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Top 5 Back Exercises To Build a Strong, Sculpted Back

Building a strong, shredded back is an important factor to functional fitness and optimal physique. 

It seems as though the chest, arms, and legs are often prioritized in many peoples workout routines since those are the body parts you can see in the mirror.

This is unfortunate since the back is a critical component to functional strength and movement. It's also an underlying characteristic of a great body. 

Your back muscles are responsible for good posture and providing you a heathy, balance physique. Keep reading to learn some of the best back exercises you can incorporate into your workout routine! 

Back Exercises

Back Exercises for Back Pain  

Chronic back pain is very common in people today and it often boils down to inadequate core and back strength, coupled with poor posture and muscular imbalances.

The majority of our population spends most of their day seated in a chair. This can lead to tight hip flexors, lower back pain, and overall poor structural alignment.

By strengthening the muscle groups in the back and core, combined with more movement and flexibility work, the vast majority of chronic back pain can be resolved naturally.

The combination of too much bench press and not enough back exercises and flexibility training leads to a hunched over posture called kyphosis. This position puts more load on the vertebrae in the spine and can lead to back pain and poor posture. (1)

A strong back will help to avoid slouching and give you a healthy, confident look. 

In fact, research has actually proven that good posture can increase your confidence, mood, and overall health! (2)

Proper back strengthening exercises can:

  • Help stabilize your spine 
  • Lower your likely hood of back injuries
  • Reduce back, neck, or shoulder pain
  • Improve posture
  • Enhance your physique and physical appearance
  • Increase your functional movement abilities and athletic performance 

5 exercises for Building a Shredded Back 

While there are dozens of back exercises and hundreds of variations, these exercises will be sure to target the back muscles for optimal function and performance. 

1. Supported Row

This exercise targets the upper back and is an excellent option for all fitness levels. It can be done with a dumbbell or kettlebell supported on a bench, or using a cable machine in a seated position. Any variation that feels best for your body is great. 

2. Lat Pull Down 

One of the best exercises to target the latissimus dorsi muscle group is the lat pull down. You can use a bar attachment with various grip options, or 2 single handles attached to the cable machine.

3. Cable Pullovers 

Often underutilized, cable pullovers can be a very effective back exercise when done correctly. Sadly, I see far more people performing dumbbell pullovers which aren't nearly as effective as using a cable machine since using free weights you don't get constant resistance through the entire range of motion. This is one of my personal favorite back exercises.

4. Deadlift 

A time tested classic, and for good reason. Barbell deadlifts are one of the best exercises to target the lower back muscles, while also working the hamstrings, glutes, and grip muscles. It's a very function exercise since it replicates the movement of picking something off the ground, a task you want to be able to do effectively as you age. Go light with this exercise until you have perfected your form.  

Using a hex bar is an excellent option and can be safer than a barbell dead lift especially for those who don't have much experience with dead lifts. You can stimulate the same muscle groups while keeping your back in a safer position. 

Best Exercises for Back Pain

5. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are the best bodyweight exercise to target the upper back. They are incredibly effective and don't require any equipment. If still need to develop the strength to do pull-ups, then start with negative pull-ups where you jump up into the top position, and lower your self down slowly so you are only performing the eccentric phase of the exercise. 

That is a excellent way to gain the benefits of this exercise and work your way towards being able to do pull-ups.  For more advanced fitness levels, add weight and do weighted pull-ups for an even better workout.

Key Pointers For Optimizing Your Back Exercises 

Keep Your Movement Slow and Controlled 

Focus on good quality repetitions, not the amount of weight your using. One important factor to building muscle is time under tension. Maximize your muscle gains by slowing down your tempo and taking a 4-5 second count during the eccentric phase of the contraction. 

Aim For a Rep Range at 8-12 and 4 Sets 

Studies have shown that 8-12 repetitions per set is ideal for hypertrophy (muscle growth). Some days you can go slightly heavier and hit 5-8 reps, but most days stick to a weight that brings you to fatigue in 8-12 reps. 4 sets of each exercise is superior to 3 when it comes to tacking on muscle mass.

Focus on Good Form and a Full Range Of Motion 

The most important thing when performing any exercise, but especially back exercises, is proper technique. Always start with light weights until you have perfected the form for an exercise. Consider working with a personal trainer or experienced friend when starting out to learn proper technique.

Work Multiple Muscle Groups 

Muscle split routines have become incredibly popular in the fitness industry. That is where you work different muscle groups on different days. For example, Monday- chest, Tuesday - Back, Wednesday - Legs, Thursday - Arms... You get the idea. 

This strategy is very time consuming and leaves you in the gym almost everyday of the week. Additionally it's not nearly as effective as working multiple major muscle groups in each workout. 

It became popularized by body builders. But cmon, it's literally their job to spend hours everyday working out and their use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs diminishes the idea it's solely the workout routine providing the results. 

The better strategy for the vast majority of people who want time efficient and more effective workouts is to work multiple muscle groups each workout and train 2-4 times per week. 

Depending on your goals and fitness level that could mean 2-3 full-body workouts each week, or doing 4 total workouts per week doing a push/pull split. 

A push/pull split is where you work your push exertion muscles one day (chest, quad/glutes, triceps, shoulders, calf, and core) and then your pull exertion muscles the next day (back, hamstrings, biceps, rear deltoid, forearms, traps, and core). Then repeat each workout 2 times per week, leading to 4 total workouts. 

This enable you to work multiple major muscle groups which will provide superior results. 

Don't Underestimate Your Nutrition 

You can spend everyday in the gym working your back, but if you don't dial in your nutrition you will never achieve the ripped muscle definition your after. 

The key to burning that excess body fat to reveal your back muscles is eating right. That means consuming a diet mainly composed of healthy fats, high-quality protein, and tons of vegetables. 

Check out our article on the perfect diet to learn more about how to optimize your nutrition. 

Intermittent fasting can also be a very effective nutritional strategy to implement for losing fat and improving your health. 

Read Next: Resistance Training for Better Physical and Mental Health

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