10 Best Back Exercises – Follow These Guide

August 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Weight Lifting

Women wearing a workout bra showing her back

The muscles in your back play a major role in almost all of the functions of your body as they connect your hips, chest, butt, shoulders, and neck. Working out the muscles in your back not only makes them stronger and allows them to support your body better, but it also makes your body look more aesthetic. In this article, you will learn more about back exercises, the benefits they offer, and some of the best back exercises that you can do to get that coveted V-taper.

Back Exercise FAQ

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Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions on back exercises.

1. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BACK EXERCISES?

2. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BACK EXERCISES?

3. HOW TO INCORPORATE BACK EXERCISES INTO YOUR ROUTINE?

How We Reviewed

Woman is lifting a weights to exercise her back

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Our team of reviewers closely worked with fitness experts, bodybuilders, and physiologists to come up with the 10 best back exercises for stimulating growth and increasing strength. We then moved on to review these 10 exercises based on the movement required to execute them and their pros and cons to come up with an unbiased verdict.  

Overall Difficulty Level of Back Exercises

Man with chain at his shoulder while lifting himself up and do some back exercise

Image by Pavel Jurča from Pixabay

Many of the back exercises that involve barbells such as the barbell deadlift, standing T-bar row, and the bent-over barbell row are the most difficult to perform due to the necessity to maintain a stricter form throughout the movement. They’re highly risky as they can end up causing back issues if done incorrectly.

Irrespective of that, they’re the best when it comes to building muscle and strength in the back. Beginners should exercise caution while trying to do these back exercises and should stick to low weights till they can get better at achieving the proper form. Some of the exercises such as the close-grip pull-down, single-arm dumbbell row, and cable row are beginner-friendly, easy to perform, and effective at stimulating the muscles in your back.

What We Reviewed

  • Barbell Deadlift
  • Bent-Over Barbell Row
  • Wide-Grip Pull-Up
  • Standing T-Bar Row
  • Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row
  • Reverse-Grip Smith Machine Row
  • Close-Grip Pull-Down
  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Decline Bench Dumbbell Pull-Over
  • Single-Arm Smith Machine Row

Barbell Deadlift

How To Perform

Start off with a loaded barbell on the floor. Step up to the middle of the bar and position your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend down from your hip and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip (it can either be a pronated grip or a mixed one). Take a deep breath and brace your core. This builds pressure inside your body and protects your spine.

Now slowly lower your hips so that your shins touch the bar. Make sure to always look forward, as looking down can curve your back and can put tremendous pressure on the lower back. With your chest pushed outward and back straight, drive through the heels to lift the weight and stand upright. Lower the bar back down by bending from your hips.

Pros

  • The deadlift is a total body workout and targets multiple muscle groups such as the upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and traps
  • Significantly increases lower back strength and stability

Cons

  • Highly risky as you can end up injuring yourself without proper form and practice
  • Not suitable for people with lower back issues

Bent-Over Barbell Row

How To Perform

Start by gripping a loaded barbell at shoulder-width with a pronated grip. Bend down from the waist, keep your back straight, and your knees bent. Let the barbell hang down in front of you. Now, exhale and lift the barbell to your waist and hold the position for a second, while squeezing the muscles in your back. Slowly lower the barbell back while inhaling. Make sure to look forward during this entire movement as that would help you maintain a straight back. Also, remember to keep your elbows close to your body.  

Pros

  • Perfect for building mass and strength
  • Improves lower back strength and stability

Cons

  • Not advisable for people with back issues

Wide-Grip Pull-Up

How To Perform

Stand in front of a pull-up bar and hold it with a wide pronated grip. Let yourself hang down freely with your arms fully extended. Slowly pull yourself up by bending your elbows and pause for a second once your chin goes above your hands. Contract the muscles in your back and slowly lower yourself down to the starting position.

Make sure to do this exercise in one smooth movement. Do not jerk yourself around or use momentum to complete the exercise. Also, try using an open grip to engage your lat muscles better. This exercise can also be performed using a supinated grip, which will also let you work your biceps.

Pros

  • List ElemHelps build a thicker and wider back  ent
  • Can help increase your grip strength

Cons

  • Beginners might find it hard to do this exercise due to the lack of strength to pull themselves up

Standing T-Bar Row

How To Perform

Start off by securely positioning a loaded bar in a corner to prevent it from moving around. Make sure that you take a wide stance with the bar in between your legs. Now, lift the bar up with a double D row handle positioned near the collar of the bar. Keep your chest up, your back straight, and your arms fully extended.

Slowly pull the bar towards your abdomen by flexing your elbows. Once you reach the top of the movement, pause for a second and squeeze the muscles in your back. Then, slowly get back to the starting position.

Pros

  • In addition to strengthening the back, it also helps develop a good posture
  • Works multiple muscle groups such as biceps, traps, lats, and even your core

Cons

  • You might end up with muscle cramps if breathing is irregular during the movement

Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row

How To Perform

Strap a long bar onto a low pulley row machine. Position yourself appropriately on the machine and hold the long bar with a wide pronated grip. Make sure to secure your feet on the given platform, and do not lock the knees. Pull the bar back by extending your arms fully till you create a 90-degree angle with your torso and your legs.

Pull the bar towards your abdomen, while keeping your back straight. Exhale during this part of the movement. Hold this position for a second and squeeze the muscles in your back. Then, slowly get back to the starting position.  

Pros

  • Places constant tension on the muscles
  • Perfect for beginners and people with lower back issues

Cons

  • Unlike traditional barbell workouts, cable rows don’t work any of the stabilizer muscles

Reverse-Grip Smith Machine Row

How To Perform

Set the smith machine to a height that is just below your knees. Bend over from the waist by flexing your knees and bring your torso over the bar. Keep your back straight and parallel to the floor. Using a supinated grip, hold the barbell at a width that’s slightly more than shoulder-width. Unlock the barbell and let it hand directly below.

Slowly lift the barbell up to your upper abdomen and keep your elbows tucked in and close to your body. When you’re at the top, hold the position and squeeze the muscles in your back. Slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position.

Pros

  • Works your biceps and forearms in addition to your back muscles
  • Ideal for beginners

Cons

  • Not suitable for people suffering from back issues
  • The exercise isn’t ideal due to the fixed and very limited range of motion

Close-Grip Pull-Down

How To Perform

Attach a long bar to the top pulley of the lat pull-down machine and begin by positioning yourself appropriately. Grab the bar with a grip that’s narrower than shoulder-width (you can use either a pronated or supinated grip).

With your arms fully extended, lean back a little and stick your chest out. Exhale and slowly pull the bar down to your chest by bending your elbows. Once you reach the bottom position, hold for a second and squeeze the muscles in your back. Slowly let the bar rise up to the starting position.

Pros

  • In addition to working the muscles in your back, the exercise also emphasizes the biceps
  • Simple and pretty safe, making it the perfect exercise for beginners and people with lower back issues

Cons

  • None

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

How To Perform

You will need a flat bench and a dumbbell of appropriate weight for this exercise. Position your left arm and left knee on the flat bench and straighten your back so that it is parallel to the floor. With your right arm, pick up the dumbbell off the floor and let it hang with your arms fully extended. Slowly pull the dumbbell up to your chest.

Once you’re at the top, hold the position and squeeze your back muscles. Make sure that you exhale during this part of the movement and ensure that your elbows are tucked in close. Slowly lower the weight down to the starting position. Once you’re done with a set, switch sides and perform the same movement.

Pros

  • Very safe, easy to perform, and requires just a dumbbell
  • Helps strengthen multiple muscle groups such as shoulders, core, and biceps

Cons

  • None

Decline Bench Dumbbell Pull-Over

How To Perform

Position yourself properly on a decline bench with both of your legs securely locked. Grab a dumbbell with both of your arms, lift it up, and hold it right above your chest. Your arms should be fully extended and perpendicular to the floor. This is your starting position.

Begin by slowly moving the dumbbell backwards over your head and stop once your arms are parallel to the floor. Pause for a second and slowly bring the dumbbell back to the starting position. Do not jerk the weight around or use momentum.

Pros

  • Works out your entire upper body including your chest, shoulders, triceps, upper back, and the core
  • Works the stabilizer muscles and helps increase flexibility

Cons

  • Exercise is slightly risky as there’s a chance of you dropping the weight on yourself
  • Puts more emphasis on the chest rather than the back

Single-Arm Smith Machine Row

How To Perform

Load the smith machine with the appropriate weight and set it at the lowest position. Stand at a 90-degree angle on the right side of the bar. Bend at the waist by flexing your knee and grab the bar with your left hand. Keep your back straight and look forward. Slowly pull the bar up towards the side of your chest.

Make sure to keep your elbows tucked in. Once you’re at the top, pause for a second and contract the muscles in your back. Slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position. Once you’re done with a set, switch the side and repeat the movement.        

Pros

  • Works your biceps, lats, and shoulders
  • Perfect for beginners and people with lower back issues

Cons

  • None

The Verdict

Man is doing some back exercise

Image by Pavel Jurča from Pixabay

Based on our review of the 10 best back exercises, the barbell deadlift and bent-over barbell rows offer the best overall development of the muscles in the back. Being compound exercises, they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and help improve posture and stability. They also offer the maximum strength gains among all back exercises.

The only disadvantage that these exercises have is the increased stress that it places on the lower back, making them unsuitable for people with back problems, as they can end up aggravating the issues. Cable rows, single-arm dumbbell rows, and single-arm smith machine rows are great alternatives. These back exercises hit the muscles hard and are good for the lower back.  


Featured Image by Scott Webb from Pixabay

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