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Back Exercises for Men and Women

These back workouts listed are for both men and women. Both of you can follow these workouts for building and toning your back.

This section contains detailed descriptions of all major exercises that focus on the upper, middle, and lower back muscles, which includes the latissimus dorsi (lats), teres major, and the rhomboids (upper back).

Read through the exercise descriptions thoroughly so you know exactly what the exercise is going to accomplish, how to execute it properly and safely and how to best incorporate the exercise into your back workouts.

You can do back exercises in various forms. Variation does matter to the growth of your muscles. Update your workouts every two to four weeks for better results. You can do back exercises with barbells, dumbbells, resistance bands, machines, and more.

Mentioned exercises is a list of all practical back exercises that you can include in your workout schedule. You’re not supposed to do all of these on a single day. Also, always warm up the back with lower weight for greater resistance to any potential injuries.

1. Lat Pull-Down Machine

The lat pull-down is a fundamental exercise used to build back strength and muscle. This machine works the latissimus dorsi primarily and the teres major, and the rhomboids secondary.

They can be performed using a variety of different bar types and placement of the hands, by pulling the bar down either behind the neck, or in front of the head (like pictured below). Pulling the bar down behind the neck can cause injury to the shoulder joint due to the hyperextension.

If you lack mobility, it is much better to pull the bar in front of your head, down to your collarbone.

Instructions for Lat Pulldown Machine:

1.   First, select a weight from the stack.

2.  Facing the machine, grasp the bar with a wider than shoulder width

     overhand grip. With both arms extended overhead, pull the bar down to

     bring the weight up, until the thighs are positioned under the pads.

3.  Position the feet flat on the floor, with the back leaning just slightly

     backward. This is the starting position.

4. Slowly pull the bar down in front of the head to the collar bone. Keep the

     body fixed throughout the exercise, move the arms only.

5.  Give the back muscles a one second squeeze, then lower the weight back

     to the starting position in a slow, controlled manner.

6.  This will complete your one repetition.

7.  Exhale as you pull the bar down. Inhale as bring the bar up.

8. Repeat it until failure (8-12 reps / 2-3 sets).

2. Wide Grip Pull-Up

The wide grip pull-up is a fundamental exercise that works great for adding strength and muscle to the back. They give the individual that great V-shape. This exercise works the latissimus dorsi primarily and the teres major, and the rhomboids secondary.

The pull-ups are performed on a straight or bent bar utilizing body weight or assisted version (machine), either behind the neck, or in front of the head (like pictured below). Pulling up behind the neck can cause injury to the shoulder joint due to the hyperextension.

If you lack mobility, it is much better to do the wide grip pull-up in front of your head.

Instructions for Wide Grip Front Pull-up:

1.   Grasp a pull-up bar wider than shoulder width, with the hands facing

     away from you (overhand grip).

2.  Begin by hanging straight down to the floor with the arms extended. Let

     the legs hang straight or you can bend them at the knees with the feet

     crossed at the ankle.

3.  Use your back muscles and bend your elbows to pull the upper part of

     the chest up to the level of the bar so the chin is over the bar, and at the

     same time arch the torso slightly backwards.

4.  Give the back muscles a one second squeeze, then slowly lower yourself

     to the start position without allowing the body to sway.

5.  This will complete your one repetition.

6.  Exhale as you pull up. Inhale as you come down.

7.  Repeat it until failure (2-3 sets).

3. Seated Row Machine

The seated row machine is an excellent exercise equipment used to build back strength and muscle. This machine works the latissimus dorsi primarily and the teres major, and the rhomboids secondary.

The typical seated row machine (pictured below) combines an adjustable seat and chest pad with multiple grip handles for precise let development. Prior to use, adjust the seat and chest pad to accommodate your limbs.

Instructions for Seated Row Machine:

1.   First, select a weight from the stack.

2.  Sit in the machine and grasp the handles. With both arms extended, the

     weight stack should be slightly up.

3.  Position the feet flat on the foot rests, with the chest firmly against the

     chest pad. This is the starting position.

4.  Slowly pull the handles in toward the chest. Keep the body fixed

     throughout the exercise, move the arms only.

5. Give the back muscles a one second squeeze, then lower the weight back

     to the starting position in a slow, controlled manner.

6. This will complete your one repetition.

7. Exhale as you pull the handles in. Inhale on the return.

8. Repeat it until failure (8-12 reps / 2-3 sets).

4. Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row exercise is a basic yet demanding exercise used to build the middle muscle fibers of the back and to gain overall strength. This exercise works the latissimus dorsi primarily and the teres major, and the rhomboids secondary.

The dumbbell row may be performed using either two dumbbells or a single dumbbell (pictured below). Dumbbells allow a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and a longer range of motion, as opposed to a barbell. They also allow you to bring the weight toward the center of gravity, which is safer.

Instructions for One Arm Dumbbell Row:

1.  Place a dumbbell on the floor next to a workout bench. Place the right leg

    on the bench and grab the far side with the right hand, then bend over so

    the upper body is parallel with the ground.

2. Reach down and pick up the dumbbell with the left hand with a neutral

    grip (the thumb forward), then hold it with the arm extended, keeping

    your back straight.

3. Allow the dumbbell to hang straight down below your shoulder.

4. Bring the dumbbell up to your chest, concentrate on lifting with the back

    and shoulder muscles rather than the arm.

5. Give the back muscles a one second squeeze at the top of the movement,

    then lower the weight back to the starting position in a slow, controlled

    manner.

6. This will complete your one repetition.

7. Exhale as you pull the dumbbell up. Inhale as you come down.

8. Repeat it until failure, then alternate (8-12 reps each / 2-3 sets).

5. Cable Row

The cable row (pulley row) is a key exercise used to build back strength and muscle. This exercise works the latissimus dorsi primarily and the teres major, and the rhomboids secondary.

They can be performed either in the standing position, seated on the floor, or seated on a built-in bench (like pictured below). The seated cable row is the most popular position, and is a great muscle builder and strength developer for the middle back area.

Most gyms and health clubs have multiple types of grip handle attachments that allow for varied hand positioning when using the cable row (V-handle attachment pictured below).

Instructions for Seated Cable Row Machine:

1.   First, select a weight from the stack. Sit on the bench with the legs

     extended in front of you, and the feet on the foot pad.

2.  Keep the legs slightly bent and reach forwards to grab the V-handle

     attachment with both of the hands in a neutral grip (palms facing each

     other).

3.  Lean back with both the arms extended, and the back arched at a 90-

     degree angle to the thighs. In this position, the weight stack should be

     slightly up. This is the starting position.

4.  As you pull the handle towards your midsection (abdominal region), lean

     backwards slightly, keep the back arched, head up, and the knees slightly

     bent.

5.  Give the back muscles a one second squeeze, then lower the weight back

     to the starting position in a slow, controlled manner.

6.  This will complete your one repetition.

7.  Exhale as you pull the handles in. Inhale on the return.

8.  Repeat it until failure (8-12 reps / 2-3 sets).

6. Bent Over Barbell Row

The bent over barbell row is a variation of the row that is one of the most popular back training exercises used to build a strong back. This exercise works the latissimus dorsi primarily and the teres major, and the rhomboids secondary.

They can be performed standing either on the floor, on a bench, or on a platform. Your stance will be wider both on the floor and standing, compared to standing on a bench.

Instructions for Bent Over Barbell Row:

1.   Stand with the feet about shoulder-width apart.

2.  While maintaining a slight bend in the knees, grasp the barbell with a

     shoulder-width grip, the palms facing down.

3.  Lift the chest to maintain the natural arch in

     the back, but slightly bend the upper body forward.

4.  Allow the barbell to hang straight down below the shoulders in the start

     position.

5.  Lift the barbell up to the torso, concentrate on lifting with the back and

     shoulder muscles rather than the arms.

6.  Give the back muscles a one second squeeze at the top of the

     movement, then lower the weight back to the starting position in a slow,

     controlled manner.

7.  This will complete your one repetition.

8.  Exhale as you pull the barbell up. Inhale as you come down.

9.  Repeat it until failure, then alternate (8-12 reps each / 2-3 sets).

7. Back Hyperextension

The Back Hyperextension (Roman Chair Back Extension) exercise is a great exercise for strengthening and toning the lower back muscles.

This exercise works mainly the group of paraspinal erectors of the spine (iliocostalis, longissimus thoracis, spinalis thoracis, splenius, and semispinalis capitis), and quadratus lumborum. They can be done with either body weight or with weights.

Most gyms and health clubs have some type of back extension equipment, be it a Roman Chair (pictured below), incline bench, or a back hyperextension machine with an attached weight stack.

Adjust the support pad so that you are able to bend at the waist freely, the pubic bone should not rest on the support pad.

Instructions for Roman Chair Back Hyperextension:

1.  Lie face down on a Roman chair with the pad under the hips, but below

    the pubic bone. Place the ankles under the support pad.

2. Start with the body in a straight-line head to toe, then either place the

    arms across the chest, or hold onto a weight.

3. Keeping the legs together, slowly bend forward by relaxing the back and

    abdominal muscles. Continue as far as possible without rounding the

    back or raising the thighs from the support pad. You should feel a slight

    stretch in the hamstrings.

4. Hold for a count of one. Return to the start position by contracting the

    back and abdominal muscles until the body is once again straight. Do not

    arch the back up at the end of the movement.

5. This will complete your one repetition.

6. Inhale as you bend down. Exhale as you bend up.

7. Repeat it until failure (10-15 reps, 2-3 sets).

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