Everyone knows how important it is to have a strong core and back. And who better than to acquire these via barbell exercises? We’re going over 10 of the most effective barbell exercises for a strong back and why they’re so great.
Table of Contents
- Basic Back Anatomy
- The Importance of a Strong Back
- 10 Effective Barbell Exercises for a Strong Back
- Who needs to focus on back strength?
- What is the benefit of a strong back?
- How many times should I do these back exercises?
- What is a good amount of weight to use?
- How to take care of your back after training?
- Why do I hurt my back after training?
- How to warm up your back before training?
- How long should I rest after training?
- How long should I keep repeating the same exercises?
Basic Back Anatomy
The how you build your back can make or break up your body. Your core is made up of the deepest muscles in your body which are responsible for keeping most things stable by acting as a center. These muscles include:
- Latissimus dorsi: This is the large broad muscle that runs along the side of your body and extends across your hips and toward your spine almost like a big “X”. Its primary function is to pull down and back. This muscle also assists with abdominal movements by pulling or pulling away from the midline, or toward the midline. Read more about Latissimus dorsi.
- Rhomboids: This is a small and fairly well-defined muscle found along the side of your back and above your shoulder blades. Its main function is to pull back and upward. Read more about Rhomboids.
- Posterior deltoids: This is a large muscle that runs across the back of your shoulder blades and assists with extension, pulling back and downward. Read more about Deltoid.
- Trapezius: Another muscle that pulls down and backward, the trapezius also assists in bending and extending. Read more about Trapezius Exercises.
- Erector spinae: This is the muscle that runs along the top of your back, just above your spine. Its main function is to keep your spine erect and straighten it if it’s off-balance. Read more about Erector Spinae.
Your core is made up of many muscles, but the ones we’ve named above are the ones that most people focus on when building their core. These basic muscles provide stable posture and help you hold yourself up by retracting and pulling back and upward via retractors such as the rhomboids and trapezius.
The Importance of a Strong Back
Strong backs are necessary for many aspects of life. Not only do they protect your body from injury, but they also allow you to be able to keep lifting heavy and move with freedom.
- Back Pain: If you’ve ever had back pain, then you know that even the smallest activities can be painful and difficult. Having a strong back can help prevent this.
- Mobility: Having a strong back with mobility is probably the best combination there is for overall health and fitness. Having strong backs allows you to move better in any kind of physical fashion.
- Back Strength: With the ability to lift heavy and hold them for a long period of time, you can add more weight than you would be able to otherwise. This will help your endurance in lifting and moving in general.
- Improve Posture: The muscles in your back can help improve poor posture. Many of us have one side that is weaker than the other, which can contribute to poor posture and shoulder joint problems as well as lower back pain.
Although the benefits of having a strong back are obvious, it is important to note that not everyone will benefit from this. Most people don’t need to train their backs in the same way that they would require strength elsewhere.
But just because you don’t need a lot of back strength doesn’t mean that you can neglect it. Like any muscle, you should spend time building it. It’s important to find the balance between building your back while still being able to do other tasks and exercises which do not require your back.
10 Effective Barbell Exercises for a Strong Back
Here are 10 of the most effective barbell exercises for a strong back. These exercises are perfect for beginners and advanced exercisers alike. They’ll help you build up ample amounts of muscle mass, improve your metabolism, and even help alleviate back pain.
The deadlift is the most effective back exercise because it requires everything in your back to fire at once. This makes it a very good indicator of strength. But the deadlift isn’t only great for your back, it targets your hamstrings, hips, glutes, shoulders, arms, and abs as well. It’s also very good for building muscle mass.
To begin, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Grab the bar with an overhand grip or hook grip, and lift the bar off the floor so it’s at arm’s length for you to grab. Bend at your knees and hips as you lower the weight below parallel. Keep your chest up and descend until the bar touches your hips.
The bent-over row is a great back exercise for building muscle mass. But it’s also a good indicator of strength since this exercise requires you to pull the weight up with your arms and back muscles. This makes it very good at seeing how you’re progressing on developing strong muscles in that area.
With your hands shoulder-width apart and your elbows slightly bent, grab a dumbbell or barbell (dumbbells work better than barbells for this). Pull the weight straight up by bending at the waist. Keep it as close as possible to your body.
The good-morning exercise works the entire back from top to bottom. This makes it a very effective back exercise for not only building muscle mass but also improving your core strength. In addition, the good morning is a great way to add more volume to your upper body workouts since you can do an upper body exercise in between sets.
Make sure that the bar is set back on your shoulders. Lift your hips up as you squeeze your glutes and lower them until your knees are at 90-degree angles. Continue squeezing your glutes and lift your hips back up.
Just as the deadlift focuses on everything in your back, so does this exercise focus on more than just your back. The military rows force you to activate all of your muscles and work them together as a whole. Plus, they’re one of the more difficult exercises so they’ll be great for building muscle and good posture.
Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended in front of your chest. Pull the barbell up to your torso, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your legs straight and toes on the floor. When you lift the barbell make sure your body is facing slightly upwards.
Face Pulls are a very effective back exercise for many reasons. For one, the pull itself targets the muscle groups in your upper back, back, and arms. But it can also add extra thickness to these areas if you do them right.
Grab a pole or rope with both hands and facepalms down on it while bending at your elbows. Lean forward while pulling the weight up toward your head.
Another great addition to your back workout. The pullup is a great exercise for strengthening the lats (back muscles) and developing thick, strong muscles.
Grab the bar with an overhand grip and keep your hands shoulder-width apart. Pull yourself up so your chin is above the bar, then lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended. Be sure to squeeze your back muscles to contract them while pulling yourself up.
Seated Cable Row
This back exercise is similar to the bent-over row, but it allows you to adjust where the weight is positioned. This makes it very good at targeting different parts of your back muscles.
Sit at a low row machine with your knees bent and stomach muscles are drawn in. Grab the handles shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight while you pull them towards your chest. Keep your shoulder blades pulled in as you pull the handles down.
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
This exercise is good for building your back and shoulder muscles, but it’s especially effective at strengthening and defining your lats (your upper back muscles) and the other muscle groups involved in pulling the weight down.
Grab the bar or machine handles about shoulder-width apart. Pull the weights down so they’re directly above your shoulders with your elbows straight. Make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the weight down.
Reverse Barbell Shrugs
The reverse barbell shrug is a good back exercise because it works your upper back, lower back, and even your core at the same time. It also teaches you how to lift and hold weight safely and with the correct form.
With your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent, grab a barbell with an underhand or hook grip. Raise the weight straight up to the level of your shoulders. Maintain a small bend in your elbows.
Barbell High Pulls
The barbell high pull works your back muscles, chest, biceps, shoulders, abs, and even your core. It’s also a very effective way to work your chest muscles while you’re using the barbell for other exercises.
With your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent, grab a barbell with an underhand or hook grip. Bend at the hips and pull the weight up until it’s directly above you, keeping your back straight.
An article that goes over the 10 most effective barbell exercises for a strong back. They’re all very effective but some are better than others. If your goal is to build a solid, functional back then I suggest you put these exercises into practice immediately. The key to success with these is to continually progress and apply progressive overload correctly.
Who needs to focus on back strength?
Anyone looking to improve their overall physique and strength. Whether that be a powerlifter, bodybuilder, or someone who’s just looking to look and feel better.
What is the benefit of a strong back?
A strong back will make you look good. It’ll make you stronger in everyday movements and heavy lifting. And it’ll protect your lower spine from injury.
How many times should I do these back exercises?
Do these exercises 3-4 days per week and once every couple of weeks, when you can handle it.
What is a good amount of weight to use?
Start with barbell exercises for your back as light as possible. Start with less weight-lifting and gradually increase it by 5-10% each week.
How to take care of your back after training?
There’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to back exercises: “do them when you can”. This means the day after the workout. The muscles you train will recover faster and a two-day rest period is enough for this.
Why do I hurt my back after training?
The reason why you hurt your back is that you haven’t warmed up thoroughly enough. But the main reason is that you don’t perform your exercises correctly. That’s why it’s better to do them when you can.
How to warm up your back before training?
You should warm up your back thoroughly so that your training session is very productive. For this, take a barbell with weights on it and proceed to deadlift the weight twice. After this, you can start doing barbell exercises for your back.
How long should I rest after training?
You should rest for at least 2 days after each workout to allow your muscles to recover fully.
How long should I keep repeating the same exercises?
You shouldn’t repeat the same exercises more than 3 times. But if you notice that you’re still unable to progress, feel free to increase your weight by 5-10%.