Men who are able to perform 30 consecutive pull-ups or finish ten pull-ups with 90 pounds of weight hanging from a belt are truly impressive. This can be made possible by the best back exercises. Your back contains the second largest set of muscles, which is why working on it definitely pays off huge dividends both in health and physical looks. In fact, very few things look more impressive than a person’s ability to hit a front or rear lat spread with effortless confidence.
The best back exercises effectively strengthen your back muscles, thus allowing you to pick up any heavy object with the assistance of your leg muscles. A strong back also lets you move your body easily in any direction, but most especially when you have to lift yourself up. Furthermore, a strong back protects you from having muscle imbalances that usually result from overtraining the chest. If you are concerned about your weight, then it will please you to know that strong back muscles also allow you to burn as many calories as you do when you train your legs.
Following is a discussion on the five best back exercises that can help you develop a stronger and better-looking back.
1. Barbell Bent-over Rows
This exercise is certainly one of the best back exercises you can perform to develop strength and thickness in your upper body. The movement involved in this exercise works everything – your traps, lats, lower back, and hamstrings. With proper form, this exercise will definitely set you apart from those who focus solely on pull-ups, chin-ups, and pull-downs.
Set up for this exercise by standing on a raised platform with the weighted barbell. Stand with your feet a shoulder width apart. With your knees slightly bent, your head held up, and your back straight, bend over slowly until your body is at an angle slightly lower than 45 degrees from the floor. Make sure that the weight hangs straight down from your arms and that you grip the bar with your palms facing towards you.
This exercise can be done in several variations: You may use close-grip, wide-grip, or medium-grip. You can also choose to hold the bar with your palms facing away. And if you prefer, you can do two-arm dumbbell rows instead of a barbell row. You may also use a machine called T-Bar for this exercise.
2. Pull-ups and Chin-ups
These are among the best back exercises that can be used to gauge your physical strength relative to your weight. To illustrate, a guy who can bench press a weight of only 315 pounds, but perform 30 consecutive pull-ups is a lot stronger than one who can bench press 600 pounds, but do only four straight pull-ups.
Set up for these exercises by standing on a box if needed. Otherwise, you can just jump up to reach the bar. Pull-ups are generally more difficult than chin-ups, but the best results are gained if you switch from one exercise to the next. When doing pull-ups, be sure to grip the bar with your palms facing away and your hands a bit wider than shoulder width apart. On the other hand, your palms should be facing you when you do chin-ups and your hands should hold the bar a little less than shoulder width apart.
In performing these exercises, you can use wide grip, medium grip, or narrow grip (with your palms facing each other). You may also want to do towel pull-ups in order to maximize your grip and finger strength. Try to avoid doing pull-downs with machines as much as possible. Stick to chin-ups and pull-ups with free weights instead.
3. Barbell Shrugs
This exercise is targeted at developing your traps and does not have any effect on the lats at all. In fact, you can build a good set of traps by doing up to 12 repetitions with a maximum of 585 pounds of weight in an Olympic bar. You can set up for this exercise either by deadlifting the bar off the floor or unracking it at thigh height. It is acceptable to use straps for this exercise. However, you will want to avoid using alternating grips. Using chalk may also be ill-advised for this exercise, especially if you are using a heavier weight than what you usually use when deadlifting.
When performing this exercise, remember to always stand straight, hold your head up and your knees slightly bent. Shrug straight up as high as your shoulders can go and try to touch your shoulders to your ears with the movement. To get full contraction, hold the position for about half a second. Dumbbell shrugs are a good variation of this exercise, except that it doesn’t allow you to lift as much weight.
4. One-Arm Dumbbell Rows
This is one of the best back exercises for isolating each side of your back. You can’t go as heavy on this exercise as you can with barbell rows, but you can achieve fuller contractions with a wider range of motion because your scapula is not restricted from fully retracting on each repetition.
Set up by grabbing a dumbbell and then setting it down beside an exercise bench. Kneel with one leg on the end of the bench and then lay your hand on the other end for support. Position your upper body such that it is parallel to the floor and your free leg is planted on the side of your body, just behind the other leg for maximum support.
Some exercisers perform machine or cable exercises for the same purpose, but the best back exercises are still those that employ free weights, so it is most beneficial for you to stick to these exercises.
5. Barbell Deadlifts
This exercise is unique because it belongs to the list of best hamstrings exercises as well as this one. It is, in fact, one of the fundamental exercises of any serious weight training program. Deadlifts work your legs a hundred percent and require functional stability from 95% of your other muscle groups. When done in proper form, this exercise can help you gain more muscle, burn more calories, and become generally stronger. For these purposes, deadlifts are second only to squats.
Set up for this exercise with the barbell placed on the floor just above your ankles and right in front of your shins. For conventional deadlifts, stand with your feet a shoulder width apart. Bend your knees, reach down and grab the bar. Make sure that your knees are just inside your elbows. If you want to go heavy on this exercise, you may alternate your grip with one hand holding the bar with the palm facing you and the other hand holding the bar with the palm facing away from you.
You can choose to do this exercise with close stance or wide stance. Other variations you can choose from are sumo-style deadlifts, deadlifting off a box, deadlifts with chains or bands, and rack or pin pulls.