The Elite Physique

Best Back Exercises

Some of The Best Back Exercises Add More Shape and Size

woman showing one of the best back exercises

Planning on competing in a competition?  If so you need to make sure you have the best back exercises for building a solid back.  When the head judges calls out “quarter turn to the right and face the rear of the stage” you want YOUR back to stand out from the rest of the figure competitors.

Not only will having your back fully developed help you with other lifts in the gym, but also your figure posing.  A well-developed back, built right with the proper training principles, makes it easier for you to master your poses, especially the front and rear poses!  These are the two that display your proportion.  You know, it’s that nice sexy v-taper so many athletes strive for.

In fact, Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S., states at, “Building a jacked upper back is a long-term endeavor. It takes dedication, discipline, and focus over years to develop the kind of back that other people envy. But if you’re willing to check your ego at the door and work both hard and smart, then your prizes will be greater strength, balance, and health.”

Please don’t waste your time and energy on doing 6 different back exercises that target the same muscle group.  Sure, there are hundreds of back exercises you can do, and most have their place.  The trick is implementing the best back exercises through specific training methods so you target each area fully without overdoing it.

Lower Back (The Forgotten Element)

Building a solid back starts with proper lower back development.  Good lower back strength is critically important since the abdominal muscle and lower back are the core muscles of your body.  You need a strong foundation to build on.  Since having a strong lower back is vital, it’s an area I suggest you place first in your back workout.

There are a number of things you can do for your lower back.  If you are a newbie, you might start off with back extensions.   Some refer to these as hyperextensions.  However, after my 28 years of lifting, I’ve learned NOT to hyperextend my back!  A basic back extension is all you need.

During a back extension you simply lower your upper body about ¾ of the way down on the apparatus and rise until your body is straight and aligned with itself, squeezing and flexing the lower back and glutes at the contraction.  This is one of the best back exercises you can do for your lower back.

Doing the hyperextension, you lower your upper body as far down as you can stretch and as you rise you go pass the body’s horizontal plane.  While there’s no real scientific evidence that hyperextension are dangerous, it’s not best suited if you have a lower back injury!

A good compound exercise to do to improve your overall lower back strength core is the deadlift.  While the barbell will allow you to lift more, changing up and using dumbbells at times serves as a good alternative and shock.

Back Thickness (The Depth-defying Truth)

When you see wide lats on a figure competitor, they are often built two-fold, in width and in thickness.  You don’t want frail and thin lats on stage that look like one of those skydiving suits with a thin flap that angles downward.  As a figure competitor, building a solid back will help propel your training, posing, and overall physique.

To really execute that back pose, to help draw that wide illusion, you will need to build some thickness to your lats.  Back thickness is built by doing rowing movements such as barbell rows, dumbbell rows, cable rows, seated rows, machine rows, Hammer Strength rows, T-bar rows… Your rowing options are virtually endless.

HOWEVER, don’t row your back into exhaustion.  Yes, there are many, MANY rowing exercises to choose from.  It is best to choose only one rowing movement per back workout.  The training trick is muscle stimulation, not muscle exaggeration.

If you choose the bentover DB row this week, then you can do the seated row next week and the Hammer Strength rows the following week.  Get the picture?

Back Width (The Sought After V-Taper)

This is the area most competitors are striving to achieve, the v-taper.  When you build your back properly from the lower back up, you will be able to showcase that nice v-shape.

Build your lat with using pulldowns, chins, and pull-ups.  Even though the exercise selection for this targeted muscle is more limited, that doesn’t mean the lats don’t get overworked.  I’ve seen some athletes do a few assisted pull-ups, followed by behind the neck pulldown, followed by straight-arm pulldowns.

All you need to do is one exercise that builds width.  Once the muscle is stimulated the work is done.  Doing more of the same type of exercises isn’t going to make the muscle better or make it grow.

It’s really quite simple.  I usually start beginners off with pulldowns since they are a bit more manageable than pull-ups or chins.  In my years of study, research I’ve found that you should do pulldowns to the front.  The behind-the-neck pulldown is an unnatural movement.  You may get away with it using light to moderate poundage.  However, when using heavy poundage for the pulldowns, pull down to the front, right to the collar bone.

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Karen Sessions NSCA-CPT

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My name is Karen Sessions and I am a life-time natural female bodybuilder, multi-certified fitness instructor, author, specialist in performance nutrition, and a success coach. I've been in the fitness industry since 1988! I teach people Just Like You how to transform their bodies, get in shape, build muscle, lose fat and compete in Bodybuilding, Physique, and Figure Competitions. When you have the CORRECT information you can have total confidence and turn your dreams into reality... and I can help transform YOUR body. I have helped THOUSANDS of clients reach their goals and I can help you, too. Be sure to grab my free gift above so you can start moving toward your goal.

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