The reason why there are so many options of back exercises is because your back is composed of big muscles.
We know that training big muscles is the key to build muscle fast. It's not a mystery right? If you train small muscles the gains that you can make are proportioned to the size of the muscles.
If you train big muscles you have big chances to make huge gains.
Legs (especially quads and glutes), back (lats and traps) and chest are the biggest muscles in our body.
If you train those with intensity you make big gains because that type of workout stimulates testosterone and HGH production, which is beneficial to the rest of your body.
Train All Your Back Muscles
I know that this is not really a good tip, not one of those that you jump up and say Oh yeah, what a great idea!
But I want to point out that I've seen many "bodybuilders" that didn't pay much attention to their back muscle and didn't do enough back exercises, just because "back muscles are not so impressive".
Many prefer focus on their biceps, chest, shoulders or abs...because they make you look good right?
Less people instead care about training their legs and back properly.
Ok I understand that you don't go out and impress friends and girls saying Hey, look at my awesome lumbar muscles...but it's important to work out your back properly at least maintain a correct posture.
Back and abs are very important for your posture, it's not just a matter of spine.
What Back Exercises Build Muscle Fast?
If you look at any exercise directory database I am sure you will find tons of exercises for your back.
As I said your back is composed of several muscles and we can divide it into three major parts: upper back, middle back, lower back.
Each are should be trained properly and with the right exercises. Surfing the internet I found websites that listed something like 90 different workouts just for your back!
You must be kidding me.
You get confused just looking at the list, and feel to give up when you start reading the exercise names.
Which Ones Are the Best?
To work out your back entirely you need to pick a couple of exercises for each are of your back so that you can train:
- Upper back (traps/rhomboids)
- Middle back (center traps/lats)
- Lower back (lumbar muscle)
If you go up on stage, well...you have to train every single little muscle of your body, there's no doubt about it.
But if you just aim to having a nice physique, which is my goal, you don't want to waste your time training the smaller muscles because that won't give any good visible results.
I will just go straight to the point and tell you, based on my own experience, which back exercises should increase your strength and size more than others.
Sometimes it's even hard to explain which is the primary muscle that is worked when you execute deadlifts, because it is such a full body workout.
It's a great exercise for your quads, glutes, and lower back. If you squeeze your shoulder blades together you work out also your traps.
It brings great results when it is performed correctly with particular care to the movement, but it's also risky because if you make a mistake and injury your back it can be painful, dangerous and long to recover.
The better the result the higher the risks, as always.
There is no variations for deadlifts, or if we want we can have one...that I don't recommend.
Deadlifts are executed with a barbell, and we know that you can always replace a barbell with dumbbells.
This exercise allows you to lift very heavy weights due to the big and strong muscle that are involved. If you execute it with dumbbells you are forced to use very heavy dumbbells.
Dumbbells are more difficult to manage because of stability and balance problems as you can imagine, and I believe that it's too risky and dangerous to use dumbbells for this exercise, as well as for squats, for the same reason.
I strongly suggest the use of a weight lifting belt to keep your back in the correct position. If you bend your lower back you're...screwed!
Pull ups/Chin ups
These are back exercises but don't forget that they are compound movements too as they work out other muscles, your biceps especially.
They are basically the same exercise, just with a different grip. Speaking of grip you can experiment as you prefer:
- Widest grip (angled edges of the pulldown bar)
- Shoulder grip
- Shoulder reverse grip (chin ups)
- Close reverse grip (chin ups)
Let's say that on general basis, the wider the grip, the more the external part of your lats is emphasized.
As we all know, pull ups and chin ups are executed at the chin up bar, usually on the wall, but your gym is probably equipped with a tricep dips stand with chin up bar on top.
As they are hard exercises because you start lifting your own body weight from the very beginning, you may not be able to do them if you are a beginner.
The best alternative that you can think of is doing these back exercises at the lat machine.
Instead of pulling your body up, you sit on the machine with two pads blocking your knees and pull down the bar with the selected weights.
You can exercise at the lat machine experimenting the same grips discussed above and have one more option: lat machine pull down behind your head.
It is still a very effective compound exercise for your lats primarily.
I just described pull ups and chin ups in details, but they are basically the same exercise.
Good results can be achieved with the lat machine too!
T Bar Rows
I love T Bar rows, I feel my back all "swollen" after this back exercise. My lats especially, but the whole center of my back grows fast with rows. I had the same feedback from other people but it's not a news...I mean...T Bar rows are proven to be very effective.
There are many other similar exercises that are more or less as good as this, I just don't go into details because the principle is the same and I want to keep the list short as I am trying to give you what I consider the best back exercises, not a full list of all the exercises available.
Anyway, the best options you want to consider if you don't do T Bar rows would be:
- Bent over barbell rows
- Bent over dumbbell rows
- One arm dumbbell rows
- One arm cable rows
Cable Seated Rows
Cable seated rows is also known as low pulley rows. I love this exercise because it builds muscle in my middle/center back and it defines nice lines in my rear shoulders and rhomboids.
As any other exercise it can be executed with a V-bar handle or with a straight bar handle as well.
Of course I do other exercises too like seated row machine, lumbar raises, lat machine with different handles etc, but if you start with these that I just explained you won't be disappointed.
Big gains can be made with these compound movements!