10 Best Back Exercises

Arnold Schwarzenegger back training
"The resistance that you fight physically in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build a strong character."

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An impressive physique is one that has a powerful muscular v-shaped back. To take your back and physique to the next level you have to train hard and smart using the most effective exercises. Here are the 10 best exercises to help you build overall width, thickness and strength in your back. Perform these exercises in the 8-12 rep range.


1. Barbell Deadlift

Barbell deadlift is the best exercise that you can perform for overall back strength and muscle mass. Make sure to master technique on this exercise, then load up the weight for insane back muscle building. Start your back training with the barbell deadlift.

Arnold Schwarzenegger deadlift
“Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”

2. Barbell Bent Over Row

Barbell bent over row is the second best back exercise that you can perform. Barbell bent over row will add slabs of muscle and overall thickness to your back. Make sure to master technique first on this exercise as well. Perform the exercise first or second on back day.

Arnold Schwarzenegger bent over row
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”

3. Wide-Grip Pull Up

Wide grip pull up is one of the best exercises to add width to your lats. The wide grip pull up will especially target your upper lats. If you can do more than 10 reps of the wide grip pull up, then use a weight belt to increase the resistance. Do this exercise in the beginning or middle of your workout.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Pull Up
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

4. Close Grip Pull Up

Close grip pull up is another excellent back width exercise. The close grip variation of the pull up will focus on developing your lower lats more. Again, if you can do more than 10 reps, then use a weight belt to add resistance to the exercise.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Pull Up
“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”

5. T-Bar Row

T-bar row is a classic back mass builder and one of the most effective back exercises that you can perform. Make sure to maintain a straight back as you pile on the weight for serious back growth. Perform this exercise in the beginning or middle of your workout.

Arnold Schwarzenegger T-bar row
“For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.”

6. Narrow Grip Cable Seated Row

Narrow grip cable seated row is an excellent exercise to build thickness in your middle back. Perform the cable seated row in the middle of your back workout.

Arnold Schwarzenegger cable seated row
“As a kid I always idolized the winning athletes. It is one thing to idolize heroes. It is quite another to visualize yourself in their place. When I saw great people, I said to myself: I can be there.”

7. Medium Grip Lat Pull Down

Medium grip lat pull down will target your back muscles optimally for maximum growth. Perform the medium grip lat pull down in the middle of your workout and really focus on the stretch and contraction of your lats as you do this exercise.

Arnold Schwarzenegger lat pulldown
“We all have great inner power. The power is self-faith. There’s really an attitude to winning. You have to see yourself winning before you win. And you have to be hungry. You have to want to conquer.”

8. Close Grip Lat Pull Down

Close grip lat pull down is an excellent exercise to develop the middle back and lower lats. The exercise gives you a better range of motion than the wide grip lat pull down and it allows you to move more weight for maximum muscle activation. Make sure to focus on the movement and feel the stretch and contraction in your lats.

Close Grip Lat Pull-down
Close Grip Lat Pull-down

9. One Arm Dumbbell Row

One arm dumbbell row is one of the best back exercises that you can perform. The single arm movement allows you to stimulate each side independently and it provides a greater range of motion than the barbell bent over row. Perform this exercise at the end of your workout.

One Arm Dumbbell Row
One Arm Dumbbell Row

10. Dumbbell Back Pull Over

Dumbbell back pullover is a classic back finisher that you can perform in the traditional way with a dumbbell or with a high cable rope or bar attachment. The back pullover is great for targeting your whole back with a special emphasis on your upper back.

Arnold Schwarzenegger pullover
“Just like in bodybuilding, failure is also a necessary experience for growth in our own lives, for if we’re never tested to our limits, how will we know how strong we really are? How will we ever grow?”