Your back is made up of some of the biggest and strongest muscles in the human body. Unfortunately it is often neglected in favour of chest exercises, but if you want to have an impressive upper body, it is essential you dedicate time to training your back.
There are a number of different exercises you can employ to train your back, revolving around a pulling motion. These usually primarily involve pull ups and rows, but there are a number of other less well-known exercises you can do to stimulate your back muscles to grow.
#1 RACK PULLS
The deadlift should be a go-to exercise for anyone wanting to build a thicker, stronger back. Rack pulls are a variation of the deadlift. They require a similar motion and target your upper back. The main difference between the deadlift and the rack pull is where you pull the weight up from.
A rack pull is performed by lifting the weight from the bars of the squat rack, which reduces the range of motion you have to go through to lift the weight. The shorter range of motion allows you to lift heavier than when you perform deadlifts.
It is important to consider that rack pulls should not be viewed as a replacement for deadlifts. Instead they will help you perform the lock out part of a regular deadlift, so they are a great variation exercise to perform if you want to improve your deadlift.
#2 ALTERNATED GRIP PULL UPS
Pull ups, also known as chin ups, are a fantastic exercise for stimulating your back muscles and a great test of your overall strength. There are many variations of pull up including wide grip, narrow grip, underhand grip and overhand grip, but you may not have tried using an alternated grip.
Grip the pull up bar with one palm facing away from you and one palm facing you, then pull yourself up in the same way you would perform a normal pull up. It is important to switch your grip over after each set.
It is sometimes appropriate to introduce slight variations in your training. Some techniques may work better for you, others may not, but unless you try them you never know. Next time pull ups are a part of your training regime, give alternated grip pull ups a try and see how you find them.
#3 WIDE GRIP BARBELL ROW
The barbell row is a highly effective exercise for stimulating the muscles in your back. Barbell rows give you great versatility, as you are able to add weight easily, and, providing you use correct form, you can really target your lats.
You are probably already doing barbell rows, but have you ever tried performing them with a wide grip? Using a wide grip shortens the range of motion, but it requires you to work very hard in order to lift the weight, meaning you have to really focus on engaging your upper and outer lats to complete each rep. Try this exercise next time you do barbell rows and you will be sure to feel the burn!
#4 LANDMINE ROW
Most gyms have a landmine station allowing you to perform a range of different exercises. The landmine row is a great exercise for targeting your lats. To perform this exercise, load one end of the bar with a weight you can manage, stand at a 90 degree angle to the bar and hold one end with an overhand grip. Row the weight up to your midsection, pause and then slowly lower it back to the starting position.
Standing at a 90 degree angle to the bar means that you will work one lat more than the other during the exercise. Most people are likely to have one side stronger than the other and therefore doing this exercise can help to eradicate strength imbalances, as you can isolate each lat. The exercise also involves a large range of motion and standing at a 90 degree angle means the weight plates will not interfere with the contraction.
#5 ONE ARM SMITH MACHINE ROW
This is a great exercise for targeting your lower lats. Head to the Smith Machine and stand side on to the bar. Bend over so your back is as flat as possible. Place your hand nearest the bar on the bar, and place your other hand on your outside thigh and bend your knees for support and to ensure a stable base.
When pulling the bar up, focus on raising your elbow towards the ceiling. At the top of the motion, squeeze your lats and pause, before lowering the weight back to the starting position. This will increase time under tension and can stimulate greater muscle growth.
The Smith Machine is a great way to master the form of the row because it forces you to pull the weight up in a straight line. It is very easy when using a dumbbell for the weight to move to the side as well as up.
ENHANCE YOUR BACK WORKOUTS
The exercises above can help you add some variation to your back training. Next time you are training back, why not try and add some of these exercises in and see how they work for you? You may just find your new favourite back exercise.