Everyone loves blasting the life out of their abs and pecs. But the backside needs equal love, too — and we’re not just talking about your butt. You CAN’T neglect your back.
And why would you? Not only does a well-developed, V-shaped back project Bane-like strength and radiate aesthetics, but it’s also critical for maintaining strong posture, muscular balance, and a compact core. Overworked, dominant pecs, abs, and front delts (the front part of your shoulders) cause the body to hunch forward, which often produces slouched, “gorilla” posture.
You don’t want that to happen. Consistently thrashing your back muscles is essential in order to keep the body aligned in optimal position.
Plus, back strength is functional. The next time you’re rowing a kayak, climbing an oak tree, picking up your grandma’s couch, or dangling from a fire escape, well, you’ll thank me. Powerful pecs aren’t quite as useful.
A quick anatomy lesson: the “back” isn’t actually a muscle itself; it’s the composite of various muscles, each of which varies in size and prominence. Here are few of the biggies —
The lats and trapezius (aka traps) span the largest area, running from the base of the neck all the way down to the hips. They make up the bulk of the back’s muscle mass and generate the most force. The traps aren’t just the humps on top of your shoulders — they also dominate the inner part of the upper back.
The rhomboids, infraspinatus, and teres are smaller muscles that run diagonally across the width of the upper back. Aesthetically, they add major definition and distinct cuts behind the scapula (your shoulder blades). They’re typically hit while working the lats and traps (via rows, pull-ups, etc.).
The erector spinae runs vertically in columns along the vertebrae and makes up most of the muscle in the lower back. It’s a critical element in all-around core strength.
Smart training effectively smashes all regions of the back in balance. We’ve pulled together 13 of the top exercises to absolutely thrash the back from top-to-bottom, stimulate fresh new growth, and chisel out powerful lats, traps, and everything in between.
Throw 4-6 of your favorites into each back workout — 3 sets of 12 reps/exercise is standard — and rotate often.
13 Killer Back Exercises To Chisel Out A Defined, V-Shaped, Undulating Back
Back Exercise 1: Deadlifts
Primary Muscles: Back (All)
1. For each rep start in a low squat position and grab the bar with an overhand grip (A).
2. Sit back in your hips, push through your heels, ascend upward, and raise your torso until you’re in a full stand (B) — maintain a tight core and straight back throughout the motion.
3. Slowly lower under control by dropping your torso and hips down until the bar touches the floor (A).
Back Exercise 2: Bent Over Barbell Rows
Primary Muscles: Back (All)
1. Hold a barbell in front of your body with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
2. Tighten your core, straighten your back, and drop your torso down to 60º.
3. Powerfully contract your back and biceps, and pull the barbell upwards into the top of your core. Hold for 1s and return down to a full extension. Repeat.
Back Exercise 3: Bent-Over One Arm Dumbbell Rows
Primary Muscles: Back (All), Obliques, Teres, Lats
1. Place your left knee and left hand firmly anchored on a flat bench. Your left hand should serve as support for your body.
2. Maintain a tight core and flat back, contract your lats and biceps, and slowly row the dumbbell upwards until it’s above your torso.
3. Hold 1s and slowly lower the dumbbell to a full extension — you should feel a stretch throughout your upper backout. Repeat.
Owner/Editor-In-Chief of LeanItUP.com, Contributor for Men's Health. I like abs, Cam Newton, silliness, burning cals, & vacation breakfast buffets.
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