissimus dorsi will make your waist look smaller, even if yours happens to be wide.
Still don’t believe me? Well… Arnold Schwarzenegger’s waist was 34 inches, but his insane back development made his big waist look TINY.
This is exactly why many of the back exercises on here focus on those specific areas, to give you that stunning V-taper.
Now that we’ve got some basic anatomy out of the way, let’s get into the sauce of this.
Exercise 1/7 – Single Arm Barbell Row
Reps: 8-10 each side
Rest time: 60-90 Seconds
Targets: Rhomboids, latissimus dorsi
This is an amazing exercise that targets both the upper and lower portions of your back.
The single arm barbell row is the PERFECT exercise, when your goal is building more thickness in the back.
- Set up a barbell in a hollow pipe like you would for a T-Bar row
- Load the barbell and stand next to it
- Bend over with knees slightly bend and torso straight
- Grab the barbell with one arm
- Extend your body up slightly to lift the barbell off of the ground
- Place your opposite arm on your leg for balance
- Pull the barbell up explosively, passing the torso line with your elbow
- Hold peak flexion briefly
- Go down slowly on the eccentric phase
Additional tips: At the top of each repetition, puff your chest up, by getting the shoulder blades together – This will allow for OPTIMAL back activation. On top of that, avoid using inertial movements to help yourself and instead, focus on a nice, clean execution, that will allow you to keep the tension on the back.
Exercise 2/7 – Bent over underhand row
Rest time: 60-90 Seconds
Targets: Rhomboids, latissimus dorsi
Old-school bodybuilders like Arnold, Franco Columbu and their fellow trainees, mostly relied on horizontal rowing movements for back gains.
Not only are those exercises extremely strenuous (in a good way) for the back musculature, but the bent over position allows for PROPER core activation as well.
You want a big back and a strong, well-developed core? Do rows.
- Set up a loaded barbell on the ground in front of you
- Step with your feet at shoulder width and knees slightly bent
- Bend over, keeping the torso straight
- Grab the barbell with an underhand grip, at about shoulder width
- Extend the body up to about a 45-degree angle – This will set the lower lats on fire
- Row the weight up in an explosive concentric
- Slowly let the weight go down, keeping tension on the back
Exercise 3/7 – Static Hold Pullups
Rest time: 60-90 Seconds
Being able to pull your own weight up vertically is the primary sign of proper back development and strength.
If you’re having difficulty developing that width, do include vertical pull-ups.
For this variation, we’re also adding a static hold- This will set your entire back on fire and will also help your biceps get stronger and bigger
- Dead hang on the pull-up bar, holding it wider than shoulder width
- Pull yourself up, until the chin reaches the bar
- Hold an isometric, static position up top for up to a second
- Slowly go down on the eccentric phase
Exercise 4/7 – Pendlay Row
Rest time: 60-90 Seconds
Targets: Traps, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, lower back
Many trainees have wide backs, but how often do you see a combination of width and thickness?
If you’re strunggling with thickness, this exercise is for you – It BLASTS the lower portion of the latissimus dorsi and is one of the best traditional back exercises. 1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC449729/
- Set up the loaded barbell on the ground
- Stand behind the barbell with feet at shoulder width and knees slightly bent
- Bend over with your torso straight and grab the barbell very slightly wider than shoulder width
- Extend your torso up, lifting the bar off of the ground
- Look slightly up and row the bar to the lower portion of the abdomen
- Hold the contraction up top briefly
- Go down slowly on the eccentric part of the movement
Exercise 5/7 – Iso lat pullins
Reps: 45 seconds time under tension on each side
Rest time: 60-90 Seconds
Targets: Teres Major, Lats
Now that we’re through some heavy, overload movements, let’s see more isolated movements that will allow for prominent activation of the back musculature.
To start off, we go uni-laterally with an Iso lat Pull-in – A great exercise that will help you establish better mind-muscle connection with the back.
- Grab the handle of the higher pulley and get in the center, between both pulleys
- Place your arm on the pec/delt of the worked side
- Pull the weight, contracting the back musculature
- Hold peak flexion briefly, then let go down slowly on the eccentric phase
Exercise: 6/7 -Cable Shrugs Targets: Traps
Reps: 8-10 until failure
Dropset: Decrease weight 30% and do another 8-10 reps
Rest time: 75 seconds Seconds
What’s a good back without traps developed like a mountain? This exercise will set your trapezius on FIRE.
We’re also doing a dropset to further demolish the upper back department.
- Set up a straight bar on the lower pulley
- Bend over, grab the bar and stand up straight with knees bent slightly
- Keep the torso straight, then shrug your shoulders up explosively
- Hold the contraction of the traps for a second, then go down slowly
Exercise 7/7 – Dead hang hyperextension Targets: Lower Back
Rest time: 60-75 seconds
Targets: Spinal erectors (lower back)
Width and thickness are nice, but you also want that DICED christmas tree down there.
Proper development of the lower back is of prime importance for an aesthetically-pleasing to look at back.
We need to note here that the spinal erectors are spine-stabilizing muscles.
Stabilizing muscles are mostly made out of slow-twitch fibers, meaning that they will respond better to higher reps, as slow fibers were made for endurance.
- Set yourself up on the hyperextension machine
- Grab a weight plate and keep torso straight
- Look up slightly
- Let your body go down slowly
- Extend the body up in a moderate pace and avoid overextending
- Optionally, you can contract the glutes up top as well!
Thought we were done?
Here are 10 more back exercises for growing your back fast! For the best results make sure that you train your back at least twice per week with a volume of 10-20 sets per week.
While you may not see these back muscles that much, make no mistake, others will. You want to leave an impression when you walk away.
Not to mention, building a strong back helps you build a good foundation for not only other exercises you might perform, but day to day life as well.
So many people complain of back pain as they grow older, but if you’ve done the time in the gym in your younger years now, when you do hit old age, you’ll be able to keep up with your active lifestyle.
Building a great back requires you focus on both back thickness as well as width.
These top 10 back exercises help you accomplish both.
Get a good mix in your workout program and it won’t be long before you’re seeing amazing results.
Underhand Grip Lat Pull Down
When most guys hit the pull-down station, they prefer to immediately go to overhand grip variations.
It’s time to mix it up.
Instead of the generic overhand grip, opt for an underhand grip lat pull-down, which will target both your lats and rhomboids especially, while also hitting the biceps to a degree as well. 2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24662157
This is one of the underestimated back exercises.
The key secret to performing these for maximum results is keeping your hands closer than shoulder width apart and controlling the weight on the eccentric portion. If you feel you can’t control the weight, lighten the load.
Often it’s far better to go lighter and really feel that mind-muscle connection than go heavy and use every muscle in the body to help you move that load.
- Grab the bar with an underhand, shoulder-width grip
- Sit down on the pulldown machine, comfortably tucking the legs under the pads
- Extend the torso back slightly to avoid having the bar hit your chin
- Look up slightly
- Pull the bar to the lower portion of your chest
- Hold contraction at the bottom briefly
- Go back up slowly on the eccentric phase
Close Grip Weighted Pull-Ups
Here’s another good one for your lats: the close grip weighted pull-up will help you put maximum emphasis on the upper back, especially in the mid region and while also helping to increase back width as well.
On top of that, bicep development will also be on point with this one.
When doing this exercise, be sure to think of contracting from the lats up. Many people use their arms to bring the body upwards, which does benefit you, but not in the manner you’re hoping for here.
Again, the mind-muscle connection is key.
If you can do more than a couple of these back exercises without an issue, try and hold the position at the top of the movement for a few seconds. This will add extra stress to the muscles, helping to jump-start the progress you make. It will also completely eliminate the risk of you using momentum, which is a common issue in this exercise.
- Set yourself up with a weight belt
- Hang on the pull-up bar, holding it with a neutral grip (palms facing one another)
- Look up slightly, keep feet together and pull yourself up
- Hold the peak flexion of the back briefly and return down slowly
Underhand Grip Barbell Row
To really dial in on your lats and mid-back, the underhand grip barbell rows is a superior choice when it comes to back exercises.
The nice thing with this is that when using the underhand grip, you’ll really be able to feel the squeeze in the center of the back, targeting all those muscles maximally.
Note that in order to really feel that squeeze however, you are going to have to ensure you row the weight up fully, using the full range of motion. If you can’t feel the squeeze, re-assess your form.
Too many swing the weight upwards, not using the range of motion they should and let momentum drive the movement pattern.
It’s also important when in this position that you keep the back flat as well, never rounding or arcing it, which would just place unnecessary stress on the back and could set you up for injury.
- Set the barbell and load it in front of you
- Place feet at shoulder width
- Bend knees slightly
- Keep torso straight
- Bend over and grab the barbell with an underhand grip
- Extend all the way up
- Bend over ever so slightly
- Row the bar to the lower portion of the abs, contracting the lower back
- Return down slowly
Underhand Grip Seated Row
Moving on to the next underhand exercise that will make your back muscles explode with proper training is the underhand grip seated row.
Many guys often wonder whether the seated row or bent over row is the superior choice but the truth is they both have their advantages.
You can often pull more weight with a bent over row, however with the seated row, you can achieve a deeper range of motion, really getting maximum strength on the muscle fibers.
This too is a key component in evoking the muscle growth process, so ideally you want to get both in your workout routine.
When doing the underhand-seated row, go lighter so you can use that full stretch principle and move through the full range of motion.
Watch that you are doing the movement pattern using your back muscles and not just driving the weight back by leaning back. This is a common mistake that will significantly reduce your potential gains.
Feel free to alter your grip width over time to target different regions of your back. You might use a close grip one session to hit the mid back more and the next day, opt for a wide grip to maximize width better.
- Set up a wide bar on the cable row machine
- Sit down and place your feet on the platform
- Grab the bar narrower than shoulder width
- Look up slightly and pull the bar to the lower portion of the abs
- Keep elbows close to the body, contracting the back muscles
- Hold peak flexion then return down slowly
Wide Grip Pull-Ups
Speaking of wide grip, no article on the 10 best back exercises would be complete without mention of wide grip pull-ups.
Pull-ups really are the gold standard of back exercises for many men because they show off impressive strength and are a foundational lift to really get your back growing.
It’s all fine to hoist big weight with barbells and dumbbells but if you can’t do a basic pull-up, you have work to do.
The wide grip pull-up is great for hitting your entire back region, so you?ll get maximum muscle stimulation here. Just like with any pull-up, ensuring that you aren’t swinging the legs up but rather keeping the body in as stationary of a position as possible.
Once you get to a point of being able to do 10 pull-ups, add some weight to this exercise to make it more challenging. You can do so by either wearing a weighted vest or attaching weight to your body with a weight belt.
- Grab the bar with wide overhand grip and go in a dead hang position
- Look up slightly, keep feet together and pull yourself up, until your chin is at the level of the bar
- Hold the contraction up top for half a second
- Go down slowly on the eccentric phase, maintaining tension
Lower Back Hyperextension
The lower back hyperextension can be performed by holding a plate, which is very common or how I prefer to do it by holding a barbell with both hands.
By using a barbell instead of a plate, you put less stress on the neck and are still able to maximize the amount of resistance that you use.
Be sure to move through the full range of motion, lowering the body down and then raising back up as you complete this exercise. Slow and steady is key and if you can, hold the position at the top of the exercise for a brief second to ensure peak muscular tension is reached. You want every single one of those muscle fibers firing up.
If you’re a beginner, this one can also be done with bodyweight only.
- Set up a barbell in front of the hyperextension station
- Set yourself up on the pads comfortably
- Keep torso straight and bend over to grab the barbell
- Look up slightly and extend up with a moderate pace
- Contract the lower back up top, avoiding an exaggerated extension – This will keep your vertebrae safe!
- Optionally, contract glutes up top with a further, slight torso extension
Dumbbell 1 Arm Row
In addition to having the regular barbell row in your plan, also consider incorporating the single arm dumbbell bent over row in your back exercises arsenal.
These are great because they allow you to devote all your focus to just a single arm at a time, which is going to help prevent any unwanted muscular imbalances from forming.
Additionally, because all your strength and nervous system output is going towards just one side, you can typically lift more weight as well.
When doing this muscle exercise, it’s important that you focus on keeping your elbow locked in and move through the movement pattern using a very slow and controlled motion. Really focus on squeezing the muscles during the eccentric to maximize progress.
- Place a dumbbell on the side of a bench
- Put your knee on the bench, forming a 90-degree angle
- Place the other leg as you feel balanced and comfortable
- Keep torso straight and reach for the dumbbell
- Grab the dumbbell and lift your scapula up slightly
- Look forward, then row the dumbbell up, keeping the elbow close to the body
- Go past the line of the body with the elbow, contracting the back
- Return down slowly after brief peak flexion, stretching & maintaining tension on the back musculature
The barbell deadlift is classically thought of as a leg builder, but don’t forget it’s also one of the superior back exercises.
If you want that wide, thick, powerful look, deadlifts need to be in your game plan.
Because this is such a key mass builder for the body, you’ll want to perform it early on in your workout routine, devoting as much effort to it as possible.
Do it later on in the workout and you simply won’t have the juice left to lift heavy and maximize your gains.
Good form on this move is a must, so if you aren’t quite sure how to do it using good form, be sure to get help in person from a trained professional. Sometimes with a technical exercise like this, having that in person assistance is key.
- Set up the loaded barbell in front of you
- Stand behind the bar, so that it is at about the middle of your feet
- Bend over with your torso straight and head looking forward
- Grab the bar with an overhand shoulder width grip, while squatting down slightly, but keeping the hips above the knees (!)
- Lift the barbell up, extending the body
- Do NOT overextend up top, but aim for a good contraction in the back musculature
- Go down slowly, until the bar slightly touches the ground (Don’t rest at the bottom!)
If you need a break from regular pull-ups, chin-ups can be an excellent alternative. The grip position on this exercise is reversed, so you?ll stimulate the muscles in a different manner and this will lead to more emphasis being placed on the biceps rather than strictly the back.
You?ll still get great lat and upper back activation with this exercise however, so don’t think you?ll be shunned in those areas. You can still most definitely use this as a powerful back builder.
As you perform this move, again, keep the body as stationary as possible, avoiding swinging it back and forth as you do your reps.
If you can do more than 10 reps, here again, try adding some weight to make it more challenging.
- Hang dead on the bar, holding it with an underhand, shoulder width grip
- Look up slightly and keep feet together
- Pull yourself up, until the chin is at bar level
- Hold peak flexion briefly and return down slowly on the eccentric portion
Close Grip Seated Row
Lastly you have the close grip seated row. This is perfect for hitting the mid-back while also targeting your lats and will help you really zone in on the mind-muscle connection.
If you want to boost the intensity of this move even further, after doing your first set, drop the weight by 30% and then do a mirror rep set by doing a second for 8-10 reps.
This will finish the muscles off and is an excellent way to end your back exercises routine. Check out our other muscle exercises if you liked these.
- Sit down on the cable row machine
- Place feet on the platform comfortably with knees slightly bent
- Reach for the V-Bar and extend the body back
- Keep the body relatively straight or slightly past the 90-degree angle
- Look slightly up, then pull the V-Bar with the elbows close to the body
- Contract the back powerfully, then let the weight return back down slowly, stretching the back
You can optionally let the torso go forward to get a nice stretch of the back.
If you’ve liked these back exercises, make sure to check out our exercises section, where we have similar articles for ALL muscle groups!
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