Including an effective back workout routine in your overall muscle building efforts is critical to achieving a well-balanced, strong, and muscular physique.
But there are so many lifters out there who don't realize this and they overly focus on certain muscle groups whilst neglecting others. A common example I see is lifters slaving away at the gym doing countless sets of bench press and barbell curls in order to build up their chest and arms because they are the most "showy" muscles, yet they neglect their back muscles and their legs. Doing this will only lead to an unbalanced physique with poor posture.
Of course, building your chest and arms is important, but you need to train ALL of your major muscle groups in order to build an overall great physique. And the group of muscles in your back are perhaps some of the largest and most important in overall upper body strength.
Ok, I do understand why it's easy for people to avoid a good back workout routine. Firstly, the back muscles aren't as "showy" as the arms or chest for example. And secondly, they simply don't understand the importance of building a strong back.
Let me tell you, developing your back with a solid back muscle workout week in and week out will help you to achieve a thick and powerful upper body. Your back muscles contribute to roughly 70% of your total muscle mass in your upper body.
Let's take a look at what weight lifting exercises you should perform for the best back workout routines possible. The muscles in your back include the lats, traps, lower back, rhomboids, and spinal erectors.
The benefits of performing heavy deadlifts are simply outstanding, both for your back muscles and your overall muscle gains. They work your body from head to toe and will help increase muscle mass all over your body.
You can't replace deadlifts with any other exercise, they are an absolute must in any decent back workout routine. Read our article on deadlifts to learn more about them.
A vertical pulling exercise
These types of exercises target your lats and are also a must for your back muscle workout. Some examples are overhand pull-ups, underhand chin-ups, and lateral pulldowns.
I would recommend basic wide-grip overhand pull-ups as the most effective out of these exercises for building your lats.
A horizontal pulling exercise
Some examples of horizontal pulling exercises (also known as rows) include the following: bent-over barbell rows, dumbbell rows, cable rows, and seated machine rows. They target the upper and middle area of the back and also the lats.
For the best back workout I would highly recommend performing a free-weight rowing movement, and avoiding the cable and machine exercises. Bent over barbell rows or dumbbell rows would be excellent picks.
A shrugging exercise
At the end of your back workout routine you should include a shrugging exercise like barbell or dumbbell shrugs to target the upper traps. You should perform slightly higher reps for this exercise.
Putting it all together for the best back workout
Let's take these four exercises and put them together to form a solid back workout routine that will build muscle mass quickly. This routine has worked great for myself and many others.
1. Deadlifts - 2 sets of 5-7 reps
2. Wide Grip Overhand Pull-Ups - 2 sets of 5-7 reps
(sometimes I mix it up by doing lat pulldowns instead)
3. Bent Over Barbell Rows - 2 sets of 5-7 reps
(sometimes I do seated rows instead)
4. Barbell Shrugs - 2 sets of 10-12 reps
This is the best back workout to fully stimulate muscle gains in your whole back. Remember to use a challenging weight so that you can only perform 5-8 reps on each set (except for shrugs, which you should be doing for 10-12 reps).
Following this routine properly and focusing on either increasing the amount of reps or amount of weight slowly over time will help you on your way to building a strong, thick, and powerful back with bulging lats and traps.