Best Back Exercises

When it comes to working out, it's not just about beefing up your pecs. You need to balance out those bench presses with a full-on back workout.

Imbalances can not only make you susceptible to injuries, but can also encourage poor posture and problems further down the line.

And if anything, having a well-sculpted back is worth every minute spent doing all those pull-downs, rows and raises. So what's the best way to strengthen your back?

Benefits of pull ups


Your back is made up of several muscles – most of which you'll want to target. These muscles include:

  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids Major (and Minor)
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Teres Major (and Minor)
  • Infraspinatus
  • External Obliques


In terms of composition, the back is a little more complex as there are quite a few smaller muscles which all have specific functions. Working your back takes time, effort and a fair amount of concentration. Unlike a lot of muscle groups, back muscles can be quite difficult to work and isolate, so getting that all-important tension as you train can be tricky to get right.

As always, practice makes perfect and the more you work on your back the more you will start to feel – and see – the benefits.

By working your back, you'll also be complementing your chest, abs, bicep and shoulder routine, as well as developing that well-defined V-shape you're after.

All-in-all, a sculpted back is a true accomplishment in the world of bodybuilding and certainly something to proud of.

So, what are the best back exercises?

How to get a strong back


When it comes to working your back, pull ups are the king of all exercises. Of course, there are other exercises that will help target and isolate some of the smaller muscles. But there are lots of benefits to being able to master the pull up.

Firstly – like the squat – it's a compound exercise which should automatically be at the top of your list of best exercises for muscle gains. Compound exercises are ideal for building muscle mass as they stimulate your body to produce testosterone.

They also work several muscles in one go and in addition, there are a variety of different pull ups on the menu to master so great for working out at home. They're ideal for giving you something to get your teeth into.

Secondly, pull ups will help you get your heart rate up so you can get your cardio in at the same time. This helps to burn calories as well as pump essential nutrients to your muscles as you train.

Thirdly, pull ups allow you to really target your back. Unlike lat pull downs where you're sat down, you're not resisting the weight with your legs and you won't be engaging your lower body to assist you. Pull ups are about giving you the freedom to fully engage your lats and develop pure muscle.

And finally, pull ups keep it interesting. Jumping on a treadmill for an hour can be really mind numbing – especially if you're running towards a wall. A pull up bar provides plenty of opportunities to try new things, build your strength and make your back muscles roar. Define, sculpt, build and strengthen – they do it all. So, above all else, make sure pull ups form the main part of your back workout.

5 steps to improve your pull ups

If you are new to training and can't do a pull up, don't stress. We all need to start somewhere. Check out our buyers' guide which details the different types of pull up bars and how to get started.

Pull ups are mainly good for working your lats, though different grips will help you target specific areas.

When doing a pull up, you'll need to make sure you:

Keep your spine straight – as ever, keeping your back straight is really important (when doing traditional pull ups). A stretched back will decrease the amount you can strengthen it by and will also put you at risk of injury. And as your body is at a slight angle as you pull up, you'll need to raise your chin slightly.

Pull with your back – it's quite common to see people engaging their arms instead of their back when doing pull ups. If this sounds familiar, you're either lifting too much weight or you haven't learnt to engage your back properly yet (or both). Squeeze your back muscles into position so they're tense and then lift using these muscles, so you can really feel it in your back. If this is too difficult to do, pop a weight bench behind you so you can use it to support your weight slightly and 'hop up' into your pull up position.

Do negative pulls – negative pulls are just as important as pull ups and are great for helping you get stronger. Once in your fully raised position, lower yourself down slowly back into hanging, concentrating on your back working the whole way. On a side note, hanging from the bar and then lifting yourself up slightly - just so you're in that tensed position with your shoulder blades lowered - is ideal for strengthening your scapula and improving your pull up technique. This will also work your grip strength – vital for deadlifts and squats.

Include isometric training – isometric training refers to a particular type of muscle contraction that occurs when the muscle is not changing length. You can do this by holding pull ups at different angles for 5-10 seconds, so your muscles are tensed the whole time without moving. This will really optimise your strength training and help you develop your pull up technique as every sequence in the chain is targeted.

Do fewer reps – with pull ups, so many people ask how many can you do? But strength comes by doing fewer reps with a heavier weight. Try using a weight belt that has a chain, so you can work your way to the next level. And remember, form is key. If you start to slow or if your form isn't completely right, stop. Training through poor technique, bad posture and relaxed muscles is most likely going to end in injury and won't help you get any stronger. If you're working on your strength endurance, then more reps will help you but only if it's not too much of a strain to lift your own body weight.

Of course, being able to target all your back muscles will require you to do a variety of exercises including:

  • Bent arm barbell pull overs – which you can do while lying on a weight bench
  • Straight arm pull downs
  • Lat pull downs
  • Bent over barbell rows – plus single arm bent over rows using a dumbbell
  • Seated cable rows
  • Back extensions – also work the glutes

Ready to work out?

Train hard and as always, any questions about choosing the best exercises and equipment, message us on Facebook or Instagram @Mirafitofficial.