If you’re like most weightlifters, chances are that you’ve skimped on your back exercises. It’s not that they were particularly challenging (legs day is easily the most draining of all the training days, amirite?), it’s just that having a bigger back isn’t high on your priority list.
When it comes to aesthetic appeal, no one seems that concerned about having impressive back muscles. It’s really a shame, considering that back muscles might be the most underappreciated muscle group you have.
You probably don’t think about it often, but your back supports just about every exercise you do. Forget about the support your lower back provides you with. Your upper back alone is involved in everything from your bench press to your deadlift.
So, now that you understand how important this particular muscle group is, here are the three exercises you should be incorporating into your workout routine today.
These might be one of the more popular back exercises, and with good reason. Rows target your back muscles while offering you a decent range of motion to develop functionality. Of course, none of that matters if you aren’t doing the exercise properly.
We’ve said it in just about every fitness article on this site, but just in case you missed it: proper form is everything. Without it, this exercise ends up giving you more of a bicep pump than anything else. Keeping your elbow tucked in, keeping your back flat and squeezing at the top are all necessary if you expect to get the most out of this exercise.
For first-time lifters, dumbbell rows are the best place to start. While they may be a bit more challenging at first, they offer the novice lifter a chance to correct his form before moving on to heavier weights.
While rows might be one of the best back exercises in general, lat pulldowns are one of the best isolation back exercises out there. For some reason, there’s recently been plenty of debate on the subject of cable exercises vs. free weights.
First off, there’s no denying the value of exercising with free weights. From a functional movement perspective, free weights easily win. That being said, the debate is actually a bit more complicated than that.
If we’re going to compare these exercises, we need to be clear about what we want. If all we were after was strength, then clearly we’d go with the free weights. But we aren’t just going for strength, are we?
We’re trying to build a back that’s powerful and visually impressive. So really, there is no single better kind of exercise. If you want to develop a back that is just as aesthetically-pleasing as it is strong, you’re going to need to incorporate both kinds of exercises.
So, while rows might satisfy the free weight area, lat pulldowns are your best bet when it comes to efficiently using cable exercises. With proper form (keeping your elbows at a 45 degree angle and maintaining good posture), this can easily be one the most useful back exercises in your arsenal.
This probably didn’t surprise you, if you’re familiar with our guides so far. We all love having a massive back, but all that strength feels a bit pointless if we can’t actually functionally use any of it.
Pull-ups are the ideological opposite of an isolation exercise. If rows are about isolating your back muscles, pull-ups are about learning how to use each muscle group together. Biceps, shoulders, delts, and back all come together to tackle this seemingly simple exercise.
It may seem a bit pointless at first, to some of you. After all, pull-ups aren’t going to add a ton of strength or size to your back all at once. Still, give it some time. It’ll start slowly, but eventually you’ll notice a sudden increase in your ability to execute these. 5 pull-ups might be challenging for you, at first. Within no time, you’ll feel that sense of euphoria that comes with efficiency. The speed that comes with having a well-balanced body. Then, you’ll understand why we emphasize functional movements so much.
It’s not because you’ll need that kind of strength to save your life (although that certainly helps). It’s because you’ll never maximize your potential until you experience that kind of effortless power that only comes from having a balanced body.