10 Best Back Exercises You should Include (Sample plan)
To build a huge back with the great definition you need to know the best back exercises first. There are a lot of exercises to build back muscles, but I am sharing the best exercises of my choice for building a huge muscle mass in your back.
I see many gym-goers especially beginners focus more on developing their front muscle groups like chest, biceps, shoulders, etc. But they ignore the back-muscle portion of their body probably because it can not be seen from the front side.
If you are a beginner then probably you are also doing the same thing. Ignoring back muscle groups can cause serious problems like bad posture, shoulder mobility issues, weak core, etc.
On the other hand, if you don’t work on your back muscles it will look flat from the back and no muscle definition at all. It will give you a very bad look, well-developed chest, biceps, shoulders and flat, undeveloped back muscles with very little definition.
To build a massive 3D back you need to know which exercise targets specifically which muscles. Because in our back there are so many muscle groups work together. Let’s check my list of best exercises for back.
Best Lower Back Exercises
Lower back muscle is the weakest part of the back among the majority of the people. It is the most important part of the back to maintain your posture, stabilize your spine, tighten up the core and lifting heavyweights.
I see many gym-goers even intermediates who have been working out for years has weak lower back muscles. A lot of people especially beginners do have undeveloped lower lats. And that is the reason they can’t achieve “v” taper looks.
The deadlift is going to be at the top of my list of “best lower back exercises“. And it is also my favorite exercise. Although it is not just a lower back exercise, it develops the overall back definition. But the problem is many people don’t know the correct form of the deadlift.
How to perform
- First load the plates on the bar. Then place your feet under that bar. Place it as close as possible to the bar.
- Make your back straight, chest up, and retract your scapula. Then have a little bent on your elbows and lower yourself to grab the bar.
- Take a deep breath and hold it, pull the bar against the floor and stand straight. Don’t hyperextend your back. Squeeze your glutes at the top. Then slowly lower the bar and repeat it.
Hyperextension is a powerful exercise for the lower back. Beginners can do it bodyweight, but advance people use plates or dumbbells to increase the intensity. The reason I have chosen it because hyperextension specifically isolates your lower back. Though the glutes involve at the top.
How to perform
- On the hyperextension bench, lie your face down. Adjust the foot-pads and tuck your ankles with it.
- Place your upper thighs on the upper pad. Make sure that you have enough space to lower your upper body without any issue.
- Now keep your back straight and chest up. Place palms on your shoulder by crossing your hands. Then bend yourself forward and fully stretch your lower back.
- Take a deep breath and hold. Now pull your upper body at the top and hold for a moment then release it. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Repeat the process again and finish the recommended repetitions.
Middle Back Workouts
In the middle back the largest muscle group is the lats. Although there are different exercises and their variations to target the upper and the lower lats. You can see many people with the undeveloped lower lats.
Probably because they don’t know which exercises target the lower lats strongly. I am going to share the top middle back workouts which target both the upper lats and the lower lats.
Reverse Grip Lat Pull-down
Reverse grip lat pull-down is my most favorite exercise when it comes to growing my lower lats. This exercise not only develops lats but also build a strong muscle and mind connection as well.
How to perform
- First, attach a wide bar with the cable and adjust your knee pad.
- Then grab the bar shoulder-width with the underhand grip (supinated) and a seat on the bench. Tuck your knees with the knee pad. Make sure that your lower body is fixed. It should not be moved during the performance.
- Now keep your chest up and spine straight. Then take a deep breath and hold; pull the bar and touch it with your chest, pause for a moment then slowly release the bar to the starting position.
- When you pull the bar think as if you are pulling your elbows. Because a lot of beginners use their biceps more than their lats. And don’t flare your elbows keep it tucked in.
When it comes to bodyweight back exercises then there is no replacement of pull-ups. It is a great old school back exercise. Regular pull-ups target the overall lats to grow and there is a lot of other benefits of doing pull-ups.
I am saying “regular pull-ups” because there are many variations of pull-ups to target the different parts. A lot of beginners even don’t know how to do pull up.
How to perform
- On a pull-up bar hang yourself with an overhand grip (pronated). The grip should be shoulder-width apart.
- Take a deep breath, keep your chest high and pull yourself to reach the bar. When the bar touches your chest pause and feel the contraction in your back, then slowly lower yourself.
- The complete movement should be done in a controlled way to build a strong mind-muscle connection.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
The single-arm dumbbell row is a wonderful workout for the development of the lats. It is a compound movement and you can lift pretty heavy in this workout. So, eventually, you will gain a lot of strength and muscle mass by performing this exercise.
This one is great because you can increase the thickness in your lats and the best part is you can target each side at a time, which means greater muscle and mind connection.
How to perform
- You can use a flat bench or the dumbbell rack to perform this. I personally use the dumbbell rack. So, stand in front of a dumbbell rack place your left leg in front and the right one in the back. Lean forward and place your left arm on the dumbbell rack for the support.
- Now make your back straight and chest up. Then lift your chosen dumbbell from the ground with the right hand.
- Take a deep breath and hold, pull that dumbbell by bending your elbows. But when you pull think as if you are pulling your elbows not the weight. Then with full control lower the dumbbell and hang in the starting position.
- For the left hand maintain the same posture but from the opposite direction.
- T-Bar row is an excellent back builder. One of my favorite and most of the bodybuilders also loves this workout as well. But if don’t maintain the proper form then it can be a disaster for your back.
How to perform
- First, connect the bar to the landmine or place it in a corner. Make sure that it shouldn’t move during the movement.
- Place the plate on the end of the bar. Then attach a Double D row handle under the plates. Stand over the bar with shoulder-width apart and the bar should come through your legs.
- Now bent down a little bit, make your chest up, back straight and retract your scapula. Then pull the bar as close as possible. Squeeze your back at the top then lower it.
Wide Grip Lat Pull-down
This is a variation of lat pull down. When you hold the bar widely it targets the upper lats more than the lower lats. I see many people swing a lot during this movement which can seriously injure your lower back.
How to perform
- In a pull-down machine attach a wide bar with the cable and adjust the knee pad according to your height.
- Take a wide overhand grip. I generally prefer to have a hook grip. It will allow engaging your lats more.
- Keep your chest up, take a deep breath and pull the bar as close as possible to your upper chest. Then get back to the starting position.
Upper Back Exercises
There are a lot of muscle groups work together in our upper back like the trap, rhomboid, teres major, teres minor, infraspinatus, etc. If you see a bodybuilder or fitness model you can clearly see most of them.
To achieve that clear definition, you need to follow proper upper back exercises. There are many upper back exercises but I am sharing my best choice of best back exercises.
Behind The Back Lat Pulldown
This is the best back workout to develop the upper back. I don’t recommend the beginners to attempt this workout but for intermediate and advanced lifter this can be a great workout for the back.
How to perform
- Attach a bar with the cable of lat pull down the machine and adjust your seat.
- Sit on the bench of the machine and keep your spine straight, chest up and have an overhand grip.
- Take a deep breath and pull the bar behind your head. Don’t lower the bar too much, take it on the level of your ears.
- Then slowly release the bar at the top and breathe out. It would be your one rep.
Bent-Over Barbell Row
Bent over barbell row is my favorite exercise to start my back workout routine. This exercise stimulates the upper back muscles greatly. It is a heavy compound movement. In this workout rhomboids, teres major, teres minor, and upper lats stimulate more.
How to perform
- First load a bar with required weights (plates). Then place your feet under that bar. Take a shoulder-width stance.
- Make your back straight and chest up then grab the bar with an overhand grip and pull the bar until it reaches your knee level.
- From this position fix your posture and pull the bar by bending your elbows. Pull the bar until it reaches your belly button. Do not jerk yourself to pull the weight.
Wide Grip Seated Cable Row
Wide grip seated cable row is a wonderful exercise for the upper back. Lower traps, teres major, teres minor, rhomboids, infraspinatus, target more than lats in this exercise. But because of the wide grip, the range of motion is short. So, you need to focus on your back more to build strong muscle and mind connection.
How to perform
- First, attach a wide bar with the cable of the rowing machine. Then sit on the bench.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip or if the bar has a neutral grip have that. I prefer to have a hook grip. Make your back straight and chest up.
- Now take a deep breath and pull the bar. Touch the bar just below the chest and squeeze your back. Then slowly get back to the starting position.
Sample Back Workout Routine
So, here is a sample back workout plan for massive back development. You can incorporate this plan into your current routine if you have a separate day for the back. There will be 5 exercises from the list of my “best back exercises”.
- Bent over barbell row: 4 sets of 12-10-10-8 reps (60 sec. rest).
- Reverse grip lat pull-down: 4 sets of 8-10 reps (60 sec. rest).
- Wide grip seated cable row: 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps (60-90 sec. rest).
- Deadlift: 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps (90 sec. rest).
- Single-arm row: 3 sets of 6-8 reps (30-45 sec. rest).
Before any workout session do a proper warm-up session to prevent injuries. You can follow this back workout plan for a couple of months and focus on progressively overloading on these exercises.
If you hit a plateau then you can add some variation to these exercises or replace the exercises with other back workouts. It doesn’t matter you are a man or a woman, you can follow this workout plan. But make sure that you know the proper form of these exercises.
As I mentioned that you can incorporate this workout routine if you have an individual back day (bro-split). But if you are following a workout split like push-pull-leg, upper body-lower body split, then I want you to incorporate any three exercises from the upper back, mid-back, and lower back exercises.
I generally suggest my clients for posing in between the sets. So, I also recommend you to do posing in between the sets.
There is a lot of benefits of doing posing in between the sets, it will help you to build a strong muscle and mind connection, increase the blood flow on the muscle, maintain the contraction and increase the intensity in the muscle, etc. Posing is one of the advanced methods to grow muscle.
In our back there is no single back muscle, it is a group of muscles. And to grow a group of muscle you need to increase the weight week by week consistently in every back workout. Focus on heavy compound movement to do that.
To be honest, there are many exercises that can be considered as the best back exercises. Those exercises are best for beginners to develop their back muscles. But as you become intermediate or advance you need to change workouts, add variations, including advanced techniques, etc.
Because eventually, you will hit plateaus as you grow. So, it’s all about understanding your body. How its response, when it hits plateaus and all that.