15 Top Back Exercises for Growth (+ How to Use Them)

Improve your gains.

Check out these top back exercises for growth from Jeremy Ethier.

Top Back Exercises for Growth

“If you want to build a bigger, wider, thicker, and more balanced back, then there are 4 main regions your back exercises need to target. I’ll show you the best back exercises for each of these regions and then show you how to implement them during your next back workout (at the gym or even at home) for the best results. By the end, you’ll have a personalized back workout routine that you can start right away for maximum mass.”

Top Back Exercises for Growth

“Let’s talk about the most common mistakes people make when trying to build a bigger back. First mistake. Most people think of the “back” as one muscle, and will aimlessly put together a back workout without giving much thought as to what each exercise targets. The second mistake people make is neglecting the “hidden” muscles that play an important role in keeping your shoulders healthy and posture upright. The last mistake has to do with your workout programming, where you often fail to develop the back in a well-rounded manner.”

15 Top Back Exercises for Growth

“We’re going to solve each problem by equipping you with the best back exercises and then show you how to properly use them. Let’s start with the upper back, which is best worked where the elbows pull at roughly a 45 to 60 degree angle away from the torso.”

Top Back Exercises for Growth

“First up of the upper back exercises, the barbell row. Second, seated rows. The next exercise, the Meadow’s Row, is a great way to help prevent imbalances by working one side of the back at a time. This next exercise, the chest-supported dumbbell rows, is one of my personal favorites because it takes the need for stability out of the equation. Set your bench at a lower angle to about 30 degrees. Now we’ll get into vertical pulling movements like the pull-up. You’ll want to keep your elbows angled out to the sides by using an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. The last exercise, the lat pulldown, will biomechanically favor the upper back muscles more than it will the lats.”

Top Back Exercises for Growth

“The lats are responsible for adding more width to the back. The lats are best targeted during exercises where the elbows can pull as close to the torso as possible. The next 5 exercises are your best bet for growing a wider back during your workout at the gym. The first is the lat-focused barbell row. Next up, we have the lats-focused seated row. Then, back to one of my personal favorites, the chest-supported row. Fourth exercise: similar to the meadows row for the upper back, to prevent imbalances from developing we can do single dumbbell lat rows. Our last exercise will be a pulldown (the one-arm lat pulldown), but one that actually targets the lats.”

Top Back Exercises for Growth

“Alright so we’ve covered the big muscles and their respective exercises you should do during your back workout for mass (both thickness and width). Now we need to balance this out by working the lower traps by matching our arm angle to a 90 to 120 degree angle. First, the prone Y raise. Another great exercise is the standing cable Y-raise to provide constant tension throughout each rep.”

“And now, the last area, the lower back. These muscles are already highly activated whenever we do compound lifts like rows, squats, and deadlifts. Still, isolation work for the lower back can be beneficial if you don’t do many of these lifts or if your lower back seems to be a weak link limiting your strength in these compound lifts. Back extensions will be our isolation move of choice.”

Top Back Exercises for Growth

“Now is the most important part; putting together everything you’ve learned into a balanced back routine that works for you. Here’s what I’d recommend: pick two exercises from the upper back category, two from the lats category, and 1 exercise from the lower traps category. Depending on your existing lower back training volume, you can choose to add in some back extensions as well.”

Sample Gym Routine:

 Upper Back:

  • Exercise 1: Upper Back Focused Barbell Rows
  • Exercise 2: Lat Pulldowns


  • Exercise 1: Chest Supported Dumbbell Lat Rows
  • Exercise 2: One-arm Cable Lat Pulldown

Lower Traps:

  • Exercise 1: Standing Cable Y-raise

Sample Dumbbells Routine:

 Upper back

  • Exercise 1: Chest-Supported Dumbbell Upper Back Rows
  • Exercise 2: Overhand Grip Pull ups


  • Exercise 1: Single Arm Dumbbell Lat Rows
  • Exercise 2: Chest Supported Dumbbell Lat Rows

 Lower Traps:

Exercise 1: Prone Y-raise

Hopefully, you were able to see that there’s a lot of thought that goes into picking the right exercises, plus putting them together properly.

Video – Top Back Exercises for Growth

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Barbell Curl – A Must-Have Exercise to Increase Your Biceps
Skull Crushers – Technique, Benefits and Variations
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