20 Best Back Exercises for Ultimate Mass Gain with PDF

The back, being the most superficial muscle of the upper body, is easier to target. However, to build muscle mass, you’ll have to do the best back workouts in the gym.

From bodyweight and dumbbells to barbells and machines, I’ve shared as many as 20 best back exercises that can help you build wider lats, sculpted traps, and a muscular posterior torso.

If you work out in the gym and want to develop your back muscles, this article can be helpful for you.

Not only exercises, but I’ll also provide a few samples of workout routines that can help build sizable and defined back over time.

The Back Muscles

The Back Anatomy For Bodybuilding
Back Anatomy

To build a strong back, you need to target all muscles of the back, such as;

  • Trapezius ( Upper, middle, and lower traps)
  • The Rhomboids major and minor (which are structured beneath the trapezius muscle)
  • Latissimus dorsi or Lats (Superior, middle and inferior)
  • Infraspinatus (this is one of the rotator cuff muscles)
  • And the last but important one is the erector spinae or the lower back.

I’ve shared all the best back exercises that work on each muscle and help promote muscle growth.

20 Best Bodybuilding Back Exercises for Maximum Mass Gain

Here are all the best back exercises for mass and strength development. The first ten exercises will be compound movements, and the rest will be isolation exercises. Combining them will help you develop a superior back over time.

  1. Pull-ups
  2. Deadlift
  3. Bent Over Barbell Row
  4. Dumbbell IYT Raises
  5. Inverted Row
  6. Barbell T Rowing
  7. Dumbbell Pullover
  8. Lat Pulldown
  9. Seated Cable Row
  10. Single Arm Dumbbell Rowing
  11. V Grip Lat Pulldown
  12. Facepull
  13. TRX row
  14. Chinups
  15. Standing Lat Pulldown
  16. Kettlebell Bent Over Row
  17. Reverse Fly
  18. Standing Lat Pulldown
  19. Pendlay Row
  20. Seal Row

Below is the step-by-step guide on how to do each back workout.

1. Pull-Ups

Body weight Best Back Workout For Mass Gain
Back Workout For Mass

The pull-up is one of the best bodyweight pull exercises that help build a stronger and wider back.

It stimulates several muscles at once, such as; lats, rhomboids, lower traps, deltoids, and arms.

It is one of my favorite back exercises. I often do it with and without weight to increase my pulling strength and build wider lats.

How to do it:

  1. Start with standing under the center of a pull-up bar.
  2. Reach onto a pull-up bar and grip with your hands 1.5x wider than shoulder-width, palms facing down and away.
  3. Keep your arms extended and your knees slightly bent. That’s the starting position.
  4. Brace your core and pull your body up until your chin is just above the bar, and then slowly lower your body in a controlled way while ensuring you feel muscle activation as you pull.
  5. Pause for a moment and then return to the beginning. That’s one complete rep.

You can do as many reps as possible.

Other instructions:

  1. You can keep your ankles cross to each other instead of keeping your feet behind.
  2. Keep your chest up when you reach above, which allows more muscle activation.
  3. Do not flare your elbows out because it may reduce the effectiveness of pull-ups.

2. Deadlift

Barbell Deadlift
Deadlift, The best compound lift for back muscle

The deadlift is known as the king of all lifts as it engages multiple muscles from the upper to the lower body.

Lats also work when you properly lift the dead weight from the floor.

From professional bodybuilders to athletes, everyone performs the deadlift to build a strong physique.

How to do the deadlift:

  1. Place a bar on the floor in front of you and put appropriate weight into it.
  2. Stand upright (in a shoulder-width stance) with your shin close to the bar.
  3. Push your hips backward, bend your knees, and grab the bar firmly with an alternate grip, maintaining a flat back.
  4. Brace your core, inhale deeply, and lift the bar with your full strength until your hips are fully extended.
  5. Hold for a couple of seconds, then slowly lower the weights on the floor.

Other instructions:

  1. Wear a gym belt as it provides stability to your lower back during the lift.
  2. Push your heels into the floor to generate strength so you can lift the bar effectively.
  3. Raise your shoulder blades together as you lift the weight from the ground.
  4. Your hips will come forward when you fully extend your knees.
  5. Keep your back as flat as possible during the entire movement.
  6. Do not rush! Perform each rep slowly by engaging your lats so you can get the best out of each repetition.

If you work out at home with dumbbells, you can do various dumbbell deadlifts.

3. Bent Over Row

Barbell Bent Over Row Workout For Back Muscles
Barbell Bent Over Row

The bent-over row is a compound workout that works on numerous muscles simultaneously, such as the deltoids, arms, and especially the back.

It hits the middle traps, lats, rhomboids, and infraspinatus and stimulates muscle growth.

From beginners or intermediates, anyone can incorporate bent-over-row into their hypertrophy workout routine to smoke back gains.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a bar with your hands with an overhand grip. Palms facing down.
  2. Slightly bend your knees, lean forward while maintaining a flat back, and keep your core tight. That’s the starting position.
  3. Now raise the bar toward your stomach until you feel the full contraction in the back muscles.
  4. Hold for a second at the top, then slowly lower to the starting position. That’s one rep!
  5. The suggested repetitions for this exercise are at least 6-10 in each set.
  6. Keep your chest up and remain bent during the whole movement.

4. I Y T Raises

The IYT raises is an unfamiliar but effective multi-movement exercise that targets the shoulder and back simultaneously and helps develop a firm and strong torso.

Doing IYT raises of 15 to 20 reps will give you the same advantages as inverted rows of 20 to 30 reps.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach on a 30-degree incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral or overhand grip.
  2. Keep your chest at the corner of a bench with your arms extended underneath.
  3. Now to form the letter “I,” raise the dumbbells forward in front of you until they are parallel to the floor. Hold for a second and then slowly lower them back to starting position.
  4. To form the letter “Y,” raise the dumbbells upward at a 45-degree angle so that your body forms a “Y” shape. Hold for a moment and then slowly return to the initial position. Make sure you squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top.
  5. To form the letter T, raise the dumbbells out to the sides until they are parallel to the ground. Make sure your body looks in the “T” shape at the top. Hold for a second and then slowly return to the beginning position. That’s one complete rep!
  6. Do the desired number of repetitions.

5. Inverted Row

Inverted Row exercise for back muscles
Inverted Row

The inverted row is an easy but effective exercise for upper body muscular development. It is a bodyweight exercise, requiring you to get under the bar and pull yourself up

The best and safest way to do the inverted row is by using the Smith machine.

Here are the steps:

  1. Set up the bar in the Smith machine and lay it on your back underneath. Now reach onto the bar to grab with your hands with an overhand grip. Make sure your hands are shoulder-width apart.
  2. Now brace your core and pull your torso toward the bar until your chest reaches the bar. And then slowly lower your body in a controlled way while ensuring you feel muscle activation as you pull and return to the beginning.
  3. That will be one complete rep. You can do as many as you can.

Other instructions:

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top.
  • Avoid rounding your back during the movement.
  • Keep your body straight from head to heels.
  • Inhale before pulling the bar and exhale before returning to the start.

Doing an inverted row will help you improve your pulling strength and allows you to do more pull-ups. If you’re not good at doing pull-ups, do more inverted rows.

Other Inverted Row Variations:

  • Modified Inverted Row
  • Single-arm Inverted Row
  • Suspended Inverted Row

6. Barbell T Rowing

The barbell T rowing enables you to lift heavy weights and helps you build a bigger and broader back. 

If you want to increase mass, include it in your pull-day gym workout routine.

How to do it:

  1. Get an empty barbell and place one end against the wall.
  2. Put appropriate weight into another end of the bar.
  3. Stand over it in a shoulder-width stance so the bar is in between your feet.
  4. Place the v-handle under the bar for lifting the weights.
  5. Hinge at your hips and bend your torso forward so the weights are underneath your chest.
  6. Grab the handle firmly with a neutral grip and keep your arms straight. This was the setup.
  7. Pulling the weights up, bring your elbows behind until your back muscles are fully engaged.
  8. Hold for a couple of seconds and then lower the weights on the floor in a controlled fashion.

7. Dumbbell Lat Pullover

The dumbbell pullover is an excellent exercise for muscle building. It works on the pecs and lats and helps build a solid trunk.

How to do it:

  1. Grab the head of a dumbbell with your hands.
  2. Lie on your back on a flat bench and place your feet firmly on the ground.
  3. Keep your arms behind your head with a slight bend in your elbows. Your palms should be facing upward.
  4. Brace your abdominal muscles and pull the weight over you until you feel the full contraction.
  5. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly return your arms behind your head.

8. Lat Pulldown

Front Lat Pulldown, an isolation back exercise.

The lat pulldown engages the entire back muscles, primarily the latissimus dorsi. It increases pulling strength, improves posture, and plays a key role in developing a bigger and broader back.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the bench below the center of a pull-down bar and adjust your leg.
  2. Grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. That’s the starting position.
  3. Brace your core and slightly lean your torso back so that it comes toward the chest when you pull the bar down.
  4. Pull the bar toward your chest until you feel the full contraction in the lats.
  5. Return to the start by extending your elbows. That’s one rep.

Perform the lat pulldown twice a week for a better result.

Other instructions:

  • Avoid rounding your back during the movement.
  • Inhale before pulling the bar.
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom of the lift and do it in a controlled way.

Other variations of the lat pulldown exercise:

  • Behind-The-Neck Lat Pull-Down
  • V-Bar or D-Handles Pull-Down
  • Reverse Close-Grip Lat Pull-Down
  • Single-Arm Lat Pull-Down

Front Vs. Rear Pull-Downs

  1. According to several studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, lat pulldown exercise with a wide grip where the bar comes in front of your neck produced greater muscle activity in the lats than wide-grip lat pulldown where the bar comes behind the neck.
  2. Behind the neck, pulldown puts more stress on the rotator cuff, which sometimes becomes harder to stabilize the shoulder joints, which causes injuries or soreness.

9. Seated Cable Row

One of the best machines workout for back

The seated cable row is another excellent back exercise for muscle development. It targets the lats, traps, and other back muscles simultaneously.

Combining seated cable row and lat pulldown will help build a sturdy and defined back.

How to do it:

  1. Set the desired weight on the weight stack and attach the D-handle to the hook.
  2. Sit on the machine’s bench, extend your arms, and grab the handles with a neutral grip, palms facing each other.
  3. Keep your back straight, chest up, and legs slightly bent, or keep your feet on the pad if available.
  4. Now pull the handles toward your stomach until it reaches close to your body.
  5. Pause for a moment, feel the full contraction, and return to the start.

10. Single-arm DB Rowing

One of the best dumbbell workouts For mass

The one-arm dumbbell row is a unilateral exercise that helps target each side of the back muscle individually and helps improve strength and muscle imbalance.

How to do it:

  • Grab a dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip.
  • Place your left knee on one end of a flat bench and your right foot firmly on the floor.
  • Put your left hand on the bench with your arms straight underneath your shoulder.
  • Let your right arm hang straight below your shoulder. That’s the start.
  • Keep your core tight, and driving your elbows up pull the dumbbell at your side.
  • Return to the start, perform the desired reps, and repeat on the opposite side.

11. V Handle Lat Pulldown

Doing lat pull-downs with a V handle yields better results than behind-the-neck pulldowns. It targets the traps and lats effectively and helps improve muscle definition.

How to do V grip Lat pulldown

  1. Anchor the attachment handle in the lat pulldown machine and sit underneath it.
  2. Grab the handle firmly with a neutral grip.
  3. Slightly lean back and pull the handle down toward your chest until your back muscles are fully engaged.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds and return to the starting point. That’s one rep!

Do three to four sets of six to ten reps each with 2 to 3 minutes of rest between sets.

12. Face Pull

The face pull targets the rear delt and traps and improves the look of your back.

If you train at the gym, incorporate face pull either on shoulder day or the back day.

How to do face pulls:

  1. Set the rope at a suitable height and firmly grab it with your hands.
  2. Step back a few inches until you stand in an appropriate position where your arms can extend fully in front of you.
  3. Stand in the shoulder-width stance and slightly lean back, but keep your back straight. This is your starting position.
  4. Pull the rope towards your face so the upper back muscles can engage.
  5. Hold for a couple of seconds, and then extend your arms fully in front of you. That’s one repetition.

13. TRX row

TRX row exercise for the back muscles

In terms of muscle activation, TRX row wouldn’t be a good option among these exercises. But it works on the major muscles of the back, such as the upper and middle traps, latissimus dorsi, and the rhomboid.

It also provides other benefits which are essential for overall fitness, including body balance and stability. Not only this, but TRX rows also target those muscles skipped in other back exercises, making it a crucial back workout for mass gain.

How to do the TRX Rows:

  1. Stand with your feet, holding a TRX handles in each hand with a neutral grip, palms facing others. Keep the hip-width distance between your feet.
  2. Take one step forward with your right foot while keeping the other in the same position and both feet facing forward.
  3. Pull your shoulder blades down and back so that you can lean backward.
  4. Keep your body straight in line, and your body weight shifted over the back of your legs when you straighten the elbows. Your elbows should be at chest height.
  5. Now brace your core, bend the elbows at your sides, and pull your chest toward your hands.
  6. Hold for a sec, then extend your arms to lower your body back to the beginning. That’s one rep!
  7. Suggested; three sets of 8-12 reps each.

14. Chinups

A chin-up is one of the best bodyweight workouts that strengthen your biceps and back at once.

mass building back workouts

The chin-up is comparatively easier than the pull-up. So if you’re a beginner, you can also incorporate it into your back-building exercises in the gym.

How to do a chin-up

  1. Grab the bar with an underhand grip and hang onto it with your hands hip-width apart.
  2. Brace your core, bend your knees, and pull yourself upward until your chin is close to the bar.
  3. Hold for a moment at the top (you’ll feel the contraction in your back muscles), and then lower your body until your arms are straight.
  4. Repeat as many times as you like.

15. Standing Rope Pulldown

Standing pull-down is a good option if you want to try some lat pulldown variation that actually works.

The standing rope/bar pulldown helps you build back mass and develop a wider back.

How to do standing pulldown with a rope

back exercise for mass with cable at the gym
  1. Set the rope at the highest point of the cable machine and firmly grab it with your hands.
  2. Stand in the staggered or normal shoulder-width stance.
  3. Keeping your back straight and core tight, pull the rope towards you. Your chest will be up and forward when you pull the rope.
  4. To feel the contraction in your back, pause for a couple of seconds and then return your arms to the starting position. This is your one repetition.

16. Kettlebell Bent-over Row

If you’re someone who works out with kettlebells at home, you can incorporate a bent-over row in your workout regime to build a stronger back.

 Ho to do bent-over row with kettlebells

One of the important KB workouts for back mass building
  1. Grab a pair of kettlebells with a neutral grip and stand in a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance.
  2. Hinge at your hips and lean your torso forward until your chest is parallel to the ground.
  3. Let your arms hang straight below your chest with palms facing each other.
  4. Keeping your back straight and core tight, pull the weights towards you until your lat muscle is engaged.
  5. Hold for a couple of seconds at the top, and then lower your arms to the start. This is your one repetition.

17. Reverse Fly

You can do the reverse fly if you want to strengthen your upper back and rear deltoid together.

How to do DB reverse fly.

Back workout for mass at the gym
  1. Grab one dumbbell with a neutral grip in each hand and lie on a flat bench on your stomach so your face faces downward.
  2. Keep your arms straight underneath your shoulder and feet on the floor. That’s the start.
  3. Raise your arms out to the sides as high as you can so you can feel the higher activation in your back muscles.
  4. Hold at the top for a couple of seconds, then lower your arms to the start. This is your one repetition.

18. Standing Bar Lat Pulldown

Standing lat pulldown is another machine exercise that helps widen the latissimus dosi and improve the appearance of the overall back.

  • Attach the minibar to the cable pulley machine and set the hook to an appropriate height.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip, step back a few inches, and slightly push your hips back (maintain a neutral spine position).
  • Engaging your lats, pull the bar down toward your waistline. Keep your arms straight.

19. Pendlay Row

Pendlay row is a high-intense barbell Crossfit exercise that fires up muscles around the back and shoulder and builds up a firm torso.

  • Put the desired plates into the barbell, grab it firmly with an overhand grip, and stand in a shoulder-width stance.
  • Bend your torso until your chest is parallel to the ground. Core tight, chest up, and knees slightly bent.
  • Driving your elbows, pull the bar until it touches your stomach, then lower the bar down till it touches the floor. Repeat.

20. SEAL Row

The SEAL row hits the upper back, including the traps and posterior delt, and helps forge a solid back.

  • Place the ends of a flat bench on the steppers, grab one dumbbell in each hand, and lie prone on the bench with your face facing down.
  • Row the dumbbells at your sides until your back muscles are fully engaged.

Tips to Optimize Back Workout for Maximum Gains

If you want to beef up your back muscles, you need to incorporate heavy compound lifts and isolation workouts in your gym workout routine for your back.

Compound lifts help you target the entire back muscles at once, such as the lats, traps, lower back, erector spinae, and rotator cuff.

Deadlifts, pull-ups, barbell bent-over rows, IYT raises, inverted rows, and barbell T rowing are some of the best compound lift workouts that will help you build mass and strength.

After the compound exercises, you’ll need to do isolation workouts that help you target your specific back muscles at a time.

Lat pulldown, seated rowing, TRX row, chin-ups, reverse fly, pullover, and face pull are some of the best isolation back workouts you can do at the gym to build muscle mass.

Once you select the best exercises for your back, you’ll need to perform them in the correct form.

Doing exercises with the proper form and technique yields better results and promotes strength and hypertrophy.

Form and Technique

1. Grip

Use “Thumbless Grip.” It means to keep your thumbs over the bar or dumbbells instead of underneath.

Keeping the thumbs over the bar elicits higher muscle activation and engages working muscles effectively.

Whether you pull down or pullups, try using a thumbless grip because it works well during back workouts.

2. Use “Elbows” instead of “Hands” at the time of rowing

Use your elbows instead of your hands at the rowing or pulling. Because using elbows activates more back muscles and reduces wrist involvement.

Doing this not only activates muscles intensely but also helps you do more reps and sets.

3. Keep your shoulders down and away from the head

Keeping the shoulder down and away from the neck puts less stress on the traps, helps you perform back exercises with ease, and enables you to do more repetitions and build wider lats.

Weekly Back Workout Routine for Strength and Mass

If you want to develop your back muscles, I suggest you do back exercises twice a week.

Doing back workouts two times a week will help you increase strength and mass over time.

Here is the back workout routine you can do at the gym to build a superior back

Week 1 – Day 1

  1. Pullup – As many reps as possible x 3 sets
  2. Deadlift – 8, 6, 4, 4 reps
  3. Standard Lat Pulldown – 12, 10, 8, 6
  4. Seated Rowing – 12, 10, 8, 6
  5. Single-arm DB Rowing – 10, 8, 6
  6. Facepull – 10, 8, 6

Week 1 – Day 2

  • Pull-Ups – As many reps as possible x 3 sets
  • Standing Pulldown – 12, 10, 8
  • V Handle Pulldown 12, 10, 8
  • Bent Over Row – 12, 10, 8, 6
  • Seated Rowing – 12, 10, 8
  • Barbell T Rowing – 12, 10, 8, 6

You can change or replace an exercise from this routine, depending on your fitness level.

Related: 6-Day Gym Workout Schedule With PDF

Download The Back Workout and Exercises PDF

Download the best back exercises PDF that includes 17 Workouts plus a workout Routine that can help help you boost strength, beef up muscles, and build a wider and bigger back.

Photo of author
Murshid Akram
I'm an online personal trainer, fitness blogger, and fitness enthusiast. I love researching and writing about exercise and nutrition. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.
Share to...