Four Fundamental Exercises to Target Your Back

Strong, defined backIt’s never too early to start prepping for beach-body weather (it still is, for some) and it’ll be here before you know it! And everyone knows, there is nothing like showing off a strong, defined back. As the warm weather steadily approaches, sculpting that defined back will help you not only look, but feel amazing. Here are a few tips and exercises that are sure to sculpt and strengthen!

Identifying the best types of back workouts can be difficult. With such a wide array of muscles that comprise your body’s foundation, it would seem as though you’d need to be at the gym for hours to simply work every facet of it. In reality, you just need to know which muscles to target. And while certain upper body routines and exercises can help in creating mass, it is important for you to have specific focus on the muscles of the back in order to experience true growth.

First things first. The back is a complex system of muscles that can be divided into three distinct segments — the upper back (traps), the middle back (lats) and lower back (erectors). See below:


Before we move onto the tips and exercises that can help you build an imposing back, it is important to note that proper form and posture is imperative! Over 100 million people in the United States live with chronic back pain due to underlying issues like:

  1. Poor posture
  2. Sitting for long periods of time
  3. Poor body mechanics
  4. Excess body weight

But fear not! Here are a few quick injury-prevention tips to alleviate/limit back pain moving forward:

  1. Stretch! Stretch prior to bed, when you wake up and DURING each workout, regardless of which body part you are exercising.
  2. Build Endurance! Focus on developing muscular endurance over overall development.
  3. Start Light! The lighter, the better. Allow your body time to warm-up, get limber and ready to go! Focus on achieving a full range of motion before you go heavy.

Exercise One: Dumbbell Rows

Dumbbell rows are great for developing the lats and traps. When properly performed, this exercise can help to add width and mass, giving your back that “V-shape” so many try to achieve.

Another reason to love this exercise: It doesn’t compress the spine.

Image result for kneeling rowHow to Perform: Grab a dumbbell (Remember: Go light initially, assuring a full range of motion) and a bench to kneel on.

With a knee on the bench, slowly lower your torso toward the floor, until you’re just about at parallel. Allow the dumbbell to hang from your shoulder, palm facing toward you. This is your starting position.

Slowly rip the dumbbell up toward your lower chest (as if you were starting a lawnmower), shrugging your shoulders. Now lower the weights to the starting position.

Perform three sets of 6-8.

Exercise Two: Pull Up Holds

Image result for pull up holdsThe pull up hold is a great exercise for development muscles likes the traps, lats and rear shoulders. Similar to the aforementioned Rows, the benefit of this exercise is that you’re not placing pressure on the spine or lower back via compression.

How to Perform: Hang from a pull up bar with an overhand grip (hands facing away from your body) and place your hands at the same length you would when preparing for the bench press. Mentally focusing on the upper back and shoulder real shoulder muscles, pull your chest up to the bar and hold for 10-20 seconds.

If you’re not at the point of where you can pull yourself up yet, simply jump up toward the bar and maining an “L” shape with your arms and elbows for as long as you comfortably can.

Try to do at least 5 reps. Build up to 10 reps over time. As this gets easy, consider holding a dumbbell or plate between your feet to add greater resistance.

Exercise Three: Dumbbell Shoulder Press

An excellent upper back exercise that targets the lats, teres major/minor, and your rhomboids. Please note: This exercise can be performed standing or in the seated position.

How to Perform: Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold just outside shoulder-width apart. With your arms bent and palms facing toward your feet, slowly press the dumbbells upward until your arms are straight. Hold for half a second and slowly lower back to the starting position.

Perform three sets of 6-8.

Exercise Four: Deadlifts

No good back workout list is complete without the Deadlift. There’s a reason it is referred to as the King of Mass Builders.

How to Perform: The motion starts with the barbell on the floor, with your mid-foot under the bar, feet shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly turned outward.

Bend your knees until your shins hit the bar. Grab a hold of it, keeping your abs and glutes tight. With arms straight, pull the bar up, tracing the outline of your legs with a straight back.

Once standing erect, slowly bring the barbell back down, maintaining the posture you had during the pulling portion of the lift. Return the weight to the floor by pushing your hips back first. Bend your legs once the bar reaches your knees. Rest momentarily, then perform your next rep, making sure that you do not bounce the weight off the floor — pull each rep from a dead stop.

Perform five sets of 5, steadily increasing the weight so that it is managable, but also difficult.

What’s that sound? Oh, just your back asking for more!