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Best Exercises to Strengthen the Back – Top 5

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In this article I will be highlighting the Top 5 Best Exercises for the Back. What you can expect to gain from this information is an understanding on the exercises that will target your back most effectively to gain strength and muscle faster.

Having a strong back is crucial for strength sports performance and everyday tasks from work to home life. The back is your support system. If your back is weak, you may be limited to the type of activities you can do. In most cases; if cleared by a physician you can eliminate your weaknesses through strength building exercises for the back muscles.

The back consists of many large and small muscles that support the spine and promote good posture in the body. To get started I will cover the major compound lifts that will target most muscle groups of the back and follow up with some isolation exercises that will reinforce the smaller muscles.

1. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are the most complete exercise you can do to improve back strength. The main reason is that deadlifts when done properly will build the most muscle in the back and provide the biggest return in strength gains. Deadlifts can be done in a variety of ways.

  • Conventional
  • Off mats, blocks, rack pins
  • Deficit
  • Stiff-legged
  • Romanian
  • Ukrainian
  • Snatch Grip
  • Kettlebells or Dumbbells

There are many more variations, but these will specifically target the most muscle in the back and get you on the way to a stronger, thicker back. Deadlifts are a basic movement that’s done every time you pick something up off the ground; only the load and range of motion varies.

Deadlifts with a barbell allow for maximal loading and will involve just about every muscle in the body. This will build the most muscle and strength along with squats.

In the words of a one of the world’s strongest men Jon Pall Sigmarsson, “There is no reason to be alive if you can’t do the deadlift!”

2. Squats

Like the deadlift, squats will be a great choice because it is a compound lift that recruits the most amount of muscle mass to perform the lift. Specifically, low bar squats will require you to have a more forward torso lean putting an equal amount of stress on the back and leg muscles to lift the most weight and build the most muscle making the back stronger.

To get the most out of this lift, it should be done with a barbell and a heavy enough load to promote a stimulus that will force growth in your back muscles. What I mean is you can do hundreds of body weight squats and it will not do much for your back, but will work the legs. When you have heavy weight on your back, you have to utilize all the muscle in your back to maintain reasonable form to allow you to get the most out of your effort.

Squats can be done with a variety of bars, tempos, load accommodations, and rep/ sets ranges that can keep this lift interesting from week-to-week training. If getting a stronger back is a priority; do squats!

3. Goodmornings

This is one of my favorite back strengthening assistance exercise that will help improve both my deadlift and squat. Goodmornings are another compound exercise that will help you build a very strong back if done properly. This is one of those exercises people either love or hate, but it can have a huge benefit to getting stronger and building more muscle throughout the back and posterior muscle groups.

Goodmornings can be done with much variety:

  • Different Bars
  • Stances
  • Concentric
  • Seated
  • Load Accommodation

These all can be done to different rep/ set schemes to keep progress charging forward. With goodmornings you don’t necessarily need to always go heavy with these, because this is a mechanically disadvantageous exercise that takes a lot more coordination to execute properly. What I mean is that goodmornings put your body through a tougher range of motion than a squat or deadlift. It is like doing an out of position back squat while trying to mimic a conventional deadlift. Either way you look at it, this exercise has been around forever and is great for building a stronger back.

4. Rows & Pulls

You can’t forget about the horizontal and vertical pulls. After doing your heavy deadlifts, squats, and goodmornings find time for these. What I have done is put these exercises on separate days during my training week to solely focus on back and abs too.

The most common ones:

  1. Barbell Rows
  2. Chest Supported Rows
  3. Pull-ups
  4. Lat Pulldowns

There are so many other exercises to list, but realistically I’m going for the exercises with the most bang. So, I choose wisely because I don’t want to spend my time doing a bunch of exercises that are wasting my time. Furthermore, we are talking about building muscle and strength here.

What may be more important is how you structure these exercises based on the current training week. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to do super heavy barbell rows the day before I deadlift, so it does take some thought when programming these in.

5. Back Extensions

These exercises mainly target the lower back, erectors, and other posterior muscles, but depending on the variation you can use a barbell or dumbbell and stimulate the upper-back muscles as well.

First, let’s talk about the reverse hyper extension machine made popular by Louis Simmons. This machine is awesome because it strengthens, builds muscle, and prehabs/ rehabs the back and posterior muscles like nothing else. I will not get into the details, but if you want to know more about how it works check out my article on it here. Instead of the typical back extension you swing your legs extending at the hips/ glutes, and low back rather than with your torso doing the motion. Having a strong low-back is without a doubt just as important as having a strong upper-back. This machine specifically targets the lower to mid-back muscles and is one of my favorite accessory exercises that has helped strengthen and prehab my back.

Next, are the back extensions that can be done horizontal or from a 45 degree angle. By using a wide grip on a barbell(snatch grip) and extending the weight off the floor you can also target the upper-back muscles simultaneously. Both of these exercises are great ways to get in extra volume, but typically not a substitution for a compound lift.

The Blueprint to a Stronger Back

These exercises should be the focus in any back routine that is focused on building muscle and strength. With so many exercises and gimmicks out on how to build strength, it’s best to stick to the basics; what’s tried and true. Start, with compound lifts and then move on to assistance and accessory exercises to get in extra volume if needed.

My goal for this article was to hopefully give a proper layout of what a healthy body can do to improve its back strength. This is how I look at training my back and it seems to be paying off. My back has got a lot stronger and thicker by using these 5 exercises. Also, I would like to mention the importance of training the abs as well. The abdominal muscles will and can help to support your back through all activity. To get more on some great abdominal exercises check out my article on it here.

If you have any comments or questions feel free to connect with me below in the comment section or me email at marcus@totalfitnut.com.

If you can’t explain the essence of your program to a three-year-old in 60 seconds, it’s too complicated. I’ve trained with Olympic medal winners and I can assure you, they don’t do anything mysterious, they just do the exercises better than we do.-Maik Weidenbach

Best,

Marcus

Totalfitnut.com

Marcus@totalfitnut.com

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Marcus

Marcus is a man of God, married to a wonderful women and has 4 children. He is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and aspiring Powerlifter. He has a passion for helping others achieve personal growth through a healthy fitness and nutrition based lifestyle. With hard work and dedication anything is possible. God bless

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