Although back exercises are well known, most people don’t know how to hit those muscles correctly. Believe us, back training is an art, and if you don’t do it properly, you’ll likely let your biceps do all the work, sabotaging all your back gains.
For this reason, today’s article will bring 5 back exercises for muscle growth. A strong back helps to correct your posture, stabilize your spine and keep your body structure healthy – as well as ensuring that V-Shaped torso you want.
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What You Must Know to Build Back Muscles
Before anything else, take 2 minutes to look closely at the image below. There are several muscles in your back, and understanding how muscle fibres are positioned is essential for knowing how to hit the muscles correctly.
Furthermore, it is also possible to draw a more appropriate strategy for your goals from this understanding.
If you notice that your traps or lats are underdeveloped, for example, it’s worth doing exercises that focus on these muscle groups. Anyway, you must understand the function of at least 3 of the back muscles:
- Trapezius: Is responsible for the movement of your scapula (shoulder blades);
- Rhomboid Major: Are responsible for retraction of your scapula (shoulder blades);
- Latissimus Dorsi: Are responsible for shoulder movement.
5 Back Exercises for Muscle Growth
1. Pull-Up (The King Of Back Exercises)
Many people substitute pull-ups for lat pulldowns, which are a great option but are not as complete as pull-ups. Pull-ups are a compound exercise, which works with bodyweight, and makes you activate your back muscles with much more intensity.
Also, the fact that you are sitting while doing pulldowns completely eliminates the work of the core. You see, this doesn’t mean that you should stop doing pulldowns but rather prioritize pull-ups.
By mastering your pull-ups, you will be strengthening almost every muscle in your back, arms and shoulders. In addition, it will improve your grip strength and, most importantly, your overall strength – one of the main benefits of compound exercises.
Another advantage of pull-ups is the infinite variations you can make, ensuring a complete back workout – even if you don’t go to a gym.
To perform a perfect pull-up, you should hang from the bar with your shoulders relaxed, arms straight, and your core engaged (to ensure your stability). First, you will engage your scapula, and when it is contracted, you will use your arms to try to bring your body up. If you have doubts, several videos on YouTube can help you execute this move with perfection.
If you still can’t do pull-ups, here are 3 exercises that will help you perform your first rep.
- Scapular Pull-Up: Hang on the bar, relax your shoulders and pull your body up (without bending your arms), hold at the top for a couple of seconds. This exercise will help you precisely because it is the first move you make when performing a pull-up.
- Banded Pull-Up: The advantage of doing pull-ups using the bands is that you will still work your core – whereas the machine-assisted pull-up will only work your back and arms. Remember, your core strength is an essential part of the pull-up.
- Negative Pull-Up: Hang on the bar, get yourself to the top (as you were doing a pull-up), but hold there and descend slowly. That will help you build the strength to the second pull-up stage – when you bring your body up to bring your chin over the bar.
2. Barbell Bent-Over Row
This is another critical compound exercise for building a solid back. The bent-over row barbell simultaneously works your lats and biceps, increasing your pulling power generously.
Grab the barbell with an overhand grip to perform the movement properly – slightly wider than your shoulder width. Keep your back straight and bend your upper body until it’s almost perpendicular to the floor. Row the weight upwards into the lower part of your chest, hold for a bit, and return to the start position controlling the whole movement.
This is a complex move, so if you are a beginner, skip this exercise. When you’re ready to execute it, focus on mastering the movement first and then increase the load progressively. Never put on more weight than you can handle, otherwise, you will get hurt. Don’t rush things, and respect your body!
3. Single-Arm Row Dumbbell
Your position and movement will be similar to the Barbell Bent-Over Row, as you will work with your body tilted, focusing on bringing the weight upwards to activate your lats. The advantage is that, as it’s a one-sided exercise, you can use a bench or hard surface to support yourself – which might be easier for beginners, as you won’t need to engage your core.
Pick up the dumbbell with a neutral grip and hold it with your arm extended – always keeping your back straight. Focus on bringing the dumbbell to your chest using your back and shoulder muscles, not your arms. At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder and back muscles. Lower the dumbbell slowly – controlling the move – until your arm is fully extended again. That’s one rep.
Tip: When I’m doing these exercises, I like to think there’s a spring that connects and brings my elbows towards my lats. Keep this in mind, and you will ensure that you are engaging your lats, not your biceps.
4. Inverted Row
The inverted row is another great exercise, as it is a bodyweight exercise that will work your traps, lats, arms and core. By strengthening these muscles, you will improve your pull-ups to build back muscle and improve your overall strength at the same time.
Hang from the bar with your feet touching the floor so that your body is leaning. Pull up until your chest comes as close to the bar as possible. While performing the exercise, you must maintain a stable position – contract your glutes and keep your core engaged to ensure correct posture.
5. Kneeling Lat Pulldown
You should focus on kneeling lat pulldown – instead of seated lat pulldown – so you can engage your core during exercise. Remember that a strong core will help you to execute complex movements, of different muscle groups, with much more ease and stability.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to focus on compound exercises rather than isolation exercises – like seated lat pulldown. We won’t say much about the technique, as the moves you will use to pulldowns will be precisely the same as those you would use in a pull-up. The key is to mentalize your lats while performing the exercise to ensure you are activating them correctly.
Tip: The trick that helps me stop using my arms, focusing on the lats, was to understand that you want to bring the world down, not pull your body up. Pay attention to your arm, and if you’re feeling a pump, it means you’re hitting your biceps more than your lats. It’s essential to work on different pulldown variations to maximize your results!
Founder and Editor of TheLifesty. Passionate about Health & Fitness and enthusiast about changes. Interested in everything that improves the quality of life.