Dec 09, 2014 Comments (0)

Ultimate Guide To Best Back Workout Routine

So you're working out religiously everyday, exercising your abs and the pecs. And sure, you're on your way to getting killer six-pack abs, the perfect chest with gorgeous front delts and overall, a handsome beach body! But, what are you doing for your back? What happens when someone looks from behind and sees no toned muscles, no width or thickness? 

As such, your focus on getting a big, strong, well-developed and toned back should be as high as your focus on getting, well a big, strong, well-developed and toned chest. And not just for aesthetics. Of course, with a back like that you can pass off as a superhero. Batman, Captain America or Superman – your choice. Or probably a supervillain.

Who can forget the remarkable V tape of Bane's back?

But there's another reason to intersperse Chest Days with Back Days when working out – your posture! Overworked chest (pecs, abs and delts) can cause you to develop a forward hunch and possibly a permanent slouch. That can't be good, right? You don't want to have a gorilla-like posture, no one does.

And if you're still not convinced, here's another reason to train your back muscles rigorously – functionality. A well-developed and strong back will help you row a kayak, pick-up the couch and move around furniture or hang down a fire escape. Pecs and abs will not be as helpful.

So what are the back muscles that must be trained?

Now your back is made up of several muscles, the key ones amongst which are – 1) trapezius (let's call them traps), 2) latissimus dorsi (let's call them lats), 3) rhomboids, and 4) erector spinae. Traps and the lats are the major muscles, which run from the bottom of your neck to your hips. They are the top contributors to your back muscle mass and strength.


The rhomboids run diagonally across your back, along with some smaller muscle groups and are the ones that give definition to your back. Simply put, they are the ones that create those “valleys” when you flex your back. The smaller muscles include the teres and infraspinatus, which serve the same purpose of defining your back and giving it those cuts.

The fourth major muscle, the erector spinae runs along your vertebrae and makes up most of your lower-back muscle. It runs vertically down your back like the branches of a tree. A good idea is to create individual objects for each of these major muscles when training your back.

Your back training goal

To get that ultimate superhero (or supervillain) back, here's what your training should aim at:

  • Developing large traps as foundation for a great upper back.
  • Building up rhomboids into a bulky muscle-group so as to facilitate the creation of those cuts and valleys when you flex.
  • Widening the lats to give your back the V-shaped taper.
  • Developing the teres and infraspinatus so that each gets a distinct and clear shape.
  • Working the erector spinae into a dense structure (say like a Christmas tree) in your lower back.

Having said that, you should make sure that you're focusing on all major muscles and not just on the lats. The temptation to work the lats out can be strong. But unless you want nothing but a V-shaped taper (no strength, no thickness, no width), you have got to resist it.

The five exercises that you MUST master for a chiseled back

So without further ado, here are five workouts to attain all the goals set in the previous section:

1. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are the undisputed king when it comes to back exercises. It exercises all muscles in the back, including the four discussed above. You build strength and size with deadlifts.

Assume a low squat position and grab hold of the bar using an overhand grip. With your hips pulled down, lift your body up by pushing through the heels while keeping the core and back tight and straight. Once you have reached the full standing position, you can begin lowering down gently till the bar brushes the floor.

2. Dumbbell rows

Dumbbell rows are particularly effective in giving your upper back an intense workout, especially the lats, obliques and the teres. And they're very simple too!

Using your left hand and knee, bend over a flat bench. Your hand should be stretched out straight and anchored firmly on the bench since it will bear your bodyweight through the workout. Tighten your core, flatten the back, contract the biceps and lats of your right arm and use it to row the dumbbell towards your chest.

The goal is to lift it above the torso and hold it there for a second at least. After this, lower the dumbbell to the full extension and repeat.

3. Barbell rows

Barbell rows are again, highly effective because they work all muscles in your back. A good idea is to begin with bent over barbell rows. For this, assume a low squat position and position your arms slightly wider than your shoulder. Grab hold of the barbell using overhand grip, squeeze your core tight, pull your back straight and then incline your torso to a 60-degree angle.

Now squeeze your back and biceps (as powerfully as you can) and lift the barbell up. You should bring it to the top of your core and the hold it there for a second. Gently lower your position after that and repeat. As an alternative, you can try the Pendlay Barbell row, which requires your torso to be parallel to the ground (and not inclined at 60 degrees). The remaining movements are the same.

4. Pull-ups and lat pull-downs

Wide pull-ups are your upper back's best friends. They are highly effective in building thickness. While the entire back gets exercised, the teres and lats benefit the most from pull-ups. A good idea is to use chin-ups along with pull-ups for better results.

Place your hands on a pull-up bar, spread slightly wider than your shoulders and hang down from it. Tighten the core, squeeze the lats and pull yourself up. Aim to have the top of your chest reach the height of the bar. On hitting the position, hold for a second and then lower yourself gently to the early position of hanging down fully. Repeat.

Alternatively, try the lat pull-downs, which are essentially the mechanical form of pull-ups. You sit on a bench in front of the mechanical pull-down equipment and hold it with an overhand grip. Tighten the core, squeeze your lats and pull the handles down till it reaches the top of your chest. Repeat.

5. Cable rows

Cable rows are great for working your back, the traps and rhomboids in particular, as well as your biceps. All you need to do is sit at a cable station with bent knees, arch your body backwards a little and pull the equipment to your chest. Your back should be flat, core tight and biceps contracted. Hold the cable to your chest for about a second and then let go till your arms are extended fully. Repeat.

Bonus tip: These are the basics! Once you have mastered them, add progression and move over to the more advance and/or intense levels of these workouts. Keep adding weights regularly and once you get comfortable with a certain weight, add some more!