Without a doubt, training back is one of the most challenging and demanding workouts you can undertake. When you give attention and thoroughly train your back, however, you can build a strong, wide v-shaped back. And that is so critical to building a perfectly proportioned physique. While there are specific exercises target each one of these areas, creating a thick, massive back requires multi-joint moves designed to hit all of these muscles. Pull-ups, lat pulldowns and cable rows are part of a complete back program, but here are 5 exercises we believe to be the most effective for building back mass and thickness.
The Top 5 Exercises for Increasing Back Muscles
1. Bent Over Barbell Row
Bent-over barbell row focuses almost entirely on the back to add quality muscle size, thickness, and shape. Depending on your grip and the width of that grip, you can target your back muscles from top to bottom.
To start, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees slightly and keep your head up. Bend so that you are almost but not quite parallel to the floor. Let the weight hand straight down directly below your chest. Your palms should be facing toward you as you lift the weight. Use your back muscles to draw the weight up to touch your chest while keeping your elbows tucked in close to your body. Lower the weight under control and repeat.
2. One-Arm Dumbbell Row
This exercise provides a much fuller contraction over a greater range of motion as compared to barbell rows. This is also an ideal way to isolate and focus on each side of your back, resting one as your motor through working the other.
Use a bench to kneel, supporting yourself with your free hand on the bench. Move so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Let the dumbbell hang with your arm extended. Draw the weight to touch your chest, palms facing your body while keeping your elbows tucked firmly in. Release the weight and extend your arm under control. Your body angle, grip and weight will change the degree and difficulty of this top back exercise.
3. T-Bar Row
This an old-school move used to thicken the middle and outer back. T-Bar row was a favorite for Arnold for its ability to add thickness and width on the middle back as well as provide a great stretch in the lats.
Stand with your knees slightly bent and grasp the handles of a T-bar machine. Position your torso at about 45 degrees to the floor with the weight at arms’ length. Without moving your upper body, bring the weight up to touch your chest and hold for a moment at the top, then lower it under control to the start. Using standard 45-pound plates could limit your range of motion, so if possible, use smaller plates like 25s and 35s. To help prevent low-back injury, concentrate on drawing your navel in throughout the exercise, as well as maintaining the arch in your low back. Remain in the bent-over position throughout the exercise, allowing your chest to rise only slightly as you bring the bar upward. To better target the lower lats, keep your elbows close to your sides as you pull the bar up. Flaring your elbows decreases effectiveness.
4. Pull ups and Chin ups
This may seem like an exercise that’s more appropriate for the arms but a great deal of work is placed on the upper back to lift the weight of the body and lower it under control. This exercise is a true measure of strength and a hefty challenge simply because you’re lifting your full body weight. An alternative for beginner would be to use a assisted pull-up machine which uses weight to counter act your own bodyweight.
Use this machine until you can perform regular pull-up/chin-ups in proper form
Because of the position of the grip, pull ups can often be a little more difficult than chin ups. Either way, start with a bar and jump up to reach the bar. Go palms down (away from you) for pull ups and palms up (facing you) for chin ups. Keep your hands at shoulder width approximately for pull ups and just to the outside of the width of the jawline for chin ups.
The deadlift is widely-practiced exercise and for good reason. Deadlift is a great exercise program to increase strength and muscle mass by utilizing a number of different muscles of the back.
When you do this exercise, stand in front of the bar with your feet about shoulder-width apart. It’s important to note that while this exercise targets the back muscles for stability, you are not lifting with your back. Squat down with your back about a 45-degree angle to the floor and grab the bar (an alternating grip is encouraged with heavy lifting). Keep your abs pulled in tight, and lift the bar by pressing down with your legs. Continue the lift until you are standing upright, keeping the arms fully extended down. With a controlled movement, reverse the motion and lower the weight back down to the floor, using your legs as much as possible.