The back isn’t only one of the body’s biggest and strongest bodyparts,
it’s also the most complicated in terms of being a series of interconnected muscle groups.
For the purposes of this feature we’re dividing the back into its four main regions:
1) the middle back
2) the lower back
3) the upper and outer lats
4) the lower lats
Each area requires specific stimulation via the exercises and angles of attack used, and we’ll show you the best exercises for each.
THE MIDDLE BACK
Best Exercises: One-Arm Dumbbell Row
ONE-ARM DUMBBELL ROW
- Lean forward at the waist and place your right knee and right hand on a flat bench.
- Keep your left foot flat on the floor and hold a dumbbell in your left hand. Let the weight hang straight down and slightly forward with your arm fully extended.
- Pull the dumbbell toward your hip, keeping your elbow close to your side.
- Keeping your back flat and abs tight, pull your elbow as high as you can. At the top, squeeze your shoulder blades together, then lower the weight along the same path.
- Repeat for reps, then switch arms.
Target Tip – In the bottom position, hold the dumbbell slightly forward from your shoulder; as you go through the rep, pull it up and back.
THE LOWER BACK
Best Exercises: Back Extension
- Once you’re situated on the bench, cross your arms over your chest or behind your head (this is more difficult); alternatively, you can hold a weight plate close to your chest to increase the intensity.
- Slowly bend at the waist as far as you can, rounding your back as you go.
- Contract your low-back muscles to raise your torso until you reach the starting position. Don’t use a ballistic motion, and avoid going too high; contrary to what some people call this move, hyperextending your back isn’t a good idea.
Target Tip – Set up the back extension bench so that your hips are fully supported. This prevents movement at the hips and focuses the force on the lower-back muscles.
THE UPPER AND OUTER LATS
|Exercise / Target Area
|Pull-Up (wide grip) / Outer Lats
||12, 10, 8
|Bent-Over Barbell Row (wide) / Outer Lats
||8, 10, 12
|Close-Grip Seated Cable Row / Middle Back
||8, 10, 12
|Reverse-Grip Pulldown / Lower Lats
||12, 10, 8
|Back Extension / Lower Back
||12, 12, 12