The best strength training for the back, adapted to your level of experience

They say bodybuilding shows are won from behind. Even if you don’t have competitive aspirations, big lats and a beefy yoke set you apart from the average sportsman. Additionally, your back is the base from which you attempt every personal best bench press, let alone any heavy overhead lifting.

If you’re new to the gym, a few sets of pull-ups will probably do wonders for elevating your back. However, if you’ve been in the game for a while, you’re probably longing for the days when winnings flowed like water and a drill or two did the trick. Luckily, there’s no reason to frantically skip programs in search of the secret sauce for muscle growth. A well-designed back routine can be modified, adapted and adapted to suit your needs.

Credit: restyler / Shutterstock

This article will provide you with three distinct back workouts tailored to your specific fitness level. They’re cut from the same fabric, but are tailor-made so you can pull on a bigger t-shirt in no time.

Strength training for the back by difficulty

Best Back Strength Workout – Beginner

You must respect training rules before you can break them. For a fresh-faced trainee, these rules are simple: pick a few moves, increase the amount of weight you use or the number of reps you perform over time, and be patient.

If you’re fumbling in your first year or two in the gym, you’re far from needing high-octane workout techniques or excessive volume. Be consistent and the gains will come.


Your back is made up of three distinct sections. The upper region, where you’ll find your traps, rear deltoids, and scapular stabilizers, your mid-back, dominated by your lats and rhomboids, and your lower back, which houses the spinal erector.

Beginners have the privilege of working almost exclusively with exercises that target more than one region. As a beginner, you should train movement patterns as much as you train your muscles.

How to progress

If you’re trying to gain muscle by lifting heavier over time, the harder exercises should come first. Focus on adding weight to your deadlifts and rows each week.

For the following movements, you may find it difficult to continue adding weight to the face pull. You might not be ready to tackle a weighted pull-up either. In these cases, try squeezing another rep on each set each time you perform the workout.

Best strength training for the back – Intermediate

As an intermediate lifter, the gym probably doesn’t intimidate you anymore. Congratulations on your first wins. To make the train run, you need to throw more fuel on the fire.

Concretely, this means do extra exercises and be more selective about the tools you work with.


Basically, the principles are the same in the fourth year as in the first. That said, you can’t stack plates on your bar indefinitely. To avoid hitting a plateau, you need to open up new avenues to progress – more volume, better contractions, less rest.

Your exercises should also evolve according to your personal preferences. The standard deadlift is great for improving a lot of things at once, but that’s exactly what makes it a dull option compared to more precise variations.

How to progress

The variables may change but the formula remains the same. A good intermediate program will give you more than one way to progress in the gym so you have a place to train if it gets too difficult to slide an extra five pounds on the bar.

Targeted rep ranges let you push hard when you feel good and relax when the magic isn’t there. Exercise options allow you to choose the movement that best suits your body. Widening rep goals should help you avoid hitting a wall too soon — your body doesn’t use the same store of energy for a set of five reps as it does for a set of 15.

Best Strength Training for Back – Advanced

Hard and heavy strength training is not for the faint of heart. After enough years in the gym, your gains may not come as easily as they once did.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Training your back to a high level is all about personalization and perseverance. You need the right exercises, the right training techniques, and a lot of courage to get there.


After enough years in the gym, three sets of eight just won’t be enough. You don’t have to move mountains to make gains, but you should be prepared to work harder and longer than in the past.

Intensity techniques like drop sets and supersets are the name of the game here. Clever methods for increasing your training density and set-by-set effort will keep you on the path to building a truly monstrous back.

How to progress

It may not be possible to add weight or shift to another set to an already long and grueling workout. To progress as an advanced lifter, you need to fill in the little cracks in your training.

This means focusing intensely on each repetition to ensure that you contract the muscle as hard as possible. Use an introductory exercise to warm up and connect with your back before moving on to bigger lifts. Reduce downtime via supersets and cluster training to force your body to adapt and grow.

back anatomy

Your back is made up of a complex sequence of muscles that run from your neck to your tailbone. In order to train them all effectively, you need to know where they are and what they are doing.


Your latissimus dorsi muscles are large, fan-shaped tissues that affect the movement of your arm and shoulder.

Your lats help pull your shoulder blade back and pull your upper arm toward your chest. This makes them the major players in all kinds of rows or pull-ups. It’s a common training myth that the width of your grip for pulling exercises determines whether you use your lats or your upper back.

In reality, the degree to which your arm is bent over your torso or flared out affects the degree of lat involvement. A tucked arm puts more emphasis on your lats than a flared arm.


Your traps are a powerful muscle that resides on the crest of your cervical and thoracic spine. While they primarily control shoulder elevation and depression, such as during shrugs or deadlifts, your mid and lower traps also help anchor your shoulder blade to your rib cage.

Upper back

In addition to the trapezius, your upper back contains a multitude of small muscles that, when developed, help create the sculpted look that takes the back-double-biceps pose to the next level.

The rhomboids, posterior deltoids, supraspinatus and more help control the delicate movement of your shoulder. For real-world training purposes, most solid upper back movements will stimulate them all quite well.

How to tweak workouts the right way

No workout is truly unique. As your physique and strength change over the years, your training should also change. While you shouldn’t hang on to the same workout too long just because it once showered you with progress, there’s no reason to stray from an effective and sustainable framework.

rate yourself

Before adjusting a training plan, take stock of your current physical inventory. What parts of your body are doing well and what is lagging behind? Are you in a calorie deficit or a hearty surplus? Which exercises are in tune with your body, and which are fighting you? Knowing where you are will help you decide where you are going.

Cut the fat

Once you know what you want to achieve, you can analyze your program and purge the exercises that don’t serve you. For example, deadlifts are fantastic for overall strength and performance. But if you’re a five-plate shooter, doing deadlifts at the start of each back day might just take too long for the hypertrophic benefits they provide.

Alternatively, you might find yourself stuck with a certain exercise, unable to add weight or reps no matter how hard you try. It might be wise to cut your losses and replace them with exercise that has room to help you grow.

Turn things up

After redesigning your training to include more appropriate exercises, you should adjust your rep ranges and include intensity techniques as needed. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t increase the reps with every exercise without paying the price.

Some exercises are better suited to higher reps or specialized techniques than others. Cable machines are convenient to adjust, making them ideal for drop sets.

Dumbbell exercises performed close to the rack are a quick way to swap your weights. Isolation exercises tend to be easier to achieve with higher rep goals because you’re not relying on the auxiliary supporting muscles as much.

Attack your back

A heavy bench press turns heads. Heavy, awesome quads show everyone in the gym that you’re not afraid to work hard. A big back, however, can completely elevate your physique by making your waist appear smaller and your shoulders look wider.

When you find a training program that works for you, stick to it. You don’t have to perform the exact same sets and reps for years, but it’s a rare privilege to fit right into your training. Synergy leads to sustainability both in the gym and in the kitchen. Make your workout work for you and you’ll have a big back in no time.

Featured image: restyler / Shutterstock

Teresa E. Burton