If you’ve been in the gym any length of time, you might have noticed that people looooove bench pressing. In fact, anytime a guy finds out that you’re “into lifting” he probably asks,
“Oh yeah? So how much ya’ bench?”
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the bench press, there’s just something so cool about building a strong and sexy back. Sure, if you’re benching properly, you’re using your back a ton, but stick with us here!
Maybe it’s because a killer back is not that common, or maybe it’s because you can feel people staring in awe, or maybe it’s because you simply feel so darn powerful being able to row or pull up your bodyweight or fling heavy dumbbells around.
Whatever the reason, having a back that turns heads (especially your own, when you look in the mirror!) is awesome, and we are going to help you get one!
Keep in mind that a well-rounded program will include a mix of vertical pulling movements (like pull-ups and chin-ups) and horizontal pulling movements (like dumbbell row and cable row).
Here are our top five exercises for a killer back.
There’s no disputing that when it comes to building a killer back, pull-up and chin-up variations are where it’s at. In fact, we love these so much, that GGS Advisory Board Member Karen Smith, wrote a whole article called How To Do A Pull-Up: Everything You Need To Know to help you get your first one.
What about if you can already do them and want to do more? We love Pavel’s Fighter Pull-up Program which has programs for people who can do 3, 5, 15, or 25 pull-ups.
Deadlifts… you know we love ’em!
In fact, we consider deadlifts (and their variations) to be The Most Powerful Weapon In Your Lifting Arsenal. And yes, they build incredible strength and muscle in your upper and lower back, so we had to give them the number two slot. If you’re not sure how to perform a deadlift correctly, the article linked above will be very helpful, as will this article from Mike Robertson, which is one of the most comprehensive articles you’ll find on deadlifting. Also check out the video below to help you keep your lower back feeling solid while you deadlift, which can be an issue for a lot of women.
3. Inverted Rows
We love this exercise because it’s one of the few horizontal rowing variations where you are manipulating your own body weight. Plus, it’s a completely scalable exercise that’s great for beginners all the way through to very advanced lifters. If you want to know even more about why we love it, check out the Exercise Spotlight article we did here. We include why we love it, and how beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters can all use the inverted row in a safe and challenging way.
4. One Arm Dumbbell Row
We love the One Arm DB Row, but it’s a tricky one. It looks simple, but it’s rarely performed properly. When performed properly, it’s fantastic for building muscle and strength in the upper back, namely your lats, rhomboids, and lower traps, and you’ll get some fantastic anti-rotation core training from this exercise as well.
5. Face Pulls/Band Pull-Aparts
OK, so we couldn’t decide between these two exercises. We love them both. Both of them are great accessory movements that can be done often with very high volume and they are unlikely to leave you feeling sore (unless you’re doing them for the first time). You can use multiple grips with these exercises and emphasize slightly different muscle groups which you can see below.