5 Best Back Exercises For A Well Defined Stronger Back

Strengthening your back can lead to more functional strength, which creates better mobility and movement throughout normal everyday movement patterns. Functional strength can help alleviate low back pain, improve posture and help prevent injuries. Not only that, but a muscular and well-defined back is also the foundation to a dominant physique and building the coveted V-Taper. We’re going to cover a few of the best back exercises, proven through clinical research that you should be including in your back-day training split, to help build more muscle, strength, and a well-defined physique.

What Back Muscles Will You Be Working

The muscles in your back can be divided into three groups; superficial, intermediate, and deep muscles also known as intrinsic muscles. 


The trapezius, or "traps" are a long, triangular shaped superficial muscle, which creates a trapezius shape on the upper back. The proximal region connects from the skull, with its most distal portion from the cervical to lower thoracic spine. 

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi originates from the lower part of the back, where it covers a wide area, and accentuates to form the desired V-shape. The lats have a broad origin – arising from the thoracic spine between T6-T12, thoracolumbar fascia, iliac crest, and the inferior three ribs. Back exercises such as the lat pull down, seated rows and bent over row, will target the latissimus dorse and middle back or rhomboids. 

Levator Scapulae

The levator scapulae is a small strap-like muscle. It begins in the neck, and descends to attach to the scapula.


Rhomboids are split into two muscles, the rhomboid major and mind. The rhomboid minor is situated superiorly to the major. The major starts from the spinous processes of T2-T5 vertebrae, while the minor originates at the bottom of the cervical spine at C7.  

Best Back Day Exercises And Workout

Back day is my favorite workout day. You can almost feel the gains when you’re pulling heavy weight and contracting your muscles. These back exercises, will be performed with a 2-2-1 tempo, meaning that you’ll perform each rep consistently, with slow concentric movement and a slight hold on each rep. Building more muscle mass, tone, and burning body fat, is focused on workout volume, therefore reps will range between 16-10 reps and four sets per movement. Modify and adjust weights to be consistent with rep counts, with a linear progression, increasing weight overtime. If you can’t hit the recommend reps, lower the weight. If it’s too easy, raise the weight. It’s that simple. Rest intervals between sets is 30 seconds.

1. Narrow/Traditional Grip Lat Pull Down

The close or narrow grip lat pulldown focus on the lats, with secondary muscle activation of the traps, middle back, and shoulders. This exercise will help you build a bigger and stronger back, while also focus your lats to build a bigger and wider physique. Rotating your exercises and back day training split between narrow grip and traditional lat pulldown will keep your muscles from complacency and continue to stimulate muscle hypertrophy [R].

2. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

The single-arm dumbbell row is a staple unilateral back day exercise, focusing on one specific side of your back at a time. Unilateral movements provide greater range of motion and muscle contraction, by lengthening your muscle through your lift.  

3. Bent Over Row

Research investigating muscle activation amongst specific back row variations, shows that the bent over row, elicits more muscle activation from the upper to lower back, resulting in better performance and strength, than similar back exercises [R]. Although this exercise provides more muscle activation, it is not recommended to those that have previous back injuries, as it does induce larger spinal load, than other variations such as the inverted row and seated cable row.

4. Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row is a classic back exercise, that promotes constant tension throughout the movement. You can choose from a variety of grips, which will target specific segments of your back, going from a wider, to narrower grip. When choosing a narrow grip, place your hands on the very top of the handle, pulling your hands towards your naval, with your elbows tucked in close to your sides for full muscle activation.

5. Pull Up

The pull-up could be the best back exercise eliciting full muscle contraction and optimal muscle growth. Each variation of pull up, either wide, narrow, or neutral grip, has its own distinct advantages in muscle development and range of motion. Pull ups, are a key back movement to include in your back day training split, to achieve better back strength and definition. EMG research shows that the concentric phase, or lifting phase of the pull up, results in significantly greater muscle activation of the lats, middle traps, and secondary muscle groups such as the pecs, forearms, and biceps [R].

Best Back Exercises: Takeaway

If the goal is to build a bigger, stronger, and well defined back, including these five back exercises in your back workout training split, is going to get you to your goals in no time. These back exercises can be swapped for other variations, grips, and different set/rep counts, in order to achieve the desired outcomes and results. If you're unsure of where to start, consider hiring an online or in-person personal trainer or coach. Form is a critical component for injury prevention, and muscle development and growth. Leaning how to perform these exercise movements the right way from the start, will produce better results and improve posture and reduce risk of injuries. 

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