Back Building 101

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Lean Back

Anatomy of the Back

Let’s start off by explaining the anatomy of the back. It’s not very complicated and not much to it. Once you understand how the back works, you will find it easier to visualize your back workouts.

The Lats:
The largest muscle of your back is by far the lats. The latissimus dorsi starts all the way up at the upper end of the humerus, and runs all the way down to the pelvic girdle. The lats function is to pull the arm down towards the pelvis.

The Traps:
Another powerful muscle of the back is the trapezius. The traps run all the way down the upper section of the spinal cord and attaches at the middle of your back. The traps have a couple main functions including scapular adduction (bringing the shoulder blades together), scapular depression (pulling the shoulder blades down), and scapular elevation (shrugging).

Smaller Muscles:
There are also some smaller muscles that aid in movement of the back such as the teres major and the rhomboids. The teres major is found at the outside edge of the shoulder blade and attaches all the way up at the humerus. The main role of the teres major is to bring the arm towards your back.

The rhomboids are found on the spinal column and they attach to the middle of the shoulder blade. The rhomboids are used to bring the shoulder blades together.

There are also a whole bunch of little muscles in the back, which run along your spine. There is the erector spinae, which includes the longissimus, spinalis, and the iliocostalis. The erector spinae is a group of muscles that are in and support the spine as well as extend the spine. The erector spinae muscles are actually attached to the vertebrae, pelvis, and also to the ribs.
Dumbbell Rows

Different Parts of the Back

Different exercises hit different parts of the back. For instance, doing wide grip pulldowns targets the outter back while doing close grip rows targets the middle of the back.

It’s important to hit all parts of the back to create overall back development. The last thing you want is imbalances with your back muscles. To create a nice V-taper you need overall development. By creating a fully developed back, you can still have a waist larger than you want and still look like you have a massive upper body. Hitting the lats will help widen your back while hitting the middle of your back help pull out details. Bodybuilding is all about muscular development and creating an illusion that makes you look larger than you really are.

Look at any successful bodybuilder and you will see a well-developed back. Huge slabs of muscle popping out from every nook and cranny of their back. That is the look you want to achieve.
Lat Pulldowns

Different Back Exercises

  • Barbell Wide GripRow
  • Barbell Close Grip Row
  • Dumbbell Wide Grip Row
  • Dumbbell Close Grip Row
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Cable Rear Delt
  • Lat Pulldown (to the front)
  • Lat Pulldown (to the back)
  • Bodyweight Pull-ups (different grip variations)
  • Bodyweight Chin-ups (different grip variations)
  • Assisted Pull-ups (different grip variations)
  • Assisted Chin-ups (different grip variations)
  • Weighted Pull-ups (different grip variations)
  • Barbell Deadlifts
  • Dumbbell Deadlifts
  • Smith Machine Deadlifts
  • Barbell Stiff-leg Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Stiff-leg Deadlift
  • Smith Machine Stiff-leg Deadlift
  • Straight Arm Cable Pulldowns
  • Reverse Flys
  • Barbell Pullover
  • Dumbbell Pullover
  • Machine Pullover
  • Barbell Upright Row
  • EZ-Curl Bar Upright Row
  • Dumbbell Upright Row
  • T-bar Row
  • Smith Machine Wide Grip Row
  • Smith Machine Close Grip Row
  • Barbell Shrugs
  • Dumbbell Shrugs
  • Smith Machine Shrugs
  • Lindsay Kaye

    Mass Building Back Workouts

    Here you will find numerous workouts that you can try in the gym. Give them a shot and see which works best for you. Remember, not all exercises or workouts will work for everyone, each person’s muscles respond differently to the stimulation of a workout; therefore, you will need to play with different exercises and different rep ranges.

    Workout #1

    Wide Grip Pulldowns 3×8-12
    Close Grip Pulldowns 3×8-12
    Wide Grip Barbell Rows 3×8-12
    Close Grip Dumbbell Rows 3×8-12
    Barbell Shrugs 3×8-12

    Workout #2

    Wide Grip Pulldowns 3×8-12
    Neutral Grip Pulldowns 3×8-12
    Wide Grip Dumbbell Row 3×8-12
    T-bar Rows 3×8-12
    Dumbbell Shrugs 3×8-12

    Workout #3

    Wide Grip Pull-up 3×8-12
    Close Grip Chin-up3x8-12
    Smith Machine Wide Grip Row 3×8-12
    Smith Machine Close Grip Row 3×8-12
    Smith Machine Shrugs 3×8-12

    Workout #4 – Bodyweight Workout

    Close Grip Pull-up 3×8-12
    Wide Grip Chin-up 3×8-12
    Straight Arm Cable Pullover 3×8-12
    T-bar Row 3×8-12
    Barbell Shrugs 3×8-12

    Workout #5 – Smith Machine Workout

    Assisted Pull-up 3×8-12
    Assisted Chin-up 3×8-12
    Barbell Stiff-leg Deadlift 3×8-12
    Barbell Upright Row 3×8-12
    Dumbbell Pullover 3×8-12
    Lat Pulldowns


    When it comes down to it you want to focus on the mind-muscle connection. You should really feel each rep and feel the muscle working. If you don’t feel an exercise in your bicep, then you are probably doing it wrong or are using a weight that you can’t handle and are using more than just your chest.

    Most of all have fun with your workouts. If you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point? Utilize what you learned in this course and see where it takes you. Good luck and see you at graduation!


    Jimmy Murtaugh/AlphaDesigns Photography
    Imirage Lhgfx