Three Essential Back Exercises
Effective ways to build a bigger, stronger frame
I don’t know when I noticed it, but my back wasn’t doing much for me. Look, I cycle for my cardio. I lift some weights at the gym (mainly chest and arms, of course) 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's just hanging behind you. 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? 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. Here are three essential back exercises to widen your frame.
Bodybuilders swear by it (and it's easier to start with than pull ups). This will condition your middle back (outer and upper latissimus dorsi).
Sit down at a lat pulldown station and grab the bar with an overhand grip that's just beyond shoulder width.
Keeping your back straight and your torso still, pull your shoulders back and down, and bring the bar down to your chest.
Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
By using dumbbells instead of a larger barbell, you're able to achieve a greater range of motion and isolate your core. This will help condition your lower back (erector spinae).
Using an overhand grip, hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs.
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.
Brace your core and lift back to the starting position.
Cable Diagonal Raise
Cable Diagonal Raise
A great overall exercise that builds and tones the upper back (trapezius and rotator cuff muscles) while strengthening your shoulders. No cable machine? You can use a dumbbell instead.
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.
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.
Pause at top position and contract glutes for greater stability. Return to the starting position and switch arms when you've completed your reps.
Check out BodyBuilding.com’s list of the 10 best back builders.