5 Unique Exercises To Build A Big Back

The wider and thicker your back is, the more jacked you look. Building your back will also make you stronger in all your lifts, and can help prevent future injuries. When you think of exercises that train the back, you may gravitate towards the typical exercises like rows or pulldowns. And while those exercises definitely work, here are 5 exercises that you probably aren’t doing on your back day – but will help you get bigger, and stronger, in a hurry.


Why: We all know deadlifts are one of the best total body exercises out there. Want to take it up a notch? Move your hands out wide in a snatch grip, which is the grip used in the Olympic weightlifting exercise, the barbell snatch. Pulling in a snatch grip will not only hit the glutes, hamstrings, and erectors like a traditional deadlift but it will light up the upper back like you’ve never felt before, especially the traps.

• Place a bar on the floor and assume a conventional deadlift stance with the shins a few inches away from the bar
• Grab the bar with an extra wide grip, refer to the picture below for an idea of where to place the hands
• Keeping a flat back, pull the bar off the floor, extending the hips forward until you are standing straight up in the air, fully extended
• With the wider grip your grip strength will be tested, if needed use a hook grip or straps to be able to use heavy weight


Why: Good mornings are a great option to train the posterior chain. They hit the hamstrings and glutes hard, but the focus here is going to be there tremendous ability to train the erectors, or the thick muscles that run along the sides of the spine from the pelvis all the way to the base of the skull. There are three exercises that hit these the hardest back extensions, deadlifts, and good mornings. Also if you interested in getting as strong as an ox, these have tremendous carryover to the squat and deadlift.

• Place a barbell on your back just as if you were going to perform a back squat
• Bend your knees slightly and pull the bar into your back as hard as you possibly can
• Initiate a hip hinge by pushing the hips back as far as you can while maintaining the same knee bend
• Bring the torso down towards the ground until your chest is parallel to the floor, make sure to keep a flat back the entire time
• Pause slightly then reverse the motion, squeezing the glutes as hard as you can


Why: Pendlay rows offer a unique advantage over traditional bent over barbell rows, since pulling from a dead stop greatly increases the difficulty. Also, this row variation trains all of the posterior chain isometrically which provides more bang for you buck. Not only will you be hitting the upper back from the pulls but the erectors will light up from the isometric contraction.

• Place a bar on the floor, step close to the bar with shins a few inches away from the bar, hinge at the hip while keep a flat back until your hand reach the bar.
• Maintain this position and row the bar up to the chest, aiming for the bottom of the sternum.
• Return the bar under control until its resting on the ground.
• Don’t bounce the bar off the ground and make sure to maintain the same hinged position throughout the whole lift.


Why: I, Y, and T variations are some of the best exercises out there to build the muscles of the shoulder girdle. Each movement targets slightly different muscles of the rotator cuff and upper back and when combined in a trio, they are the real deal. These muscles are important to train obviously because your upper back will appear larger and more defined but also to help protect the shoulders through hard training, especially protecting while performing presses.

How: I, Y, and T’s can be performed with/on the following pieces of equipment..

Suspension Trainer
• Grab the handles, walk your feet forward, and drive your heels into the ground with toes pointed towards the ceiling.
• Let your body down so your arms are fully extended with backs of the hands pointed towards the ceiling.
• Keeping your arms straight raise your arms over head, just as if you were performing an overhead front raise with a dumbbell. Lower yourself under control.
• Next angle your arms out slightly to about 45 degrees relative to your midline, keeping your arms straight raise them up until they are even with your body and lower under control.
• Finally, drop your arms to chest level with palms facing one another, perform a reverse fly until your arms are straight out from your sides and lower under control.

Bent Over DB
• You can perform the same movements holding dumbbells in a hip hinge position.
• The I, Y, and T movement stays the exact same making sure to turn your hands so your thumbs are pointed up towards the ceiling.

• Lie face down on a bench holding dumbbells and perform the exact same movement patterns described above.


Why: Pull ups are simple but effective, but we aren’t talking about the kipping kind. Straight up, strict pull ups are one of the most effective ways to pack mass onto your back and all you need is a bar.

• Hands facing out grab the bar, hang full extension and pull up without rocking back or using the legs to kick up.
• Control yourself on the way down, descend slowly and under control until you are at full extension.
• Add variation by moving your hands wider or narrower or adding weight.
• To regress use a band around a knee or have a partner help you out by giving assistance as needed.

There ya have it, five exercises that should be a part of your back day. Now, get out there and get jacked.

Chase it!

John Papp

John Papp is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Performance Coach at Xceleration Sports (Auburn Hills, Mich.), where he works with high school and college athletes as well as adult clients. He is a senior at Oakland University, studying Exercise Science.

Website: JohnPappFitness.com