For most of us, building an impressive, huge back is all about achieving a powerful V-shape that makes you look more dominant and “alpha” while also giving the impression of a small, incredibly fit waist.
But perhaps more importantly, doing a lot of back work will also injury-proof your body in the most effective way possible, correcting any weaknesses and muscular imbalances in the back area and strengthening the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons.
5 Super Effective Back Exercises (You probably are not doing)
There are many ways to create a great back training regime, and we assume that you’ve already have your favorite set of exercises. But if you’ve been training for a while now and you’re still not quite pleased with the results, you might be selling yourself short by neglecting these 5 super effective back exercises!
If you’ve been searching for that one almost magical exercise that holds the key to building maximum muscle, look no further. The deadlift has always been and will always be the number one exercise you can do to pack on size like a pro, especially when it comes to developing the hamstrings and the lower back. In fact, it’s a basic functional move you simply can’t afford not to do and you know it! If you’ve been avoiding it so far because of a fear of injury, it’s time to learn how to do it correctly and unlock your full mass-building potential.
To keep pressure off of your spine and lower back muscles, always keep your back straight. As you start the pull off the floor, take a deep breath and hold it – this will increase torso stability by bracing the spine and helping the muscles generate more force. As you pull the weight, make sure that your shoulders and hips come up simultaneously, at the same relative speed.
In order to prevent injury and hit the muscles you’re trying to target, the motion should be slow and controlled at all times and your feet have to stay flat on the floor all throughout the movement.
#2. Meadows Rows
Meadow rows can be one of the most effective back exercises for anyone struggling with a stubborn back. This modified version of a one-arm dumbbell row can help you put on mass and carve detail like no other exercise, so make sure to include it in your routine if you want stellar back development.
- Load up a T-bar or put weight on one end of an Olympic barbell and place the other end of it in the corner of two walls. Stand on the floor next to the loaded end of the bar in a staggered stance with the leading foot perpendicular with the bar.
- Bend over at the waist and lean forward so that your torso is almost close to parallel with the floor. Keeping your knees slightly bent, grasp the loaded end of the bar with your left arm with an overhand grip and put your other hand on your thigh for support.
- Begin the exercise by rowing the weight up so that your left hand ends up just outside your chest. As you lift up, squeeze your back muscles and hold the top contracted position for one second. Don’t allow any swinging of the torso.
- Lower the weight back down without letting the plates touch the floor.
#3. J Rope Pull-down
Since the lat fibers don’t run completely vertical nor completely horizontal, you can’t fully target them with most traditional back exercises. And that’s where the J pull-down comes in. It’s a kneeling exercise that allows for a full activation of the lats by forcing your arms to work according to the slanted movement pattern of your lat fibers, and helps stimulate maximum middle back muscle recruitment and growth.
By combining a stiff-arm pull-down with a modified seated row, the J rope pull-down packs the best of both worlds in one powerful move, and that’s what makes is one of the more effective back exercises around.
In other words, this exercise combines scapular depression and scapular retraction in the most effective way and can exhaust the upper lats in a very unique way that enables better mass gains.
- Position yourself on your knees in front of an adjustable cable machine with a lat pulldown bar positioned at the high setting. Keeping your shoulders down, grab the bar with an overhand grip at shoulder width with arms fully extended and elbows flared out.
- Start the movement like a stiff-arm pull-down then smoothly transition into a rowing movement. While keeping the torso stationary, pull the bar down until it touches your chest and you feel a decent stretch in your lats. Pause for a second, then return to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
- Don’t round your upper back and don’t slouch your shoulders. Make sure to sit tall with your chest up and shoulders back and down all throughout the movement.
- Keep your head in a relaxed but fixed position.
#4. Doug Brignole’s – Lat Pull-ins
Lat pull-ins were developed by bodybuilding coach and biomechanics expert Doug Brignole, who claims that this exercise is the ideal lat movement and many experienced bodybuilders seem to support his view.
In other words, lat pull-ins can make up for what other traditional back movements lack in terms of lat activation, more specifically rowing movements and lat pull-downs and pull-ups, because they allow you to stretch and contract your lats in a far superior way.
Unlike the standard pull-up or pull-down where the resistance is pulled vertically and downward, and unlike the standard row where the resistance is pulled horizontally and backwards, lat pull-ins place the resistance directly out to the side of the body where it is then pulled inward, which emphasizes the moving of the humerus toward the origin of the lats on the spine and thereby engages the lats in the most effective way.
This is not to say that you should completely ditch rows, pull-ups and pull-downs because they are great movements which certainly have an important role in a well-balanced and complete training routine, but in order to maximize the tension on your lats and take your back development to the next level, you’d greatly benefit from adding lat pull-ins into the mix as well.
Lat pull-ins are ideally done with one arm and a cable that’s coming from an angle between 45 and 60 degrees from the side – 45 degrees are better for working the upper lat fibers, while 60 degrees are ideal for the lower lat fibers.
- Place a bench a few feet away from a cable machine and set a single pulley attachment as high as possible.
- Extend your arm directly to your side at a 45/60 degree angle and grab the attachment with an underhand grip.
- Slightly tilt your upper body in the direction of the machine and pull the resistance inward, toward your side, until you get a good contraction in the lats. Your elbow should move inward and toward the spine.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
#5. Dumbbell Incline Rows
As flawed as they are, rowing movements are absolutely necessary for building up your overall back width and thickness because they help target multiple muscle groups in the back complex, including the traps, rhomboids and small muscles of the mid and upper back. That being said, there are many rowing variations out there today and to get maximum benefits, you have to choose the most effective one, which we strongly believe to be the dumbbell incline row.
This is because dumbbell incline rows utilize the same basic movement as the regular bent-over row, but with one big difference: your body is leaning against an incline bench during the movement, which makes the exercise significantly more effective. Why? For starters, it makes it harder to use momentum, so it enables you to maximize the tension on the lats and mid back. Also, since your upper body is fully supported, the amount of stress placed on your lower back is reduced drastically.
Finally, this version helps you maintain optimal rowing form all throughout the motion and better target your traps and lats, which makes incline rows one of the most effective back exercises for building mass.
In addition, dumbbell incline rows also hit the deep posterior and anterior spinal muscles, which are extremely important for building a powerful core and improving balance and strength.
This exercise can be done either with dumbbells or by attaching a D-bar to both ends on a Double Cable Station.
- Lie face down on an incline bench with your chest lying on the pad and your feet touching the ground for support and take a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip and arms straight.
- Begin the movement by pulling through the elbows, then row the dumbbells to your sides by retracting the shoulder blades and flexing your elbows.
- Pause at the top of the motion and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Lower the dumbbells to the starting position, making sure you achieve full extension.
- Don’t let your chest come off the pad.
- If you find that you can’t squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement, switch to lighter weights.
These five highly effective back exercises could be exactly the boost you need to build a back that makes heads turn. Make no mistake, it takes a lot of work to make your back really stand out and it’s going to take more than pull-ups and bent-over rows to get there.
The back is a big and complex muscle area and focusing on just a few good exercises won’t give you sustainable progress in the long term. So shake things up by adding these five super effective back exercises to your routine and get a step closer to the monster back of your dreams!