13 Back Exercises for Men

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The following 13 back exercises for men and accompanying videos work the back muscles, including the lats, middle and lower back muscles. Select any of the back exercises to watch the accompanying video. These exercises are grouped into exercises that specifically work the lats, middle back, and lower back, respectively. Below the exercises, find four back workouts as well as links to EMG’s other muscle specific guides.

Back Exercises for Men

 


 

 

Back Exercises for Men

Lat Specific Back Exercises for Men

Wide Grip Pulldown

The wide grip pulldown works to build size and strength in the outer part of the upper lats. It is one of the good back exercises for those who cannot do wide grip pull ups. It can also be used as an alternate to wide grip pull ups. This exercise also allows the user to do much more than body weight while putting less pressure on the joints. When performing this exercise, it is important to keep you back straight and not to sway with the weight.

 

Close Grip Pulldown

Close Grip Pulldown

The close grip pulldown works to build size and strength in the inner part of the upper lats. It is one of the good back exercises for those who cannot do close grip pull ups. It can also be used as an alternate to close grip pull ups. This exercise allows the user to do much more than body weight while putting less pressure on the joints. When performing the exercise, it is important to keep you back straight and not to sway with the weight.

 

Wide Grip Pull Ups

Wide Grip Pull Ups

Wide grip pull ups build size and strength in the inner area of the upper lat. The exercise can be performed with varying grip length. The grip can range from shoulder-width to as wide as is comfortable without putting pressure on the shoulders and wrists. A full range of motion is ideal, but can be problematic for those with shoulder problems. If that is the case, lower all the way, but do not pull past where the elbows are at a 90 degree angles. A weight belt can be used when performing the exercise for those who require more than their body weight to do this exercise.

 

Close Grip Pull Ups

Close Grip Pull Ups

Close grip pull ups build size and strength in the inner area of the upper lat. The exercise can be performed with two grips. An underhand grip with the hands touching will work the inner part of the lat more and will also act as a secondary bicep workout. Most pull up bars have handles that are just less than shoulder-width apart and are perpendicular to the bar. These can also be used to perform this exercise. They will not work the lat as much, but they are often easier on the wrist and shoulders. For those who require more than their body weight to do a close grip up, a weight belt can be used when performing the exercise.

 

One Arm Cable Row

One Arm Cable Row

The one arm cable row is one of the primarily shaping and developing back exercises for the middle back. By using one arm at a time, the user is able to isolate each lat to better balance the back muscles. The one arm cable row can be performed in a variety of positions. The feet can be close together or staggered. A staggered foot position can help to balance the body weight and make the exercise easier on the low back. The free arm can either be placed against the machine for support, or rested on the knee or hip. The keys when performing the one arm cable row are to get the longest range of motion possible and to perform the exercise in a deliberate manner.

 


 

Lower Back Specific Back Exercises for Men

Deadlift

Deadlift

The deadlift is one of the primary back exercises for building strength in the low back. The proper grip for the deadlift is one overhand grip and one underhand grip. This exercise requires very proper form to limit the risk of injury. Those who have a low back injury should avoid performing this exercise with heavy weights. If the exercise can not be performed without back pain, then it should be avoided; the lower back can then be worked using either hyperextensions or a back extension machine.

 

Hyperextension

HyperextensionThe hyperextension works to build strength in the lower back. It is one of the good back exercises for those who are just beginning to train the low back or who have suffered a low back injury in the past. When performing this exercise, it is important to know the limits of your flexibility. Once you are comfortable with the range of motion, weight can be added to the exercise by holding a dumbbell across your chest. Not a lot of weight is required to make the this exercise an effective one. This exercise should be performed in a controlled manner. Jerking or “exploding” upward could lead to injury.

 

Middle Back Specific Back Exercises for Men

Bent Over Barbell Row

Bent Over Barbell Row

The bent over barbell row is one of the primary back exercises for building mass in the middle and lower lats. There are multiple grip and body positions that can vary exactly what part of the muscle the exercise works. A wide grip will work the outer part of the lat muscle, while a close grip will work the inner part of the lat. Do not go closer than shoulder-width with the grip on this exercise. An underhand grip will work the forearms and will also work the lower part of the lat more. This exercise should not be used for those with low back problems. The weight needed to make it an effective exercise would likely put too much pressure on the low back. Instead of this exercise, those with low back problems should use a seated row machine with a chest pad.

 

T Bar Row

T Bar Row

The T bar row is a machine commonly found in most gyms. It is one of the good back exercises for building size and strength in the inner part of the middle back. If your gym does not have a machine, the exercise may be performed by placing a barbell in the corner so it will not move and then placing a close grip bar around the barbell. This exercise should be approached carefully by those with lower back problems. Keep a tight core throughout the exercise and to not round your back at any point in the motion.

 

Machine Row

Machine Row

The machine row is one of the primary machine back exercises that builds size and strength in the middle back. The chest pad allows the user to brace his back and isolate the lat muscle better. Do not let your chest leave the pad when pulling the weight back. This exercise will not build size and strength to the same degree as the bent over dumbbell row or T bar row. Rather, it provides better isolation and is easier on the low back and joints. This exercise also provides multiple grip positions. A close grip will work the inner part of the middle back and a wide grip will work the outer back. Both grips are important and should be utilized.

 

One Arm Dumbbell Row

One Arm Dumbbell Row

The one arm dumbbell row is one of the best strength and size building dumbbell back exercises that works each side of the back independently. By performing this exercise one arm at a time, the user is able to assure that one side of the back does not develop more than the other. Because the one arm dumbbell row is done with higher weight than the one arm cable row, it is important to support your body to prevent injury to the low back. The off-leg should rest on a bench and the off-hand should rest there as well. Once you have found a comfortable position, do not move from it during the exercise. Even though the one arm dumbbell row is a size and strength exercise, you still should not cheat by using your body to help the weight up. Instead, lower the weight all the way down and get a full stretch and then pull back up in a controlled manner for a good range of motion.

 

Seated Cable Row

Seated Cable RowThe seated cable row is a good exercise for building size and strength in the inner part of the middle back. Position yourself with knees slighlty bent so that you have to reach to grab the handle with outstretched arms yet without curling the lower back. To work the inner part of the middle back in a different manner, this exercise can be performed in a slower motion with a lower weight, making a point to squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top of the pull. This exercise is usually done with a close grip bar, but that can be replaced with a medium or wide grip bar. The wider grip, the more the outer part of the muscle is worked.

 

Body Weight Based Back Exercises for Men

Reverse Pushups

Reverse Pushups

The reverse push up is one of the primary bodyweight back exercises that works the trap and lat muscles of the back. This exercise up is sometimes referred to as the Australian pull up or the horizontal pull up or the inverted row. It is a good exercise for those who are trying to build up to wide or close grip pull ups. At the top of the motion, the torso should be about two to three feet off the ground. There is no need to perform reverse pushups at more than a controlled pace. This is an exercise for working up to a more complex exercise like wide or close grip pull ups if you can do too many reps, it is not an exercise you need to incorporate.

 

Back Exercises Infographic

Back Exercises Complete Compressed
 

Back Exercises Video Playlist

 

Pre-Designed Back Workouts

 


 

Back Workout #1:

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Wide Grip Pulldown 4 10-12
2. Close Grip Pulldown 4 10-12
3. One Arm Dumbbell Row 4 10-12

 

Back Workout #2:

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Wide Grip Pulldown 3 10-12
2. Close Grip Pull Ups 3 12-15
3. T Bar Row 3 12
4. Reverse Pushups 3 20

 

Back Workout #3:

Exercise Sets Reps
1. T Bar Row 4 10-12
2. Bent Over Barbell Row 4 10-12
3. One Arm Cable Row 4 20

Back Workout #4:

Exercise Sets Reps
1. T Bar Row 4 10-12
2. One Arm Dumbbell Row 4 10-12
3. Wide Grip Pull Ups 2 15
4. Close Grip Pull Ups 2 15

 

Additional EMG Exercise Sets

External Links

Muscle and Fitness: Back Exercises