Top 10 Muscle-Building Back Exercises


Unilateral movements are vital for building a body that’s well-balanced in terms of proportion and symmetry, but they usually limit the amount of weight you can work with. But the single-arm dumbbell row has it all: it lets you train each side of your back independently through a great range of motion and thereby correct strength imbalances, but it also allows you to move a lot of weight and build a big thick back.

When performed correctly, unilateral dumbbell rows will emphasize your lower lats. Place one hand on a bench to support your lower back that’s probably taken a lot of beating by now, and slightly rotate your trunk to better engage your core musculature.

Perform this exercise in the second half of your workout and aim to get 10-12 reps on each set using heavy dumbbells. Always start with your weaker side first. Keep your abs tight and go super-slow on the negative portion of each rep.


As rowing is one of the most effective movements you can do for back development, you want to make the most use of it in all of its unique versions. With the reverse-grip style, you need to tuck your elbows in close to your body so that you can keep your joints injury-free and move heavy weights that prompt serious growth. This calls for a greater engagement of the biceps, but the main target muscle is the lower part of the lats.

Furthermore, using the Smith machine will take care of stability and balance and leave you to solely focus on pulling as much weight as possible. For best gains, bend over about 45 degrees and stay close to the bar. As with any other exercise, stay away from weights that don’t allow you to maintain correct form and technique. Ensure that each rep is slow and controlled (four seconds up and four seconds down) and avoid jerky movements (typical when working with weights you’re not comfortable with).

Having one reverse-grip exercise in your routine will be quite enough, and this move is one of the best choices. Ideally, it should be done it after the heavy overhand pulls.


Seated rows will strengthen your back, shoulders and biceps while also enhancing core stability and spinal alignment. As we mentioned before, a wide grip brings more upper lat fibers into play, so you want to also use it on a lat bar for cable rows.

In the peak position, as the bar is approaching your torso, your upper arms should be perpendicular to it and parallel to the floor, and you should be able to draw a line from your elbow across your upper lats, rhombs and middle traps. Bear in mind that the further behind your body you can pull your elbows, the greater the contraction will be.

However, if the lower and middle lats are your problematic area, going with a grip that’s about shoulder-width apart and keeping your elbows close to the sides will allow you to target them better.

Do these near the end of the workout with weight that enables you to complete no more than 12 reps with good form. Bring your shoulder blades together at the end of every rep.


This version of a single-arm row can provide your lower lats with a novel stimulus for growth, promote balanced development and also strongly engage the middle head of your delts.

Additionaly, doing it in a Smitch machine will minimize pain and injury risk at the shoulder, which are common problems during upright rows for many guys. Stand sideways to the machine, grasp the bar toward the middle and use a split stance with bent knees, staying close to the apparatus. Using your back muscles, pull the bar up as high as you can but keep your back neutral. Perform the movement in a controlled and slow manner.

It’s best to do single-arm Smith machine rows toward the end of your back routine and as an alternative to the single-arm dumbbell row – there’s no need to do both since they’re very similar. Keeping your head up will make it easier to maintain a straight back. Go for high reps, preferably in the 10-12 rep range.


Dumbbell pullovers are a great but underused single-joint move that kind of mimics the straight-arm cable pull-down but allows you to really exhaust your lats and make deep muscle gains.

During the Arnold era, it was a very popular move because when done properly, it works the pecs, abs, lats and triceps in a very unique way that creates visible upper body improvements that are hard to achieve with any other movement. To get optimal results, use a decline bench, as this will help you increase time under tension by expanding the range of motion.

The reason why many people get poor results from this exercise is because they rush through the motion and don’t focus on getting a good, deep stretch – don’t be one of them. Also, keep your hips and head down so that you can really feel your lats working and get a great pump. Perform dumbbell pullovers at the end of your routine and keep the reps high, around 12-20 per set.

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