Your back is a significant and robust body part of different connected muscles. For this guide, we’ve divided the back into four main components:
- Upper and outer latsLower lats
- Middle back
- Lower back
Each part needs specific exercises and angles to work correctly. We’ll share the two best exercises for each area. You can create your back workout by picking one exercise from each category. If a specific part of your back needs more attention, you can choose extra exercises. Understanding which exercises target which parts of your back helps you create a balanced and well-shaped back, giving you a V-shaped appearance with thickness and width.
AREA 1: UPPER/OUTER LATS
When working on your V-shaped back, it’s important to use exercises where you grab the bar with your hands wide apart, usually outside your shoulders. This widens the upper part of your back, giving you that V-taper shape. Here are two effective exercises:
- Wide Grip Pull-up:
- Hold the bar with your hands facing you, wider than your shoulders.
- Stretch your arms fully when hanging, relaxing your shoulders.
- As you pull up, imagine pulling your elbows out to your sides and down, contracting your upper back muscles.
- Try to pull yourself up as high as you can to work your upper back fully. If it’s too hard, ask someone to assist you or use a machine that helps with pull-ups.
- Tip: Squeeze your shoulder blades together when your arms are fully stretched to target the upper part of your back.
- Wide Grip Bentover Barbell Row:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bending your knees slightly.
- Hold the barbell with a grip wider than your shoulders.
- Keep your back straight and bend forward from your waist.
- Without standing on a bench, pull the barbell up towards your upper abs, keeping your elbows out to the sides.
- Tip: To focus on the outer part of your back, pull the barbell high towards your upper abs.
Remember, these exercises are great for widening and shaping your upper back. Make sure to do them correctly to get the best results!
AREA 2: LOWER LATS
To work on your lower back muscles, it’s excellent to use exercises where your palms are facing up (reverse grip) or where your hands are close together when you pull down. These exercises focus on your lower back area. One such exercise that’s effective is the straight-arm pulldown.
1. Reverse-Grip Pulldown:
· Hold the bar with your palms facing up and your hands about shoulder-width apart.
· Keep your body upright and your back slightly arched.
· Fully straighten your arms at the top and stick your chest out; this helps target your back muscles more.
· Pull the bar down and back as far as possible, squeezing your shoulder blades together when the bar is near your upper chest.
· Tip: To work on your lower back, keep your chest up and arched. Pull the bar down toward your lower chest for a better muscle contraction.
2. Straight-Arm Lat Pulldown:
· Grab the bar above your head and stand away from the machine, keeping your arms almost straight with a slight bend in your elbows.
· Pull the bar down in an arc using your shoulders; your arms should act like levers.
· Lower the bar until it touches your upper thighs, but don’t stop there. Push the bar back into your thighs and squeeze your lower back muscles as hard as you can.
· Tip: Focus on feeling the movement in your lower back muscles for the best results.
These exercises target your lower back area effectively. Remember, it’s essential to perform them with the correct form to get the most out of your workout!
AREA 3: MIDDLE BACK
When you want to make your back thicker, it’s best to use exercises where you pull the weight close to your midsection or sides. These moves work on building the thickness of your back muscles. Here are two great workouts for that:
1. One-Arm Dumbbell Row:
· Bend your body forward at the waist and rest your right knee and right hand on a flat bench.
· Keep your left foot flat on the floor and hold a dumbbell in your left hand, letting it hang down straight with your arm extended.
· Pull the dumbbell towards your hip, keeping your elbow close to your body.
· Keep your back flat and your abs tight, pulling your elbow as high as possible. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top, then lower the weight back down.
· Do your reps and then switch arms.
· Tip: When starting, hold the dumbbell slightly forward from your shoulder. As you lift, pull it up and back.
2. Close-Grip Seated Cable Row:
· Keep your knees slightly bent to reduce pressure and maintain balance.
· While you might think leaning forward gives more movement, keeping your body upright works the middle of your back more and reduces stress on your lower back.
· Maintain a slight arch in your lower back throughout.
· Pull your shoulders and elbows back as much as possible so the bar touches your midsection.
· Tip: Squeeze your shoulder blades together for a moment or two at the movement’s peak for the best results.
Remember, these exercises are excellent for making your back thicker. Pay attention to your form, and you’ll see significant progress!
AREA 4: LOWER BACK
To strengthen your lower back and prevent back pain, you must do exercises where you bend at your waist, not your hips. Here are two effective moves:
1. Back Extension:
· Lie face down on a back extension bench.
· Cross your arms over your chest or behind your head (this is harder). Alternatively, hold a weight close to your chest for more intensity.
· Bend at your waist slowly, rounding your back.
· Use your lower back muscles to lift your upper body back up. Don’t use sudden or jerky movements, and don’t arch your back too much; it’s not safe.
· Tip: Make sure your hips are fully supported on the bench. This keeps your hips still and makes your lower back muscles work harder.
2. Stiff-Legged Deadlift:
· Hold a barbell with straight arms, letting it hang straight down from your shoulders. Keep your legs straight.
· Bend at your waist, pushing your hips back. Let the bar hang freely, getting close to the floor. Keep your lower back muscles tight.
· Push your hips forward as you stand up. Don’t lean back. The bar should rest on the top of your thighs.
· Focus on using your back and hip muscles, not your arms, to lift your upper body.
· Tip: Unlike the Romanian deadlift, let your lower back round slightly at the bottom.
These exercises are great for strengthening your lower back. Remember, always maintain good form to avoid injuries.
BUILDING YOUR BACK WORKOUT
1. Target Every Area of Your Back:
· Ensure your workout includes exercises focusing on each part of your back.
2. Building Mass (Size):
· After warming up, do 2-3 sets of each exercise.
· Aim for 8-12 repetitions in each set. This range helps build muscle size.
3. Building Strength:
· If you want to get stronger, use heavy weights.
· Do sets with 4-7 reps. This low-rep range builds strength effectively.
4. Muscle Definition and Endurance:
· For defined muscles and endurance, use lighter weights.
· Do high-rep sets, aiming for 15-25 repetitions. This boosts muscle definition and stamina.
5. Example Mass Workout (Focusing on Outer Lat Width):
· Rest 1-2 minutes between each set.
· Remember, this example workout doesn’t include warm-up sets.
Following these guidelines helps you create a well-rounded back workout, ensuring you work on strength, size, and muscle definition effectively.
|Exercise / Target Area||Sets||Reps|
|Pull-Up (wide grip) / Outer Lats||3||12, 10, 8|
|Bentover Barbell Row (wide) / Outer Lats||3||8, 10, 12|
|Close-Grip Seated Cable Row / Middle Back||3||8, 10, 12|
|Reverse-Grip Pulldown / Lower Lats||3||12, 10, 8|
|Back Extension / Lower Back||3||12, 12, 12|