Top Back Workouts

Top Back Workouts

Your back is difficult to see and evaluate unless you line up several mirrors and get the right angles for this evaluation. In contrast, your back is very visible to everybody around you, so even though a soft and shapeless back can be most easily handled by choosing wardrobe pieces that drape the shoulders and middle back (out of sight, out of mind), this isn’t the best strategy. Shape your back with the following back workouts.

The back muscles include four main muscle groups: latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, and erector spinae.

LATISSIMUS DORSI

The fan-like muscle helps to create the sought-after v-taper. Extending from under the shoulder down to the small of the back, the lats pull the shoulders downward and back, as done during pull-downs, pull-ups and rows.

TRAPEZIUS

There are three trap muscles, which go from the back of the neck down to between the shoulder blades facilitating scapular elevation (upper trap), retraction (middle trap), depression (lower trap) and stability. Rows, pull-downs, chin-ups and shrugs work these muscles.

RHOMBOIDS

Situated between the shoulder blades beneath the trapezius, the rhomboids are responsible for scapular retraction and are targeted with exercises like the T-bar row.

ERECTOR SPINAE

Muscles that run the length of the spine and are responsible for back extension, rotation and lateral flexion. They are crucial for spine stabilization during functional movements and heavy lifts. You will train the spinal erectors with exercises like hyperextensions and deadlifts.

back muscles

THE WORKOUT ROUTINE

Before you begin remember…

  • Lift as heavy as you safely can while maintaining good form.
  • Rest 1-2 minutes between pull-up sets.
  • For all other exercises, rest 30-45 seconds between sets.
1) DEADLIFT

Standing with your feet 8-12 inches apart and toes pointed a little outward, squat down and grasp the bar using a mixed grip. Maintaining your back flat, chest up, arms straight, eyes forward and weight in the heels, stand up by extending the knees and driving your hips forward. Be careful not to shrug or lean backwards.

2) PULL-UPS

Grab the bar wider than shoulder-distance apart. Pull your body up so that your chin is above the bar. Slowly come down to initial position. Use chin dip assist machine, bands or a spot, if necessary.

t bar row

3) T-BAR ROW

Using an overhand grip, lift the weight up, starting the contraction from the back. Think of leading with your elbows rather than your hands. Use a T-Bar with a chest pad so that your lower back doesn’t fatigue first, particularly after doing deadlifts.

4) CABLE BENT-OVER ROW

Place the cable pulley in the bottom position and attach a straight bar. Take several steps back, lower into a partial squat and bend at the hips to position chest at about a 45-degree angle. Stretch your arms out forward and draw the bar to your abdomen. When you pull in, draw your shoulder blades together.

5) CLOSE-GRIP PULL-DOWN (FROM FLOOR)

Place the cable pulley at the top position and attach a close-grip triangle handle. Holding the attachment, sit on the floor. Lean back a little and allow your arms to fully extend. Bring hands to chest, keeping the elbows close. This floor variation gives you a great stretch, so ensure you are fully extending the weight each rep.

6) STRAIGHT-ARM PULL-DOWN

Place the cable pulley in the top position and attach a straight bar or rope. Take several steps back, bend forward at the hips and allow your arms to fully extend forward. Initiating the movement from your lats, pull the bar down, maintaining your arms straight.

plank dumbbell row

7) PLANK DUMBBELL ROW

Go into the plank position, gripping dumbbells with feet wider than hip-distance apart. Row one dumbbell up to the midsection. Lower the dumbbell, and then perform the row on the other side. That is one rep. Keep your bottom down and in line with your body. Try not to twist.

8) WEIGHTED HYPER-EXTENSION

Place lower legs under the machine pads just above the ankles. Bend at the waist and pick up a plate. Holding the plate at your chest, extend your back until your body is in a straight line from head to heels. Don’t go too heavy here. Focus on slow, full range of motion and squeeze at the top.

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Written by Sean Lewis

Sean Lewis has been a keen runner since early years and took part in several 5k, 10k, half-marathons and marathons. He met his wife six years ago during a 10k race and they still like to go for a good run together.

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