Three Essential Back Exercises

Essential Back Exercises
Essential Back Exercises

Who says you can't learn stuff while binge watching TV? I'm a better man for watching Master of None, in many ways, I guess. But in this case, I'm talking about fitness. It was a small, but effective scene from the second season. Aziz Ansari's Dev is talking with his fit cousin about how he got such an impressive physique:

Dev: Navid, you're jacked, man. How often you go to the gym?
Navid: Not that much. Like four times a week.
Dev: Mostly chest and arms?
Navid: Surprisingly, I do mostly back.
Dev: Why back?
Navid: I want a wide frame ... It's all about the frame.

Dev: Navid, you're jacked, man. How often you go to the gym?
Navid: Not that much. Like four times a week.
Dev: Mostly chest and arms?
Navid: Surprisingly, I do mostly back.
Dev: Why back?
Navid: I want a wide frame ... It's all about the frame.

Dev: Navid, you're jacked, man. How often you go to the gym?
Navid: Not that much. Like four times a week.
Dev: Mostly chest and arms?
Navid: Surprisingly, I do mostly back.
Dev: Why back?
Navid: I want a wide frame ... It's all about the frame.

It was merely a funny conversation while the two were in line at a sandwich shop. But it got me thinking, the jacked dude had a point. I cycle for my cardio. I lift some weights at the gym (mainly chest and arms, ironically) but my frame was not what you'd describe as wide or strong. It certainly wasn't the V-shape I'd like it to be. So I started researching back exercises and found that you can't think of your back as one big slab of muscle that doesn't do much. While often overlooked, your back is actually a complex system of muscles, each with their own functions. I realized I needed to play catch-up and I began adding back exercises into my fitness routine. Quickly, there was a noticeable difference. First, my posture improved. Then there was a slight broadening out. I could see definition in my back, and my shoulders started looking a bit wider which made my waist appear a bit slimmer. Want to give it a try? Here are three essential back exercises to widen your frame.

Lat Pull-Down Exercise

Lat Pull-Down

For: Middle back (outer and upper latissimus dorsi)

Bodybuilders swear by it (and it's easier to start with than pull ups).

1

 

Sit down at a lat pulldown station and grab the bar with an overhand grip that's just beyond shoulder width.

2

 

Keeping your back straight and your torso still, pull your shoulders back and down, and bring the bar down to your chest.

3

 

Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Deadlift Exercise

Dumbbell Deadlift

For: Lower back (erector spinae)

By using dumbbells instead of a larger barbell, you're able to achieve a greater range of motion and isolate your core.

1

 

Using an overhand grip, hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs.

2

 

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hinge forward at your hips, slightly bending the knees, lowering the dumbbells to the ground without allowing your back to round.

3

 

Brace your core and lift back to the starting position.

Dumbbell Deadlift Exercise
Cable Diagonal Raise Exercise

Cable Diagonal Raise

For: Upper back (trapezius and rotator cuff muscles)

A great overall exercise that builds and tones the back while strengthening your shoulders. No cable machine? You can use a dumbbell instead.

1

 

Attach handle to the low pulley of a cable machine. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and your left side closest to the weight stack.

2

 

Grab the handle with your right hand and allow your right arm to run diagonally across your body with palm facing inward. Brace your core and pull the handle across your body until your right hand comes completely overhead.

3

 

Pause at top position and contract glutes for greater stability. Return to the starting position and switch arms when you've completed your reps.

FYI

Want more muscle-building exercises? Check out BodyBuilding.com's list of the 10 best back builders.