Most guys in the gym only really pay attention to the chest and biceps. But if you want to build an athletic, imposing physique that really stands out from the crowd, you're going to need to build up your back.
A big back is the epitome of true strength. Any skinny guy can get a set of washboard abs. Most people can build up their biceps through mindless curls. But a big back? That takes hard work and dedication.
The truth is, most people don't know where to start when it comes to building their back. So they neglect it, only to end up with rounded shoulders and a disproportionate physique. This is not the kind of look that turns heads on the beach.
Don't be like the rest. Do these 6 exercises below and build yourself a back that demands respect!
#1 Pull ups
Pull ups are the greatest back building exercise around. The mind-muscle connection required to pull your bodyweight through space really helps you to engage your lats more effectively than conventional barbell or dumbbell lifts.
As you complete a pull up your back should be straight, your abdominals engaged, and the motion should be controlled throughout. Your chin needs to clear the bar on every rep. Most people only pull themselves to eye level, which is an incomplete repetition.
Work up to being able to do 12 - 15 pull ups with solid form, then start adding weight in the form of a weight belt.
#2 - Deadlifts
Everyone loves the deadlift. It's well known to be one of the greatest muscle building exercises on the planet, simply because of the sheer number of muscle fibres that are recruited during each repetition. The more muscles that work in one movement, the higher the hormonal response, and therefore, the greater stimulus to build muscle.
In terms of the back itself, deadlifts are a great way to build the traps and rear delts, which are key for developing that perfect 'V Shape' physique. For greater focus on the traps, deadlift with a wide grip or using a hex bar. Play around with rep ranges on your deadlifts: go heavy on some days working in the 3 - 5 rep range, and on others work with a lighter weight at around 10 - 15 reps. Variety is key to keep your body guessing.
#3 - Dumbbell rows
Dumbbell rows are one of the best exercises for building big lats. But most people execute them incorrectly, which means they work their biceps more than the lats and never get the back development they want.
As you execute dumbbell rows, focus on really squeezing your shoulder blade backwards to engage your back muscles. The movement should be slow and controlled: 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down. This will probably mean lightening the load by 20 - 30% to allow proper execution of your reps. So put your ego to one side with this exercise to reap the rewards!
#4 - T Bar Rows
T bar rows are a great alternative to the dumbbell row, focusing more on the upper back whilst still engaging the lats. This movement is called a 'T Bar' because you make a T shape with the bar. Grab the triangular grip, usually found on the cable machine, and lock it underneath a barbell. Load up the front of the barbell with weights, and perform rows in the 10 - 15 rep range. As with dumbbell rows, maintain a strong mind-muscle connection to effectively target your back.
#5 - Farmers' walks
Farmers' walks and other varieties of loaded carries are great for loading the rear delts and traps, whilst also recruiting the lower back muscles for stability. Grab two heavy dumbbells and walk with them for 30 seconds. Drop the weight, rest for 30 and repeat. The constant time under tension of farmers' walks provides a tremendous stimulus to push your body into muscle building mode.
#6 - Inverted barbell pull ups
Finished your workout? Not yet! Inverted barbell pull ups are great for getting a pump on at the end of your training session, making your lats swell up to look even bigger as you leave the gym.
To do this exercise, lock a barbell into a smith machine or any other apparatus that can keep it horizontal. Stretch yourself out below the bar, and pull yourself up so that you clear your bar with your chin whilst your body stays straight. Once more, take the tension in your back and not your biceps. Squeeze your lats together at the top of every rep. Finish your workout with 3 sets of 10 - 15 inverted barbell pull ups, and admire the most satisfying back pump you've ever had in your life!