When many people start to get interested in working out, they focus almost exclusively on arms
and chest, neglecting legs, shoulders and back. It’s understandable that beginners would spend
most of their time building up the obvious muscles associated with body building, they’re really
cheating themselves in a lot of ways if they don’t develop a well-rounded regimen targeting all the
major muscle groups. And that includes the back.
Benefits of Building a Strong Back
While it might not be as clearly noticeable as having massive biceps, developing a muscular back
has a number of significant positive effects. One benefit to doing back exercises is that it will help
you with bench pressing.
Your upper and mid back help to stabilize the shoulder joints, and the stronger your shoulders are, the more weight you can lift. To go along with this, almost all back exercises also target your arm muscles too, so when you’re building up your back, you’ll see a benefit to your arms as well.
Another advantage to concentrating on your back is that your back contains a number of the larger
muscle groups in the body. By training the back, you’ll burn calories and increase your metabolism.
Finally, building up your back will improve your appearance in a handful of ways. A strong back
leads to to better posture, meaning you’ll stand taller and appear more confident. Studies show
that shoulder size is the primary initial thing women notice in a man when evaluating him
romantically. To build a V-shaped torso, you’ve got to target the back.
Exercises for the Back
So what are the right exercises for an ideal back day at the gym? There are a number of excellent
exercises targeting the back, any of which can be incorporated into an effective back day regimen.
Here are a few:
Pullups and Chinups:
One of the most iconic exercises around, the pullup and/or chinup can be
an outstanding back-targeting exercise. The key to using the pullup or chinup is technique, as both
the form you use and the stance you take will effect how much you’re working your back.
The wide grip pullup especially is well suited for training the back, as the wide grip is optimized to
putting the emphasis on the upper lats. The key to making your pullups work your back is imagine
that you’re pulling your shoulder blades to your back pockets as you perform the pullup. This will
ensure that you’re using your back muscles rather than your biceps to perform the exercise.
With proper form, pullups and chinups are a classic and effective part of back day.
The dumbbell row is an exercise that allows you to work a lot of weight with a full
range of motion, and using heavy weight is essential to making the most of a back workout.
Another nice thing about the dumbbell row is that if you’re incorporating it later into your back day
routine, it offers a good amount of support for your lower back, crucial if your back has already
taken a fair amount of abuse through earlier parts of the day.
One little tip is that if you slightly rotate your trunk while lifting, you’ll engage your core as well.
A number of people shy away from the deadlift, thinking that it’s either bad for the lower
back, or that it’s a dangerous exercise in general. While it’s true that without proper form the
deadlift can lead to injury, when performed correctly the deadlift can be the cornerstone of a lifting
The deadlift is especially great for both your lower and upper back, and is perfectly safe for the
lower back if you employ the correct form. To execute a proper deadlift, starting from the right
position is critical. Your shoulders should be either perfectly in line with the bar or slightly behind it,with your hands just beyond your shoulder’s width. Your lower back should stay naturally arched as
you pull your torso upward and thrust your hips forward.
Once you’ve mastered the form, you’ll see the benefit the deadlift brings to your entire back.
Lat pulldowns are a fantastic exercise for targeting certain muscles in the back.
One aspect of lat pulldowns making them strong for a beginner or someone new to dedicating
focus to the back is that the machine allows you to easily control the weight you’re working with.
The key to getting the most from lat pulldowns is to perform it with a slow, deliberate tempo.
Rather than heaving quickly, you should be going slow enough to feel your lat muscles working as
you pull down and release upward.
One general note about back day and trying to develop a strong back: You’re going to want to
focus on higher weights and low reps rather than low weight and high reps. The muscles in the
back are large, and high rep workouts aren’t going to be effective in fully maximizing your workout.
Go with a weight on the high end of what you can tolerate, and your back day will be one of the
most effective parts of your overall fitness regime.