I want you to answer a question for me, and I want you to answer it truthfully. Do you spend nearly as much time working your back as you do your chest? If you’re like most men, the answer is probably no. But I’m here to change that.
Sculpting a bigger back comes with a long list of benefits. For one, you’ll stand taller. Training your back targets common weak spots that lead to poor posture. Say goodbye to your caveman hunch.
And doing back exercises helps you bench press more weight. The muscles in your upper- and mid-back help stabilize your shoulder joints. The stronger and more stable your shoulders, the more weight you can lift in just about every upper-body exercise. (For more full-body workout exercises, check out our Maximus Body workout plan.)
Your arms will grow bigger, too. The reason: Back exercises are also great for targeting your arm muscles. So whenever you bend your elbows to lift a weight—during a row or a pullup, for instance—you’re training your biceps.
You’ll also rev your metabolism when you concentrate on your back. That’s because your posterior chain contains big muscle groups. And the more muscles you train, the more calories you burn.
And, finally, my favorite reason: Ladies love men with V-shaped torsos. Studies have shown that women are most drawn to muscular men whose shoulders measure 1.6 times the size of their waist. The only way to chisel a ripped torso that’s wide on top and narrow at the bottom is to do back exercises.
Now are you ready to work your back more? Get started with some of my favorite exercises that work your entire back.
If you want a V-shaped torso, you must do pullups and chinups. They build width because they target your latissimus dorsi (a.k.a. lats), the large back muscles that wrap around the sides of the upper body just below the arms. These muscles are the ones that give the torso a wider, flared shape, and can make you appear slimmer even if you haven’t lost an inch around your middle.
Below is a list of variations of this classic back exercise from easiest to hardest. As you pull your chest to the bar during each rep, think about pulling your shoulder blades toward your back pockets. This will force you to use your upper-back muscles—as opposed to your biceps—to perform the move.
For each rep of this back exercise, you’ll start in a dead hang and then pull your chest to the bar.
CHINUP: Grab the bar with a shoulder-width underhand grip.
NEUTRAL-GRIP PULLUP: Grab the parallel handles of a chinup station so that your palms are facings each other.
MIXED GRIP CHINUP: Placing your hands shoulder-width apart, use an underhand grip with one hand and an overhand grip with the other.
PULLUP: This is the same movement as a chinup except that you grab the bar with an overhand grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder width.
START-AND-STOP PULLUP: Perform a pullup, and then slowly lower halfway down to a dead hang. Pause, then pull your chest to the bar again. Pause, now lower all the way down to a dead hang. That’s 1 rep.
ISO PULLUP: Perform a pullup, but hold your chin above the bar for 10 to 15 seconds. You can do this for several reps or on the last rep of your last set of pullups.
TOWEL PULLUP: Find your hand positions for a chinup, then drape a towel over each of those spots on the bar. Grab the ends of the towels so that your palms are facing each other. Grasping the towels engages more of your forearm muscles, improving your grip strength and endurance.
Make your muscles bulge with The Back and Biceps Builder, a 2-exercise workout that gives you super gains.
While you can’t beat the chinup as a back exercise, the lat pulldown is also great for increasing muscle. In fact, bodybuilders swear by it. Get the most out of the move by performing the exercise at a slow, controlled tempo. You should “feel” your lats working each rep. Do 8 to 12 reps like this, making sure your upper body remains in nearly the same position from start to finish.
DO THIS: Sit down at a lat pulldown station and grab the bar with an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder width. Without moving your torso, pull your shoulders back and down, and bring the bar down to your chest. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
When it’s done right, the deadlift is an excellent back exercise. As you pick up and put down the weight, your upper-back muscles—including your rhomboids, traps, erector spinae, rear deltoids, and lats—must fire on all cylinders to keep your torso straight and your lower back from rounding. It’s when you fail to engage these muscles that injuries can occur.
DO THIS: Load a barbell and roll it against your shins. Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar with an overhand grip, your hands just beyond shoulder width. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, pull your torso up and thrust your hips forward as you stand up with the barbell. Lower the bar to the floor and repeat.