The 10 Best Exercises to Build a Powerful Back

Everyone wants to have a powerful back because it makes you look more physically fit and capable. In order to build maximum size and strength in your back, you need to focus on compound exercises that target the entire back at once. In this article, we’ll explain how to do the 10 best back exercises for building muscle in your back and rear deltoids. All of these exercises can be done with just your body weight or with dumbbells (which are great because they can target different areas of your back). Before you begin, make sure that you warm up properly by doing some light cardio or stretching first.

1) Deadlifts

You’ve probably heard it before, but deadlifts are one of the best exercises you can do for lower back strength and muscle mass. If you want big muscles, then there’s no better exercise than deadlifts. If you don’t have time to dedicate your life to pumping iron, then just get stronger with an old-fashioned barbell deadlift.

2) Bent Over Rows

The bent over row is an exercise that specifically targets your upper back and biceps. This movement primarily works your traps, rhomboids and rear delts, but it also hits your biceps hard during each rep. You’ll do best with barbells for bent over rows since dumbbells are awkward when working at such an angle. The wider grip will target more of your lats; however, you can experiment with varying grips to suit your needs.

3) One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

The one-arm row is an awesome compound movement that targets your lats, rhomboids and traps. You can also perform them unilaterally, meaning you can grab a dumbbell in each hand and perform one arm at a time for an added challenge.

4) Barbell Shrugs

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold a barbell in front of your upper thighs with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Shrug your shoulders straight up as high as possible while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower and repeat. Add weight if you can.

5) T-Bar Rows

T-bar rows are one of my favorite exercises for building big and strong back muscles. The only problem with T-bar rows is that it takes a lot of space, so you’ll probably have trouble fitting them in your home gym. I usually do these using a machine at my local commercial gym.

6) Seated Cable Rows

Seated cable rows are an effective way to build strength in your back, especially your latissimus dorsi muscles. While seated and gripping a bar attachment with both hands, pull it toward you until it touches your body. This can be performed one arm at a time or alternating each rep. When performing one arm at a time seated cable rows, use 50 percent of your weight on one side and do both arms equally.

7) Close Grip Pulldown

In a seated position, grip two dumbbells using an overhand grip and rest them on your thighs. Pull one of the weights toward your chest by bending your elbows until it touches your upper chest. Pause for one second, and slowly return to starting position. Repeat with other arm. That’s 1 rep. Do 8–12 reps for 3 sets before moving on to cable rows (see below).

8) Standing Cable Rows

Using a high pulley or cable machine, stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend forward at your waist. Grab each handle in front of you with an overhand grip. Now pull back with your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together for three counts. That’s one rep.

9) Chin-ups

Chin-ups are one of our favorite back exercises because they work almost every muscle group in your back. If you’re only going to do one exercise for your back, make it a chin-up. Grab onto any bar, preferably near or above shoulder height, and hang on with just your hands so that all of your weight is supported by your arms.

10) Yates Row

It’s one of my favorite back exercises because it works your entire upper back and core, as well. Start with a dumbbell in each hand and extend both arms straight out in front of you. Bend at your elbows to lower the dumbbells toward your hips as far as possible, keeping them close together (elbows in line with shoulders). Row back up again by squeezing your shoulder blades together; don’t use momentum to lift the weights. Perform 3 sets of 8–10 reps.

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