15 Compound Back Exercises For A Big Back

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You have arrived here to take your back training to the next level, right?

 

You’ve been training your back and lats with the standard exercises and have a taste of what it feels like to own a set of barn-door width back muscles!

 

Good! As I can tell you that you’ve come to the right place!

 

A strong back is critical for overall body posture, health and performance. A strong back improves posture, reduces the risk of injury, and gives you that powerful herculean appearance!

 

But how do you get this monstrous back? Simple: adopting a structured back workout plan focusing on compound back exercises.

 

Compound back exercises target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them an excellent choice for building muscle mass and strength. The back is connected to the shoulders and arms, so the overall effect is fantastic If you want to pack on serious muscle size and strength across the entire upper body.

 

By the time you finish reading this article, you will know which compound back exercises to adopt, why you need to do them when you should do them and the benefits of doing them. All exercises will work your entire back, including your lats, rhomboids, and erector spinae, so you can rest assured we got your back!

 

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

 

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What are Compound Back Exercises?

Compound back exercises work multiple muscle groups across the back.

 

 

As the back is a critical mass for the upper body, it also relies on the shoulder and arms to fulfil many functions. Due to this, all compound exercises will work multiple muscles and, therefore, build muscle mass and strength across the entire areas worked.

 

 

You can confirm this yourself. If you perform pullups or pulldowns, you will have observed that the exercise works the rear delts, traps and biceps, and it’s highly likely that you will have DOMS across those muscle groups the next day.

 

 

Some examples that you may be familiar with include deadlifts, chin ups and rows, which work the muscles in the back in conjunction with the muscles in the shoulders, arms, and core.

Recommended Read: >>> The Ultimate Guide to Back Training <<<

Back Muscles Anatomy 101

I couldn’t write this article without referring to the back anatomy!

 

Knowing your lats from your erector spinae will sensify the reasons of performing exercises in the gym.

 

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15 Best Compound Back Exercises

1. Deadlifts

Deadlifts

Explanation: The Deadlift is a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups, including the back, legs, shoulders, glutes and core muscles. The exercise involves lifting a weight from the ground from a squat position using the thrust from your lower body and your arms as hooks holding on to the bar.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, grip the weight with both hands, keep your back straight, and lift the weight smoothly to your hips while keeping the weight close to your body.

 

2. Barbell Rows

Barbell Rows

Explanation: Barbell rows target the back, rear deltoids and arm muscles. The movement involves rowing a weight towards the chest while keeping the back straight.

 

Proper Form and Technique: To perform barbell rows with proper form and technique, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, grip the barbell with both hands, keep your back straight, and row the weight towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body.

Recommended Read: >>> Lat Pushdowns: The Secret to a Strong and Defined Back <<<

3. Pull-Ups

Explanation: These are are a bodyweight exercise that hits the back muscles, shoulders and arms. The exercise involves hanging from a pull-up bar, pulling your own body weight towards the bar, and aiming to touch the upper chest. This will contract and work the upper back and lats. The key is lifting the entire body weight with your back and assistance from the arms.

 

 

Proper Form and Technique: Grip the bar with an underhand grip, keep your body straight, and pull yourself up towards the bar until your chin is above and the top of the chest touches the bar. Then, lower yourself down with control.

4. Single Arm Dumbbell Rows

Single Arm Dumbbell Rows

Explanation: One-arm dumbbell rows target the back muscles and arm muscle group. The movement involves rowing a weight towards the hip with one arm while keeping the back straight.

 

 

 

Proper Form and Technique: Using a bench, place one knee on it and grip the weight with one hand, keeping your back straight, core muscles tight and row the weight towards your hip while keeping your elbow close to your body.

5. T-Bar Rows

T-bar Rows

Explanation: T-bar rows target the back, arms and shoulders. The movement involves rowing a weight towards the chest while keeping the back straight and using a T-bar apparatus and special handle.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, grip the handle of the T-bar apparatus, keep your back straight, and row the weight towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body.

Recommended Read: >>> The 7 Best Dumbbell Push Ups Exercises You Should Do <<<

6. Lat Pulldowns

Explanation: Lat pulldowns hit the back muscles, especially the latissimus dorsi. The exercise involves pulling a weight down towards the chest using a cable machine and then controlling it back up.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Sit facing the cable pulldown machine, grip the bar with both hands and an underhand grip, keep your back straight, then pull the weight down towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body. Then, slowly release the weight back to the begining.

7. Seated Cable Rows

Seated Cable Rows

Explanation: The seated cable row works the back, arm, and shoulder muscles. The movement involves rowing a weight towards the stomach while sitting at a cable pulley machine.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Sit facing the cable machine, grip the handle with both hands, keep your back straight, and row the weight towards your stomach while keeping your elbows close to your body. Then, slowly release the weight back to the starting position. Aim to feel a stretch in the back and lats.

Recommended Read: >>> 10 Best Lat Pulldown Alternative Exercises <<<

8. Yates Rows

Explanation: Yates rows train the back and arm muscles. The movement involves rowing a weight towards the chest while leaning forward.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, grip the weight with both hands using an underhand grip, lean forward, keep your back straight, and row the weight towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body.

Recommended Read: >>> How Much Does The Smith Machine Bar Weigh? (Answered) <<<

9. Straight Arm Pulldowns

Straight Arm Pulldowns

Explanation: Straight arm pulldowns train the back muscles, particularly the lats (latissimus dorsi). The exercise involves pulling a weight down towards the hips using a cable pulley machine.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Stand facing the cable pulley machine, grip the handle with both hands using an overhand grip, keep your back straight, and pull the weight down towards your hips while keeping your arms straight. Then, slowly release the weight back to the starting position. Aim to feel the stretch in the lats throughout the movement.

Recommended Read: >>> How to Do The Smith Machine Row? <<<

10. Close Grip Pulldowns

Close Grip Pulldowns

Explanation: Close grip pulldowns target the back, arm and rear delt muscles. The movement involves pulling a weight down towards the chest using a cable pulley machine with a narrow grip.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Sit facing the cable pulley machine, grip the bar with a narrow grip, keep your back straight, and pull the weight down towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body. Then, slowly release the weight back to the starting position.

Recommended Read: >>> Best Gym Machines for Glutes <<<

11. Machine Pulldowns

Explanation: Machine pulldowns target the muscles in the back, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and traps. The exercise is performed on a cable machine and involves pulling a bar down towards the chest.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Sit facing the machine, grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip, keep your back straight, and pull the weight down towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body. Then, slowly release the weight back to the starting position.

Recommended Read: >>> 9 Best Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises to Grow Your Delts <<<

12. Front Lying Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows

Front Lying Chest Supported

Explanation: Front dumbbell rows train the upper back muscles, including the rhomboids, traps, and lats. The exercise involves holding a dumbbell in each hand, laying against a bench and, lifting the weights towards the chest, keeping the elbows close to the body.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Sit facing the machine, grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip, keep your back straight, and pull the weight down towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body. Then, slowly release the weight back to the starting position.

Recommended Read: >>> The OptimalPush Pull LegsPPL Workout Routine For Growth <<<

13. One Arm Cable Rows

Single Arm Dumbbell Rows

Explanation: One arm cable rows hit the muscles in the back, including the rhomboids, lats, and traps. The exercise is performed on a cable pulley machine and involves pulling a single handle towards the hip while keeping the other arm extended.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Sit facing the machine, grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip, keep your back straight, and pull the weight down towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body. Then, slowly release the weight back to the starting position.

Recommended Read: >>> 5 Shoulder Workout Supersets For Massive Delts! <<<

14. Bent Over Dumbell Rows

Bent Over Dumbell Rows

Explanation: Bent over dumbbell rows work the upper back muscles including the rhomboids, lats, and traps. The exercise involves holding a dumbbell in each hand and lifting the weights towards the chest while bending forward at the waist.

 

 

Proper Form and Technique: Bending at the waist so you are in a bent-over row position while keeping your back straight, pick up the dumbbells, bring them into your sides, and slowly lower back to the stretch starting position.

15. Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell Pullovers

Explanation: Dumbbell pullovers hit the muscles in the upper back, including the lats and pecs. The exercise involves holding a dumbbell with both hands and extending it over the head and behind the head, keeping the elbows slightly bent.

 

Proper Form and Technique: Bending at the waist while keeping your back straight, pick up the dumbbells, bring them into your sides, and lower back to the stretch starting position.

The benefits of compound back exercises

There are several advantages to adding these back exercises into your workout routine, and I want to list some of the more key ones:

 

Better Muscle Activation: They involve multiple muscle groups working together, which means you can recruit and activate more muscle fibers during each exercise. This leads to a more intense workout and significant muscle mass and strength gains.

 

Improved Functionality: By working multiple muscle groups and joints, they help to improve overall functional fitness and make everyday tasks easier to perform.

 

Greater Efficiency: Are more time-efficient than isolation exercises as they allow you to work multiple muscle groups in one exercise, reducing the number of exercises you need to perform.

 

Improved Hormonal Response: Typically involve heavier weights and fewer reps than isolation exercises, which triggers a more significant hormonal response in the body. This can lead to increased muscle mass and improved overall health and well-being.

 

Better Coordination: Require coordination between multiple muscle groups, which can help to improve overall balance, coordination and stability.

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Recommended Read: >>> The 17 Ultimate Cable Chest Exercises (Complete Guide) <<<

How to Add these Exercises to Your Workout

There are various ways to structure your workout routine, but one of the most popular methods is the push-pull-legs (PPL) split, which involves dividing your workouts into different muscle groups. You can dedicate a day to back exercises in this split, incorporating the 15 best  back exercises discussed in this article. Another option is the upper-lower split, where you work your upper body (including the back) one day and your lower body the next.

 

Regardless of the split you choose, it’s essential to start with the most extensive exercises, such as Deadlifts or Barbell Rows, and work your way down to other  exercises. This ensures that you hit the major muscle groups with the most intensity and weight while still targeting the smaller, stabilizing muscles towards the end of the workout.

How to ensure your back is continuously growing

To see progress in size and strength, gradually increasing your weight over time is crucial. Start with a challenging but manageable weight for the number of reps and sets you’re aiming for, and increase the weight by small increments each week or session.

 

For example, if you start with a weight that allows you to complete three sets of 8 reps with proper form, aim to complete three sets of 8 reps with a slightly heavier weight the next session.

 

It’s also important to vary your sets and reps to target different muscle fibers and promote muscle growth. For example, you can start with three sets of 8 reps for strength, then move on to 3 sets of 12 reps for hypertrophy, and finally, three sets of 15 reps for endurance.

Recommended Read: >>> Workout For Skinny Guys At Home Without Equipment <<<

Avoid these common mistakes when doing compound back exercises

Performing exercises with improper form can hinder your progress and increase the risk of injury.

 

Some common mistakes to avoid include the following:

 

  • Rounding your lower back during Deadlifts or Barbell Rows

 

  • Using too much weight and sacrificing form during Pull-Ups or Lat Pulldowns

 

  • Allowing your shoulders to shrug or neck to jut forward during Dumbbell Rows or T-Bar Rows

 

  • Not engaging your lats and upper back during Bent Over Dumbbell Flys or Straight Arm Pulldowns

 

  • Using momentum instead of controlled movement during Close Grip Pulldowns or Dumbbell Shrugs

 

  • Not fully extending your arms during specific exercises

 

It’s essential to seek guidance from a qualified personal trainer or to watch videos and research to ensure that you perform each exercise with the proper form and technique.

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Five top tips for training your back

I’ve put together five top tips for you to follow to optimize your back workouts and muscle gains:

 

Warm up thoroughly: Before starting any back workout, you must warm up your muscles and joints to prevent injury. Some light cardio followed by dynamic stretching will prepare the body and muscles for the workout.

 

Focus on form: Proper form is critical for maximizing the benefits of compound exercises and reducing the risk of injury. Make sure to maintain a neutral spine, keep your shoulders down and back, and use controlled movements throughout each exercise.

 

Use progressive overload: To continue seeing progress in size and strength, gradually increase your weight over time. This can be done by adding small increments each week or session. Once you get to 12 reps, add weight so that the next time you will fail at six reps. Then continue the exercise each workout till you get to 12 reps.

 

Vary your sets and reps: To target different muscle fibers and promote muscle growth, vary the number of sets and reps you perform. Start with lower reps and heavier weights for strength, then move on to higher reps and lighter weights for hypertrophy.

 

Variety is critical: While these exercises are essential to any back workout, mixing things up by incorporating various exercises and movements is essential. This will help target different muscle groups and prevent boredom.

 

By following these tips, you’ll be able to train your back effectively and efficiently.

 

FAQs on Back Exercises

What three back exercises should I do?

Do the following three back exercises to pack on size, strength and overall flexibility to your back

 

Deadlifts: Focus on excellent form and keep the rep range between 8 to 10. This exercise will add slabs of muscle to your entire back.

 

Pull Ups: Focus on form and ensure you aim for an entire lats stretch. Begin with just body weight and add weight as you progress. Keep to 10 reps and watch your lats grow to a set of wings.

 

Two Arm Bench Dumbell Rows: Focus on the correct form and aim for a stretch as you lower the dumbells. Keep to 10 reps and witness your back get thicker within weeks.

What is the most effective and best compound back exercise?

The most effective back compound exercise would be Deadlift, as it works the entire body, including the back. It has been proven to stimulate muscle mass and strength over time.

How does the Arnold back workout contribute to building a big back?

The Arnold back workout is renowned for its emphasis on compound exercises, making it extremely effective for developing a large and muscular back. This workout incorporates exercises that target multiple muscle groups, hence promoting significant growth and size.

Can a wide back workout be considered a compound back exercise?

Absolutely, a wide back workout often includes a range of compound exercises designed to target various muscle groups in the back. These exercises not only build muscle but also help to achieve the desired “V” shape.

Are Lat Pushdowns an effective compound back exercise?

Lat Pushdowns, while typically considered an isolation exercise, can complement compound back exercises by targeting the lats directly. This helps in developing the width of the back and improving the overall aesthetic.

Why should the bent-over cable row be included in a compound back exercise routine?

The bent-over cable row is a versatile compound exercise that works various muscles in the back, including the lats and rhomboids. This exercise can contribute to a thicker and more muscular back when integrated into a routine.

What is the role of the v-bar lat pulldown in a compound back exercise regimen?

The v-bar lat pulldown is a fantastic compound exercise that targets multiple muscles simultaneously. It’s particularly effective at working the latissimus dorsi, contributing to a wider and larger back.

Can you suggest some rack pulls alternatives that can be used in a compound back exercise routine?

There are several effective rack pulls alternatives that can be used in a compound back exercise routine, such as deadlifts, barbell rows, and t-bar rows. These exercises engage multiple muscles, offering a comprehensive workout for your back.

Is the Smith machine deadlift a good choice for compound back exercises?

The Smith machine deadlift is indeed an excellent choice for a compound back exercise. It works various muscle groups at the same time, promoting overall back development and contributing to a larger and stronger back.

What exercises hit the whole back?

The 15 exercises listed in this article hit the entire back. But if you wanted to pick there, they would be deadlifts, chin ups and barbell rows.

What is the king of all back exercises?

Deadlifts are the king of all back exercises, stimulating the entire body to grow bigger and stronger.

How do you get the V in your back?

The v-taper look occurs when your lats are bigger, stronger and thicker. Exercises such as chin ups, Lat Pulldowns and Barbell Rows will help create the v-taper.

How do you get a ripped back?

Diet! Your diet will determine how ripped your back is, and the back exercises will determine how thick and striated the muscles are.

Is lat pulldowns better than pull-ups?

If you perform pull-ups with the correct form, they are a better exercise than lat pulldowns. Pulling your body weight up with your back, arms, and shoulders will stimulate the muscles far better than pulling the weight down on a lat pulldown machine.

Is the single-arm dumbbell row better than t bar row?

The t bar row will enable you to stimulate the entire back muscles at once during the movement, so for beginners and intermediaries, they are better.

Closing thoughts on back exercises

I cannot overstate how beneficial compound exercises are for developing strong and impressive back muscles. These exercises target multiple muscle groups at once and require significant energy and effort, leading to greater strength gains.

 

 

The 15 exercises outlined in this article are an excellent guide to training your back with compound movements, offering a diverse range of exercises to challenge your muscles. By using these exercises in your routine, you can expect significant back muscles and overall fitness gains.

 

 

So, whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or a beginner, it’s time to embrace the power of these awesome exercises and take your back workout to the next level. With dedication and hard work, you’ll be on your way to a strong, healthy, and impressive back in no time.

 

 

So, don’t wait – try these exercises and see your results!

 

 

(oh, and do keep in touch and check in with us regularly for more fantastic content. For a complete list of our previous blog posts, please go here)

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