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The best back workouts for men

back workouts

There’s nothing quite like a broad back and a kickass V-shape, right? While you may have the goal in sight, knowing how to get there can be, well… Difficult. Until now.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a crazy amount of row variations, or struggle finding new back exercises to try, you’ve come to the right place.

Consider this article your roadmap to gaining the back muscle you’ve always dreamed of.

The following back workouts may be new to some of you, but don’t worry – we’ve done the legwork for you, finding back exercises according to a number of factors, including:

  • Ease to learn and perform
  • Total muscle stimulation and intensity
  • Their go-to status with seasoned lifters
  • Availability of machines/equipment in most gyms

Ready to get BIG? Here are some of the best back workouts around.

10 best back exercises for men

The classic pull up

An overhead pulling movement, such as the classic pull up is easily one of the best back workouts you can find. Simple variations have their advantage, from wide-grip to close-grip chins and neutral-grip pull ups for an even greater stretch.

Pull up variations to grow your back:

  • Pull ups on gymnastic rings
  • Weighted pull ups or chins
  • Spotter assisted pull-ups
  • Neutral grip pull ups (palms facing inward)
  • Machine assisted pull-ups
  • Band-assisted pull ups
  • Wide-grip pull-ups (overhand grip)
  • Chin-ups (underhand grip)

Assisted variations are great back-building back exercises. Do what you need to do to get into a muscle-building rep range.

Bent over row

If you’re looking for good back workouts, the bent over row has to be on it! A well-rounded back exercise, this move is key for building the upper back, lower back, lats, traps, spinal erectors – the whole shebang.

Get adding these variations into your back workouts:

  • Bent-over dumbbell or kettlebell rows
  • Overhand grip bent-over rows
  • Underhand grip bent-over rows
  • Pendlay rows (each rep starts from the floor)

Do heavy bent over rows toward the start of your back workout in lower rep ranges, such as 6 to 8 or 8 to 10, saving your lower back.

Deadlift

Easily one of the best back exercises possible, deadlifts go beyond the label of only being a back exercise. Get ready to hit the entire posterior chain, from your calves to your upper traps, while also helping you get a firm butt.

Many seasoned lifters focus their back days around deadlifts. Once you nail your form, you’ll be onto those monster weights in no time.

Also Read: The best cutting workout for losing weight

Deadlift variations to add into your back workouts:

  • Barbell deadlift (from the floor)
  • Romanian deadlift (barbell, dumbbell)
  • Trap bar deadlift
  • Barbell rack pull
  • Snatch-grip deadlift (from the floor or elevated pins)

If you’re looking to develop your back (of course you are), stick to one of these variations. Sumo deadlifts, for example, tend to focus more on other muscle groups than the back in comparison to the above. If you’re going heavy (sets of fewer than about 6 reps), do deadlifts first so you’re fresh.

Seated row

best back workouts

Unlike the many free-weight variations around, the classic seated row maintains constant tension throughout every inch of the movement.

Plus, with a variety of handle grips available at most gyms, you can add a little variation into this back exercise.

Here are some key row variations to add into your back workouts:

  • High-cable standing row
  • Machine seated row
  • Cable row (narrow, wide, medium, overhand, underhand, neutral grip)
  • Single-arm cable row (seated, kneeling, half-kneeling)
  • Plate-loaded high row

Best performed toward the end of your workout, don’t be scared to go slightly higher-rep here, around 10 to 12 or even 12 to 15 reps.

T-bar row

While it appear like yet another bent over row back exercise, the T-bar row actually has some huge differences. For starters, you can stack on more weight!

You also typically have a choice of hand positions and width.

Wide grip: Puts more emphasis on the lats

Neutral grip: Targets the middle back better (traps, teres and rhomboids)

T-bar row variations to add to your best back exercises list:

  • Landmine row holding a wide T-handle (overhand grip)
  • Landmine row holding the bar
  • T-bar row
  • Lying T-bar row

Lat pull-down

good back workouts

While your first instinct may be to grab the wide-grip bar (which is usually found on the machine first, too), a close neutral grip activates the lats similarly to a regular grip. This grip also allows for a longer range of motion and increased time under tension for the lats, which is awesome for building kickass back muscle.

Keep the tempo slow and controlled, squeezing hard at the bottom of each rep while allowing a good stretch at the top of the move.

Check out these lat pull-down variations for ultimate back gains:

  • Underhand-grip pull-down (narrow, medium, wide)
  • Single-arm pull-down
  • Rope handle pull-down
  • Overhand-grip pull-down (narrow, medium, wide)
  • Half-kneeling or full-kneeling pull-down
  • Neutral-grip pull-down (narrow, medium, wide)

Single-arm smith machine row

Some guys down the gym may consider the Smith machine a no-go, but we’re about to break that myth. The fixed plane of the movement allows you to pull heavy loads with plenty of stability, making for a humbling exercise.

Consider it as a cross between a dumbbell row and a machine row, utilizing benefits of both for maximum gains.

Try adding these Smith machine variations into your back workouts:

  • Smith machine bent-over row
  • Smith machine bodyweight inverted row
  • Single-arm Smith machine row (sideways to machine)

Single-arm dumbbell row

back exercises

An absolute classic when it comes to the beck back exercises. Get ready to move a lot of weight, especially if you use straps. You can also get a greater range of motion when training unilaterally, while supporting your lower back by placing one hand on a bench.

Also Read: The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

Consider adding these variations into your back workouts:

  • Single-arm barbell row (landmine to the rear)
  • Single-arm “Meadows row” (landmine to the side)
  • Single-arm row with one hand on a bench
  • Single-arm row with one hand and one leg on a bench
  • Single-arm arc row, reaching forward at the front of each rep

Do this back exercise in the middle or end of your workout for sets of 8 to 12 or higher.

Dumbbell pull-over

This single-joint move allows you to really target and fire up your lats, especially if you’re strategic about your variations.

Try to perform this move on a decline, putting your lats under tension for a longer range of motion than when using a flat bench.

Opt for these dumbbell pull-over variations to grow your back:

  • Straight-arm pull-down
  • Decline bench pull-over (dumbbell, barbell, weight plate)
  • Flat bench pull-over (dumbbell, barbell, weight plate)
  • Cable pull-over

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Chest-supported row

While each of these back exercises varies greatly, unlike the T-bar rows or bent over rows, the chest-supported row doesn’t set your lower back alight! So don’t be afraid to go heavy.

The bench also enforces strict technique – so you have to keep to good form.

Also Read: What’s the best workout split routine?

Try these variations:

  • Incline bench chest-supported row (dumbbell, kettlebell, cable)
  • Seal row (barbell row on an elevated flat or incline bench)

The best back workouts for men

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Ready to go heavy with some of the best back exercises around?

Rack pull

  • 3 sets
  • 6 to 8 reps
  • Rest 2 mins

Neutral-grip pull up

  • 3 sets
  • 6 to 10 reps
  • Rest 90 seconds

T-bar row

  • 3 sets
  • 6 to 8 reps
  • Rest 90 seconds

Bent-arm dumbbell pull over

  • 3 sets
  • 12 to 15 reps
  • Rest 90 seconds

Get rowin’ to get growin’ back workout

The best back exercises target the back from all angles – so if you’re looking to add width, you’re gonna want to row.

Reverse-grip bent over row

  • 4 sets
  • 6 to 8 reps
  • Rest 2 mins

Wide grip seated cable row

  • 3 sets
  • 10 to 12 reps
  • Rest 1 min

Single-arm dumbbell row

Perform all of the reps on one side before switching to the opposite side. Don’t rest between sides and keep rest to 90 seconds between sets.

  • 3 sets
  • 8 to 10 reps
  • Left side – no rest
  • 3 sets
  • 8 to 10 reps
  • Right side – 90 second rest

Machine pumpin’ that back

The best back workouts aren’t all about free weights. This high-rep, short-rest workout will allow you to move serious weight for high reps without posing a serious risk to your lower back or core.

Smith machine bent over row

  • Underhand grip
  • 4 sets
  • 10 to 12 reps
  • Rest 1 min

Seated row

  • Wide-grip handle – overhand or neutral grip
  • 4 sets
  • 12 reps
  • Rest 1 min

Close-grip pull down

  • 4 sets
  • 10 to 12 reps
  • Rest 1 min

Ready to get BIG?

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If you’re looking for good back workouts, you’ve met your match! Above, we’ve gone through some of the best back workouts around, with helpful info on these back exercises and their variations.

Looking for a way to support your goals for a HUGE back? Why not try Brutal Force? Our 100% natural and safe steroid and SARMs alternatives help you pack on muscle, get lean and recover faster, so you can SMASH your back goals.

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The Brutal Force Team

The Brutal Force Team

We research and write articles about health, fitness and dieting. Each of our articles includes sources from scientific studies where possible.

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The Brutal Force Team

The Brutal Force Team

We research and write articles about health, fitness and dieting. Each of our articles includes sources from scientific studies where possible.