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The Best Science Based Back Workout for Massive Muscle Gains

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Check out the best science based back workout, created by Jeremy Ethier.

The Best Science Based Back Workout for Massive Muscle Gains

“The back is such an important part of what makes an impressive physique. But with literally 100’s of different back exercises out there, it’s hard to tell which you should do in your back workout. That’s why we got Betty – our muscle activation measuring machine. Today we’re using her to test the best back exercises on 4 different people. At the end, we’ll use the results to create a perfect back workout you can trust is the best back workout that’ll get you the muscular, powerful looking back you’re after.”

Different Exercises

“Different back exercises will target different back muscles. The two main features of a well-developed back are thickness, and width. Most thickness comes from the mid and upper back muscles. So we put a sensor on the mid-traps. We also put a sensor on the lower traps. The main muscle responsible for widening your back and building is the lats. Because it’s the largest muscle of the upper body, we put 2 sensors on it, one on the upper lats, and one on the lower lats.”

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Details of the Experiment

“Next, let’s cover the details of the experiment that’ll help us find the best back exercises. Subjects: Coach Alex, Raza, Tahnee, and myself. There was no wager this time around. We had to control 3 variables: 1) weight testing, sensor placement, and maximum voluntary contraction. We did 1 set of 5 reps, then took at least 5-minute rest before moving onto the next exercise. We also rotated between horizontal and vertical pulling exercises.”


“Note that Betty, and EMG research in general, has its limitations. More activation does not always lead to more growth, and there are other variables to consider when determining how well an exercise grows muscle. That said, after averaging the data, I did find some very interesting insights that align with other current research.”

Overall Back Builders

“First, “overall back builders” to include in your back workout. The first is deadlifts. Your legs are mostly responsible for moving the weight, but all of your upper and lower back muscles have to work hard to keep your body stable as you lift. Although they aren’t taken through their full range of motion and are only contracting isometrically, this is still a powerful stimulus for growth especially because of the heavy weight used and the deep stretch that some of these back muscles experience. The second exercise is bent-over rows. Similar to deadlifts, you’re able to load it relatively heavy and your whole back, including the lower back, is helping you stabilize and move the weight. The overhand grip led to more mid back activation whereas the underhand grip, led to slightly more lats activation primarily in the lower lats.”

Exercises for the Mid and Upper Back

“Next, the best exercises for the mid and upper back. The exercise that came on top was the inverted rows. It led to the highest back activation for both Tahnee and Raza but didn’t do nearly as well for both myself and Alex.”

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“So while it is a great bodyweight exercise that I’d highly recommend for most females and beginners, as you get more experienced you’ll want to consider other movements that you can start adding weight to or save this exercise for the tail end of your workout. As for the other exercises that came out on top, wide grip seated cable rows and dumbbell chest supported rows with the elbows flared out and shoulder blades squeezed together at the end, both led to the highest activation after the inverted row. So, when talking about the “best back workout”, these two will definitely make an appearance.”

Best Science Based Back Workout for Massive Muscle Gains – Lower Traps

“Now, I want to talk about the lower traps. It’s an extremely important yet often overlooked muscle for overall shoulder health and posture. So I’d recommend including at least one lower traps exercise in your routine. And the one that came out on top during our experiment? Incline prone Y raises.”

The Lats

“Last but not least, the lats. While lat pulldowns and pull-ups do a pretty good job of activating the lats, one move in particular however led to higher activation than any of those exercises. The lat-focused row.”

Putting it all Together

“Let’s put everything we learned into “perfect back workout” that you can start using right away. I’d recommend picking one exercise from each of the categories we went through and then adding in prone Y raises to the end to give the lower traps some extra love.”

Sample Back Workout

  • Bent-Over Barbell Row
  • Pull-Ups
  • Dumbbell Chest Supported Row (elbows angled out)
  • Incline Prone Y-Raises

Video – Best Science Based Back Workout for Massive Muscle Gains

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Muscles of the Back

The back muscles are some of the most important muscles in your body. They help you maintain good posture, they’re critical for breathing and they provide support for all of your other muscles. The back has three main sections: the thoracic region (chest), the lumbar region (lower back) and the sacrum and coccyx (tailbone).

Each section contains different muscles that play specific roles in keeping your body upright and balanced.

Best Science Based Back Workout for Massive Muscle Gains – Erector spinae group

The erector spinae group is the largest of the back muscles. It runs along the length of your spine and is responsible for extension, lateral flexion, and rotation of the vertebral column.

Best Science Based Back Workout for Massive Muscle Gains – Quadratus lumborum

The quadratus lumborum is located between the 12th rib and the iliac crest, making it part of the erector spinae group. Its main function is to rotate the trunk to opposite side, as well as laterally flexing and stabilizing your spine.

Best Science Based Back Workout for Massive Muscle Gains – Trapezius

The trapezius is a large triangular-shaped muscle that spans from the base of your skull, across your upper back, to the midpoint of your shoulder blades. It also attaches to several other structures including:

  • sternum
  • clavicle (collarbone)
  • acromion process of the scapula (shoulder blade)

The trapezius has two major functions: shoulder elevation and neck rotation. As its name suggests, it helps you raise and lower your shoulders. When you rotate your head from side to side—a motion known as lateral flexion—it does so by pulling on the superior nuchal line (the highest point on each side of the neck).

Splenius capitis and cervicis

  • The splenius capitis and cervicis muscles are located on either side of your neck.
  • They originate from the spinous processes of C1-C4, which are the vertebrae that make up your neck. The splenius capitis inserts into the mastoid process (the bump behind your ear), while the splenius cervicis inserts into C6.
  • These muscles perform extension (lifting) of the head upwards, as well as rotation in various directions depending on how they’re used together with other muscles around them; they also help support some types of spinal compression injuries when they contract during activities like weightlifting or running downhill fast downhill).

Best Science Based Back Workout for Massive Muscle Gains – Latissimus dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle of the back and one of its most important. It originates on the thoracolumbar fascia and lumbar vertebrae, with part of it also connecting to the arm. It inserts on both sides of your lower back, as well as your upper arms just below your shoulders.

The latissimus dorsi is responsible for several important actions that affect your spine. As a powerful extensor of the arm, it helps keep you in good posture when reaching for objects above your head or walking around with heavy bags in each hand—or even when simply sitting in an upright position! Additionally, this muscle assists with adduction: pulling an object toward you or toward another object (for example, using a screwdriver or other tool).

The back muscles are unique and have some complicated functions.

The back muscles are unique and have some complicated functions.

The back muscles are divided into two groups: extensors and flexors. The extensor muscles are on the front of your body, while the flexor muscles are on your back.

It’s important to understand how each group works in order to maintain good posture, as well as strong and healthy back muscles.


We hope you enjoyed learning about the muscles of the back. It’s important to know how these muscles work together so that we can prevent injuries and perform at our best.

Use the scientific information from Jeremy to construct your perfect back workout.

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