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The Best Back Exercises at the Gym

author image Mike Samuels
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.
The Best Back Exercises at the Gym
A man is doing a pull up in a gym. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

The back is a very important, yet often overlooked muscle group. Many people focus on training their "mirror muscles" -- the chest, biceps, shoulders and abs -- and neglect their backs. This can lead to poor posture, muscle imbalances and injuries. A well-developed back can also make anyone from a casual gym goer, right up to a professional bodybuilder look more sculpted, stronger and more muscular.


Grasp a chin-up bar shoulder width apart with your palms facing towards you. Start with your arms fully extended, and raise your chin towards the bar by squeezing your shoulder blades together and flexing your arms. Keep pulling yourself up until your collar bone is touching the bar, then lower yourself under control until your arms are fully extended once more. Perform four sets of eight repetitions in every back workout. Once four sets of eight is too easy, you can add weight with a dipping belt or by holding a dumbbell between your ankles.

Face Pulls

Face pulls mainly train your upper back - the rhomboids, and lower and mid trapezius muscles. They are also a great exercise for correcting poor posture, which is often caused by weak upper back muscles. Set a cable pulley at head height and attach a rope handle. Start with arms fully extended, and bring them towards you by contracting your upper back muscles and flexing your arms. When the handles are in line with your face, slowly straighten your arms again. Do three sets of 15 reps every time you train your back, and add them in on rest days if your posture needs improving.

Meadows Rows

Designed by bodybuilder John Meadows, Meadows rows target the lat and rhomboid muscles. Grasp a dumbbell in one hand with your palm facing inwards, and put your other hand on a dumbbell rack to support you. Walk your feet back until your back is straight and parallel to the floor. Start with the dumbbell on the ground, and forcefully bring it up so it touches your lower chest, then return it to the ground. Aim for four sets of 10 reps per side.

Rack Deadlifts

A basic exercise to train the lower back muscles is the rack dead lift. Place an Olympic barbell across the pins in a power rack set at knee height, and grasp the bar with a shoulder width grip. Bend your hips and knees until your upper shins are in contact with the bar. Keeping your back straight and head looking up, lift the bar by extending your hips and knees and standing up straight. As this is quite a demanding exercise, only perform it in alternate back workouts, for five sets of three reps.

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