10 Best Barbell Back Exercises for Strength and Mass

Want to build a strong, muscular back and improve your posture? Barbell back workouts should be a key part of your strength training routine. There are a lot of benefits to having strong back muscles. Not only will you improve your posture and reduce your risk of injury, but you’ll also be stronger for performing big lifts in the gym.

A stronger back will make your shoulders more stable, which allows you to lift heavier weights in an upper body workout. Also, most back exercises use your arms or legs, so you’ll get an extra training effect without even noticing it.

Lifting heavy weights with a barbell is one of the most effective ways to build a V-shaped, well-defined back. Exercises like barbell rows, deadlifts, and shrugs work several back muscles at once for faster results.

In this article, we’ll explain the following:

Anatomy Of Back Muscles

These barbell back exercises help to strengthen the back and improve back strength. But first, you need to understand back muscle anatomy and functionality. Your back is made up of a series of muscles that are responsible for pulling your body and keeping your spine stable.

The muscles of the back can be divided into three groups – superficial, intermediate and deep:

  • Superficial — Located just under the skin and include the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, levator scapulae, rhomboids, and serratus posterior muscles
  • Intermediate — They work to elevate and depress the rib cage and include the serratus posterior superior and inferior.
  • Deep — Are attached to the vertebral column and are responsible for flexion/extension, rotation, and side bending of the back.

Superficial Back Muscles

The superficial back muscles are situated underneath the skin and superficial fascia. The muscles in this group are:

Back anatomy

1. Upper Back Muscles

  • Trapezius: large, triangular-shaped muscle dominates the upper back, helping in shoulder and neck movement.
  • Rhomboids: These muscles are located beneath the trapezius and are crucial for scapular retraction.
  • Levator Scapulae: This muscle runs from the upper vertebrae of the neck to the top of the shoulder blades.
  • Infraspinatus and Supraspinatus: These are part of the rotator cuff muscles and assist in the rotation and stabilization of the shoulder joint.

2. Middle Back Muscles

  • Latissimus Dorsi: The primary muscle of the middle back, responsible for adduction, extension, and medial rotation of the shoulder.
  • Teres Major and Teres Minor: Situated around the shoulder blades, these muscles assist with arm rotation and adduction.
  • Serratus Posterior Superior: This muscle assists in the mechanics of breathing and is located beneath the rhomboids.

3. Lower Back

  • Erector Spinae: This is the main muscle group in the lower back, crucial for extending and stabilizing the spine.
  • Quadratus Lumborum: Located on either side of the lumbar spine, this muscle helps with side bending.
  • Serratus Posterior Inferior: Situated below the latissimus dorsi, this muscle helps in the mechanics of breathing. It also provides some support to the lower back.
  • Multifidus: This is a deep muscle that spans three joint segments in the lumbar spine and is important for spine stability.
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How To Do A Back Workout With Barbell

With barbells, you can do compound exercises that work multiple areas of the back in a full range of motion. You can also change your body position and hand placement to work on your back muscles in a different way.

To structure an effective barbell back workout for gains in strength and size, the number of reps and sets will vary based on your goals:

  • For strength gains, do 4 to 6 sets of 1 to 6 reps for each exercise, using 85-100% of your one rep max (1RM). Go heavier and perform fewer reps.
  • If your goal is muscle growth(hypertrophy), do 3 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise, using 70-85% of your 1RM.
  • For muscular endurance, use moderate weights of 50-70% 1RM for higher reps of 15-20 per set.

Focus on compound barbell movements like bent over rows, deadlifts, and barbell bent over rows. Allow sufficient rest between sets. Increase weight gradually over time.

Know More: The Complete Guide To Barbell Exercises For Strength Training

10 Best Barbell Back Exercises To Build Mass and Strength

Below, we outline the 10 best compound barbells back exercises that you can work into your program for more muscle, improve strength, and some training variety.

1. Deadlift

The deadlift is the King of all exercises. This power exercise designed to build an overall physique that uses more muscles than any other exercise.

The deadlift is the best exercise for posterior chain muscle strengthening. It works your whole body including the Lower back, upper back, arms, legs, and buttocks.  

Due to the engagement of large muscle groups, deadlifts can boost your metabolism, aiding in fat loss.

Deadlift

How To Do

  1. Place a barbell loaded with weights in front of you. Grab the barbell using an underhand grip with one hand and an overhand grip with the other hand.
  2. Remember to keep your back as straight as possible and contract your back and hamstrings.
  3. Now raise the bar from the ground using your hamstrings and glutes.
  4. You should keep your legs slightly bent, back straight and head looking up.
  5. Raise it to the point where your body is erect. Do not hyperextend your body as the weight shifts to the lumbar spine.
  6. Hold the bar for a moment at the top of the lift and remember to lockouts.
  7. Now slowly lower the bar at a steady, slow pace by bending at the hips first and then at the knees.
  8. Allow the weight to almost touch the ground for a moment before beginning the next rep.

Tips

  • Never compromise on form to lift heavier weights; this could lead to serious injury.
  • Lower back muscles take along to recuperate and hence once a week heavy deadlifts will do the job.
  • Go full range of motion and keep form correct. Avoid jerky movements and keep them controlled.
  • The stability of flat-soled shoes or lifting barefoot can be better than that of cushioned running shoes.

2. Bent Over Barbell Rows

If you are looking to strengthen the upper back and add massive muscle to the upper back region, then bent over barbell rows is the best barbell upper back exercise.

Spacing your hands shoulder-width apart or closer targets the central inner section of the lats, whereas a wider grip targets the outer back muscles.

  • A narrow grip keeps the elbows close to the body, which makes it harder to extend the shoulders and pull them away from the body. This forces the lat muscles to work harder, which makes them stronger.
  • The wide grip encouraged by the flared elbows helps reduce lat involvement, allowing you to target the rhomboids, traps and rear delt.
Bent Over Barbell Rows

How To Do

  1. Stand with a narrow stance and grab a bar with an overhand grip.
  2. Bend your torso forward at an angle of 45 degrees to the floor with the knees slightly, and let the bar hang in front of you.
  3. Now use the back and raise the bar until it touches the abdominal region and not the chest region, as it reduces back muscle contraction.
  4. Slowly lower the bar under control to the starting position.

Tips

  • Exhale on pushing movement, and inhale when returning to the starting position.
  • Hold a neutral spine throughout the movement to prevent injury.

3. Landmine Row 

If you are looking to add freshness and variety to your barbell back workouts and give yourself a new challenge, give this landmine row exercise a try.

Landmine row training and the exercises you can perform are empowering, and extremely beneficial. It’s an important part of your back workout.

The Landmine row is the classic landmine exercise. It is going to do an absolutely stellar job of targeting your lats, traps, posterior delts and rhomboids. This is one of the best exercises you can do for pure back thickness.

T bar rows are a tough exercise, but building a strong back is a must to develop a quality physique.

WHAT MUSCLES DO LANDMINES WORK

How To Do

  1. With the barbell loaded, stand over the bar with a wide stance.
  2. Get into a bent over position with your spine straight and chest up.
  3. Bend at the hips and keep your back arched throughout the movement.
  4. Lift the bar until the bar touches your chest, keeping the back straight.
  5. Now slowly lower the bar until it nearly touches the ground.

Tips

  • Avoid hunchback bending as it leads to Injury.
  • Go Complete range of motion.

4. Standing Barbell Rear Delt Row

Standing barbell rear delts row is a free weight exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid and middle back, and to a lesser degree, it also targets the biceps, shoulders, and traps.

Barbell rear delt row exercises provide versatility. The exercise helps you strengthen virtually every muscle of the back with a wider range of resistance.

If you haven’t tried this exercise before, load the barbell with a reasonable amount of weight, prioritizing an amount that allows you to stick to proper form rather than trying to lift heavy.

Standing Barbell Rear Delt Row

How To Do

  1. Stand up straight while holding a barbell using a wide (higher than shoulder width) and overhand (palms facing your body) grip.
  2. With slightly bent knees, bend over at the waist so that your chest is parallel with the floor.
  3. While keeping the upper arms perpendicular to the torso, pull the barbell up towards your upper chest as you squeeze the rear delt.
  4. Slowly go back to the initial position as you breathe in.
  5. Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions.

Tips

  • Refrain from using your biceps to do the work. Focus on targeting the rear delts, the arms should only act as hooks.
  • Maintaining the right posture while working out is extremely important.

5. Barbell Upright Row

The barbell upright row is a barbell exercise that builds stronger and bigger trapsrhomboids and rear deltoids. Many people neglect these upper back muscles. Many gym-goers, don’t do these upper back exercises because they’re tricky to train, and impossible to see without a mirror.

Upright Row is an excellent exercise to build huge Trapezius muscles and create that delto-pectoral separation. Shrugs and upright rows are two great exercises for building massive traps.

Barbell upright rows can be performed with three main variations of grip width:

  • The close or narrow grip (half of shoulder width),
  • A standard grip (shoulder width grip)
  • A wide grip (wider than the shoulder)
Barbell Upright Row

How To Do

  1. Hold a barbell with an overhand grip and stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Your grip on the barbell should be wider than shoulder-width apart. Let it hang in front of you.
  3. While keeping your barbell close to your body, lift the bar and get it up to chest height using your arms.
  4. Allow your shoulder blades to move naturally with your shoulder joints. Pause at the top of the movement.
  5. Now, lower the bar under controlled motion until it comes back to its starting position.
  6. Repeat the wide-grip upright row for your desired number of repetitions.

Tips

  • Focus on keeping your elbows higher than your forearms
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.

6. Barbell Chest Supported Row

The chest supported row exercise is an effective variation of the bent over barbell row. As the name suggests, it’s a row where your chest is supported. It is a highly effective exercise that also offers the added benefit of minimizing lower back strain.

In other words, this variation requires less effort to stabilize body position during the row because the chest supported on the bench.

This row is much more effective for targeting the back muscles because it doesn’t require other muscles to stay stable throughout the movement. This exercise can target different muscles depending on how your arm is positioned and how you are holding the weight.

Barbell Chest Supported Row

How To Do

  1. Lie down on an incline bench with a barbell and hand extended out in front of you.
  2. Slowly pull the barbell up until your elbows are just above your shoulders.
  3. Once you reach the final position, hold for a count and squeeze your muscles.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat for as many reps and sets as desired.

Tips

  • Keep chest pressed down throughout the motion.
  • Pull barbell back towards lower chest, not upwards.
  • Maintain retracted shoulders and neutral neck.
  • Don’t just swing your arms. Keep controlled motion throughout the exercise.

7. Landmine Row

If you’re looking to strengthen the back and add mass to the upper back region, then the Landmine Row is the best upper back exercise.

The one arm bent over the row works your rear delt, rhomboids, middle traps, lats, and biceps.

This is a great exercise for adding volume to your upper back without adding extra volume to your lower back.

Landmine Single Arm Bent Over Row

How To Do

  1. Stand parallel to the bar with the end of the barbell at your left side.
  2. Your feet should be hip width apart. Get into a bent over position by shooting your hip back (hinge), bending at your knees slightly, and leaning your torso forward. Your spine should be straight.
  3. Grab the collar of the barbell with an overhand grip. Perform a row, bringing your elbow up as high as you can. Your elbow should come to full flexion.
  4. Squeeze at the top, really feeling the tension in your rear delts and upper back. Slowly lower the bar back down to full elbow extension, then repeat.

Tips

  • Do not use more weight than you can handle. This fatigues your spinal erectors and say goodbye to form.
  • Hold a neutral spine throughout the movement to prevent injury.
Know More: Landmine Exercises For Building Muscle And Strength

8. Barbell Shrug

The Barbell shrug is one of the best exercises to build bigger, stronger trapezius muscles. This exercise can be done extremely heavily to thicken the traps, which really helps you in doing back poses.

It is one of the best isolation exercises for the trapezius muscle. The shrug is one of the simplest and easiest exercises to perform. You need to add this barbell back exercise to strengthen your upper back and trap muscles.

A study has shown that shrugging helps relieve shoulder and neck pain. Strengthening your traps helps provide better support to your head and neck.

Barbell Shrug

How To Do

  1. Stand with feet placed shoulder-width apart, knee slightly bent, and core stable.
  2. Grip the barbell with your hands facing downwards, in a pronated grip.
  3. Raise your shoulders without bending the elbows as far as possible, getting them closer to your ears.
  4. Hold the contraction and squeeze for a brief second,
  5. In a controlled and stable manner, lower the weight back down to the starting position.

Tips

  • While shrugging, looking slightly up may enhance the contraction.
  • Don’t let the head move forward too much when you’re squeezing the traps. This can hurt the neck.
  • Go full range. Only move the shoulders and keep the rest of the body steady.

9. Barbell Good Morning

It is known as a good morning because of the movement in the erector spinae which resembles the rise out of bed to stretch.

The erectors are just like any other muscle, growing best when shortened and lengthened. Good morning exercise do just that.

The erector spinae muscles of the lower back work isometrically to keep the spine in an extended position, while the hamstrings and gluteus maximus work isotonically to perform hip extension.

Barbell Good Morning

How To Do

  1. Stand holding a barbell on the back of your shoulders, grasping the Stick at each side. You can also perform the exercise as in the bodyweight version.
  2. Keeping your knees slightly flexed and your back and neck neutral, inhale as you flex your hips to lower your torso until it is close to, or fully, horizontal.
  3. Exhale as you raise your torso back up to the starting position by extending your hips.

Tips

  • Keep your back and neck neutral throughout the exercise.
  • It is recommended that the lifter avoid rounding (flexing), or rotation (twisting) at any point during the movement.
  • Keep the movement slow, the form strict, and the weight light.

10. Landmine Deadlift

It is the biggest muscle builder, recruiting more muscle motor units than any other exercise. This exercise can be performed using either a barbell.

You can go real heavy on a Landmine deadlift, but do this exercise with caution and technique.

Landmine Deadlift Muscles Worked

How To Do

  1. Stand in front of the barbell landmine with your feet about hip width apart.
  2. Remember to keep your back as straight as possible and contract your back and hamstrings.
  3. Now raise the bar from the ground using your hamstrings and glutes.
  4. Raise it to the point where your body is erect. Do not hyperextend your body as the weight shifts to the lumbar spine. Complete the lift and do not go only halfway through.
  5. Now lower the bar slowly at a steady slow pace by bending at the hips first and then at the knees and let the weight touch the ground for a moment before you begin the next rep

Tips

  • Lower back muscles take along to recuperate and hence once a week heavy deadlifts will do the job.
  • Go full range of motion and keep form correct. Avoid jerky movements and keep them controlled.

Barbell Back Exercises Benefits

Barbell back exercises benefits can be very impressive! When performed correctly and consistently over time, the compound barbell workout can allow you to achieve large strength gains. Some barbell exercises benefits include,

  • Strengthen the Core: The barbell exercises are executed whilst standing. During the movement, the core has to work hard to keep the body stable and balanced.
  • Minimal Equipment Required — All you need is a barbell and perhaps several weight plates. You may also use a band to provide additional resistance. While having a landmine attachment is great, but it is not mandatory.
  • Posterior Chain strength: The barbell back exercises is a very effective upper posterior chain exercise as it increased muscular strength of all the back muscles.
  • Variations: We love variety in a workout, so any exercise that has a ton of variations is right up our street.
  • Versatile: Barbell exercises provide versatility, can help you strengthen virtually every muscle in the body with a wider range of resistance.

Sets and Reps For Back Barbell Workout

Training volume refers to the total amount of work you perform during a workout, including the number of sets, reps, and weight used.

Of course, the number of sets and reps will be determined based on your fitness journey, but here is a great starting point.

Sets

According to the latest scientific evidence, 12–20 weekly sets per muscle group may optimize muscle growth.

  • Beginners (with a year or less of training) should aim for about 12 weekly sets.
  • An Intermediate trainee (with two to four years of training) can increase the volume to 16 sets per week.
  • An advanced trainee (four or more years of training) may be able to get in up to 20 weekly sets.

When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress. 

Reps

The best rep ranges and loads to work with.

  • For muscle endurance: Aim for 15-20+ reps, with a moderate amount of resistance.
  • For muscle strength: 6-10 reps, with a heavier amount of resistance.
  • For muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle size): Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, with a moderate to heavy amount of resistance.

It’s best to start with fewer reps and sets at first, and then increase them as you get stronger.

Note: The heavier and more challenging the weight, the fewer reps you need to perform and vice versa.

Complete Back Workout With Barbell

Effective back training should incorporate a variety of exercises and target all the majors back muscles.

For a complete back workout and to build balanced strength, you’ll need to make sure you’re doing a variety of back exercises to specifically target your trapezius, upper, middle and lower back muscles.

  • Shrugs and upright rows are great exercises for building trapezius muscles.
  • Upper and middle barbell back exercises target the rear deltoid, rhomboids, and lats. When choosing exercises for your upper back, you should include a variety of row exercises, such as barbell rows and rear delt row.
  • The lower back can be targeted with exercises like deadlift and good morning exercises

This barbell training routine for the back is designed to increase strength and muscle mass. However, the gains will be increased with the use of primary lifts like deadlift, Bent-Over Row.

Barbell Back Workout Routine

This workout targets the entire back, including the upper, middle, and lower back muscles. It can be adjusted based on your fitness level, workout frequency, and strength training goal.

Remember to start with a light weight and practice using the correct form and technique. Don’t just do barbell exercises. Add other back exercises as needed such as bodyweight, dumbbell and cable back exercises.

1. Beginner Back Workout Plan

ExerciseSetsRepsRest
Bent Over Barbell Row3-48-1560-90 sec
Barbell Upright Row 48-1260-90 sec
Good Morning 38-1060-90 sec

2. Intermediate Back Cable Workout Plan

ExerciseSetsRepsRest
Barbell Deadlift3-46-860 sec
Chest Supported Row48-1260 sec
landmine Row38-1260 sec
Barbell Shrug38-1060 sec

Advance Back Workout Plan

ExerciseSetsRepsRest
Landmine Deadlift46-890 sec
Bent Over Barbell Row48-1060 sec
Barbell Good Morning 3-48-1260 sec
Barbell Shrug3-48-1260 sec
Barbell Upright Row38-1060 sec

FAQ About Barbell Back Training

What barbell exercises work the back?

In order to build a thick, wide, and muscular back, you need a variety of movements from a variety of angles. The barbell is an excellent tool for that purpose.

There are many barbell exercises that can be used to train the back muscles. Add the above mentioned exercises to your back workout regime as per your fitness level.

Is train back with barbell is effective

Barbell back workouts strengthen your back muscles from your traps to your spine.

The movements target your erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, serratus, and trapezius muscles, all of which are involved in achieving your back goals.” 

Conclusion

Barbell back exercises are a great way to build a strong foundation and can be useful for anyone, from beginners to bodybuilders.

Be smart: don’t limit yourself to barbell exercises. Get the benefits they offer and use other back exercises to supplement them when needed.

Barbells can be easily incorporated into any training program and can be particularly effective when used alongside dumbbells, machines, and cables to build the biggest, strongest back possible.

10 Best Barbell Back Exercises For Mass and Strength

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