A well developed back can be one of the biggest indicators of someone disciplined in the strength game. Your back contains a ton of musculature and there are a ton of different ways to attack it, so the key is knowing how to make the most of your back training.
Using compound exercise are key and working in a lot of different variations will help ensure you are hitting all of the different muscles in your back. The following exercises should represent your foundation.
Top 5 Back Building Exercises
- Pull-Ups – This classic exercise narrowly missed being in my overall Top 5 Muscle Building Exercises, but it can easily be argued as the best back builder of all time. If you are serious about any kind of strength training program, this is a must! Be sure to try the dozens of variations out there (wide grip, neutral grip, overhand, underhand, static holds, etc.).
- Farmer Carries – This is one of my favorite exercises, not only for its effectiveness but also its versatility. You can carry anything! You don’t need a gym to do these. Try performing a couple heavy rounds of these and your back will be crushed. And not only that, this will develop your gripping power like none other, which will help you in any other heavy lift you do at the gym.
- Deadlift – While some may initially think of this as a leg exercise, nothing puts meat on your traps like the deadlift. Pulling up heavy sh*t off the floor and holding it there is a killer workout. Nothing measures overall strength like the deadlift, and its full body benefits make it the #1 muscle building exercise of all time.
- Hang Cleans – Hang cleans produce 4 times as much power as squats and deadlifts, and 9 times as much as the bench press, according to some research. It’s an easy lift to learn and one of the most effective exercises for building your shoulders and upper back. They also develop your explosiveness, which will carry over into your other lifts and directly translate to increase athletic performance.
- Bent Over Rows – You can perform these a number of ways, but my personal favorite is using dumbbells. Barbells allow you to really stack the weight, but can put greater stress on your back and also opens the opportunity for your stronger side to overcompensate for your weaker side. Dumbbells may expose your weak side, but will also force you to isolate it, making sure both sides get equal work. This is also a great arm builder and grip strength exercise as well.
You should be training your back at least multiple times a week on your upper body days. These 5 exercises should be performed at least once during your weekly training schedule.
With pull-ups and rows, there are so many variations to choose from, so make sure you work them in. Many times I work farmers carries into my conditioning drills on lower body days to get additional back work in. On your active recovery days, pull-ups make a great option as light bodyweight work that will build a ton of muscle.