Once you start consistently performing strength training workouts, you might decide that you want to transition from doing total body workouts to a body part split routine.
With body parts splits you can perform more volume per muscle group per week while still giving the muscles that are worked enough time to rest in between training sessions.
With the body part split strength training approach, you will likely have a standalone back day workout.
But what are the best back exercises for men? How should you structure back workouts for men to increase strength and build muscle?
In this article, we will discuss how to put together effective back workouts for men and provide step-by-step instructions for the best back exercises for men to build strong, defined back muscles:
- Lat Pulldowns
- Seal Rows
- Incline I’s, Y’s, and T’s
- Trap Bar Deadlifts
- Barbell Good Mornings
- Dumbbell Reverse Fly
Let’s dive in!
What Are the Best Back Exercises for Men?
Before we dive into specific exercises to include in the best back workouts for men, it is worth establishing upfront that gender does not really influence what makes a good or bad back exercise or workout; rather, the best back workouts for men are those that include effective back exercises for all of the major muscles of the back, including the lats, traps, rhomboids, posterior deltoids, erector spinae group, serratus anterior, and deeper multifidus muscles.
With that said, there will be differences in the goals of back workouts for men.
Some men seek to perform back exercises and back workouts for strength, whereas others are more interested in back workouts for hypertrophy or building muscle.
Here again, these differences in training goals will primarily influence how the back workouts are programmed in terms of reps, sets, and loads rather than necessarily having a significant impact on the best back exercises to perform.
Typically, when you are doing back workouts to increase strength, aim to perform 2-6 sets of 3-5 reps per exercise, using at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the load.
For hypertrophy (muscle growth) back workouts for men, try to perform three sets of each barbell exercise, using loads that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.
The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should use.
The Best Back Workout For Men
Here are some of the best back exercises for men:
#1: Lat Pulldowns
Lat pulldowns are a staple exercise in any good back workout for men.
You can use different hand spacing to target different sections of your lats.
A wide-grip lat pulldown will help target the lateral portions of your lats, whereas a narrow-grip lat pulldown will involve more of your biceps and shoulders alongside your lats.
Here are the steps to perform this back exercise:
- Sit at the lat pulldown station with your thighs under the pads and your feet on the floor.
- Grip the bar with your desired hand spacing, palms facing away.
- Pull the bar down towards your sternum, leaning slightly back.
- Pause and hold for 2-3 seconds.
- Slowly return the weight to the starting position, resisting the momentum of the weight stack.
#2: Seal Rows
One of the best upper back exercises is the dumbbell seal row. Lying in the prone position helps you activate your rhomboid. The result is that the movement becomes a much more effective exercise for upper back muscles.
In addition, because you are lying face down, you cannot use momentum to help lift the weight, which helps isolate your back muscles.
Here are the steps for how to perform this back exercise:
- Elevate a weight bench on stacks of bumper plates or on plyometrics boxes. You need to be able to extend your arms fully without having them touch the ground.
- Lie face down, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing one another.
- Squeeze your glutes and upper back as you think about bringing your shoulder blades together and pulling your elbows towards your hips until the dumbbells are just past your torso.
- Slowly lower the weights back down, extending your arms all the way without allowing the dumbbells to come to rest on the floor between reps.
#3: Incline I’s, Y’s, and T’s
This is a great back workout exercise for your traps and posterior deltoids.
Keep your elbows completely straight while performing this exercise.
Here are the steps:
- Lie face down on an incline bench set to a 45° angle holding a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing away).
- Perform the “I” with your arms straight overhead. Contract your shoulder blades and upper back to extend the dumbbells up and back behind you while still keeping your arms straight.
- Perform the “Y” with your arms out to a 45° angle and complete the same extended lifts.
- Perform the “T” with your arms out to the sides.
#4: Trap Bar Deadlifts
The trap bar deadlift allows you to use a neutral grip, which relieves stress on your upper body and allows you to lift more weight.
Although deadlifts are often thought of as an exercise for the glutes and hamstrings, the low back muscles have to contract to stabilize your spine as you perform a hip hinge.
Here are the steps for this back workout exercise:
- Stand inside the opening of a loaded trap bar with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing straight ahead.
- Sit your hips back and squat down to grip the handles on either side of the trap bar.
- Contract your glutes and hamstrings to extend your hips and knees to stand upright, keeping your back straight.
- Slowly lower the bar down towards your ankles by sitting your hips back and allowing the front of the bar to track down in front of your shins.
#5: Barbell Good Mornings
The best back workouts for men include exercises that target the erector spinae in the lower back, and the barbell good morning exercise is a great way to do so.
Start with a lighter weight until you have properly mastered the technique.
Here are the steps for performing this posterior chain and low back exercise:
- Set the barbell in the squat rack just below shoulder level.
- Unrack the barbell and lift it on your upper traps. Walk out of the squat rack a few steps to give yourself plenty of room.
- Unlock your knees and then hinge at your hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor.
- Engage your erector spinae and glutes to raise your body back up to the upright standing position.
- Carefully reset the position of your torso and hips to begin the next rep.
#6: Dumbbell Reverse Fly
The reverse is one of the best back exercises for the posterior deltoids, rhomboids, and middle traps.
Here are the steps for how to perform this back-strengthening exercise:
- Stand upright, feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended, and your palms one another.
- Hinge from the hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the ground. Keep your back flat.
- Allow a soft bend in your elbows as you lift your arms out to the sides and towards your back as if flapping your wings like a bird.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top position for 3 seconds.
- Slowly lower the weights until they meet under your body, with your arms hanging straight below your chest.
For more exercises for your lats, check out our guide here.