5 Must-Do Exercises to Build a Bigger, Better Back

There are plenty of options for you to pick from when you want to build a solid back workout, with tons of exercises and variations to mix and match. But if you want to do the best of the best, you’ll need to narrow your focus on a few key standout moves.

A strong back is crucial for more than just strength; building your muscles will help to develop the coveted V-taper shape, along with helping to shore up solid, healthy posture. But there’s also a lot of territory to cover—the lats, mid-back, lower back—so selecting the right moves to efficiently cover this entire posterior region becomes the greatest challenge.

Your back requires big, heavy exercises that will help strengthen and shape more than just one muscle group with a single movement. In this instance, some old school classics, like rows and deadlifts, still work best and remain Muscle Musts.

And when it comes to the best bang for your buck back exercises, Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., and celebrity trainer and MH Advisory Board member Don Saladino suggest that these are the five most indispensable moves that should be incorporated somewhere in your routine.

The 5 Must-Do Back-Building Exercises

  • Dumbbell Pullover

    This old-school move is gaining a workout routine resurgence because of its versatility — it can be used as not only part of your back routine, but also in your chest program as well. A correct pullover has you set up in a glute bridge position, keeping the abs nice and tight as your squeezing your shoulder blades and helping improve shoulder flexion. Oh, yeah, it also engages your lats as well, giving you that great lat stretch, no matter your flexibility.

    • Chest Supported Row

      The beauty of this row variation is that by placing your chest on the bench pad, you’ll eliminate any pesky hinging position and lower back burden you may feel in other dumbbell row variations. Here you can really focus on a solid contraction of your lats. Start with a neutral grip, but after a few tries, you’ll be able to find different angles that target different areas that work best for you.

      • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

        One of the most basic row variations remains one of the best back exercises. Along with getting a great lat stretch, you’re also hitting your core. What’s best: you can go heavy with these.

        • Pullup

          An OG back classic, the pullup is just as posteriorly potent today as it was when you first tried it in gym class. Once again versatility and new-school variations—bands, negatives, different grips, spotters, machines—allow you to incorporate some form of the movement no matter your strength level. Also, pullups hit more than just your back, giving your biceps and forearms plenty of work while also helping your improve shoulder function.

          • Barbell Deadlift

            The deadlift remains the king of all back exercises, as the movement incorporates lat and core stabilization along with engaging your entire posterior chain. Here, going heavy is encouraged, and as your pulls become stronger, you’ll see how much more developed your back becomes. Don’t skip deadlift day!

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