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Top Back Exercises For Bodybuilding

If you're someone who only like to work out your "show muscles" (chest, arms, abs and some shoulders) then move on, but if you are looking to have a thick, dense and well-balanced upper body then stick around. Today we are going to discuss how to turn your baby back into wide thick wings of muscle.

In most cases the back is an afterthought for many beginners. The back can't be seen when you look in the mirror, and most people have a hard time contracting the back when they first start working out, so the majority of beginners do a few half-hearted sets of pull-downs and low cable rows and move on to something else.

Pull Ups

The first exercise is arguably the single best exercise for building back width - Pull Ups. You'd be surprised to find out just how few people can actually do a proper pull up. Most people look like they are doing some kind of funky horizontal bar work at a gymnastics tournament.

I like to do pull ups the way Arnold did back in the "muscle beach days"... 50 total reps using different grips.

Do a set of as many pull ups as you can do. Then rest a minute or two. Do anther set of as many reps as you can do. Rest, etc. until you have completed 50 total reps. Vary your grip with each set (i.e. wide grip, medium, narrow, underhand, etc.) this will work the back from several different angles and provide better muscle stimulation.

Reverse Grip Bent-Over Barbell Rows

Like all effective compound movements, the reverse grip barbell row (a favorite of six time Olympia champ Dorian Yates; and no one had a more thickly muscled back than this no-nonsense Englishman) creates tension through the entire body (the coveted systemic effect) to create a complete, massive look. Because it is difficult to perform, this movement, like most multi-joint lifts, is often passed over in favor of the easier seated rows and lat pulldowns. However, for a thick, massive back – from traps to lower lats – and full biceps development, it cannot be ignored.

Lateral pulldown

The lat pulldown with supinated wrists can be performed on a lat pulldown machine, with a regular lat pulldown bar. Again, the arms are placed at at least shoulder width apart. This allows the shoulders to remain in a safe position of external rotation, and to keep the chest up, and prevent it from collapsing during the motion of the exercise.

 Barbell (Back) Squat

Though the deadlift could easily switch places with the barbell back squat in the battle for top compound movement supremacy, the squat (done conventional style) is a personal favorite of mine for several reasons. It maximally works our strongest muscle groupings (the quads and glutes) to establish a strong foundation of support to facilitate the development of the entire physique.

Through its unsurpassed ability to target core development, the squat enables us to become stronger on all upper body movements which require core stabilization. The squat is also arguably the most systemic of all compound lifts: the force needed to squat heavy weights places tremendous pressure on our lower back spinal erector muscles, upper back, waist, even the arms, chest and shoulders. Also, the metabolic and cardio respiratory benefits resulting from heavy squats cannot be replicated with any other movement. Whatever your training goal, the squat, if performed correctly, will be a major component in your success.

Seated Cable Rows Guide

For this exercise you will need access to a low pulley row machine with a V-bar. Note: The V-bar will enable you to have a neutral grip where the palms of your hands face each other. To get into the starting position, first sit down on the machine and place your feet on the front platform or crossbar provided making sure that your knees are slightly bent and not locked.
Lean over as you keep the natural alignment of your back and grab the V-bar handles.
With your arms extended pull back until your torso is at a 90-degree angle from your legs. Your back should be slightly arched and your chest should be sticking out. You should be feeling a nice stretch on your lats as you hold the bar in front of you. This is the starting position of the exercise.
Keeping the torso stationary, pull the handles back towards your torso while keeping the arms close to it until you touch the abdominals. Breathe out as you perform that movement. At that point you should be squeezing your back muscles hard. Hold that contraction for a second and slowly go back to the original position while breathing in.


Next we're going to move on to deadlifts. The deadlift is the oldest of all weight training exercises and is one of the most effective exercises for overall body development. This will build back thickness and real world functional strength like nothing else.
Start off with light weight do sets of 5 reps pyramiding up with each set. You don't want to do too many reps during your warm ups as this will just waist energy and take away from your strength during your heavy sets.

Arm Dumbbell Rows

After the deadlifts we are going to move on to 1 arm dumbbell rows. This will work the lats hard, but give your lower back a much needed rest.

I like to straddle my legs apart and brace my non-working arm against the dumbbell rack or high exercise bench. This position will usually allow you to lift more weight then if you kneel on a bench as some people do.
Do a couple progressively heavier warm up sets and then do 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each arm. Make sure to squeeze and contract the lats at the top of each rep for a second before lowering the dumbbell back down.