After two years of heavy-duty training, my back still does not make much of a visual impact. What three back exercises will help me to make rapid improvements?


I advocate a tripartite regimen of close-grip reverse pulldowns on a Hammer Strength machine (to work the upper back and the lats), barbell rows with an overhand grip (to pack on mass) and seated cable rows (to thicken the rhomboids and teres major).

Your first back movement should be the Hammer Strength machine pulldown, although you can replicate the exercise on a standard lat pulldown machine. Given a choice, I prefer the Hammer Strength variation, as it’s more of a natural-arc type of motion. On a lat-pulldown machine, you are just pulling the weight straight down. The close grip also gives you a better stretch of the lats, while the reverse grip reduces the power of the biceps, ensuring the lats are better targeted. To get the back thoroughly warmed up and ready to go, do two warm-up sets.

Begin with a close reverse grip on the bar or overhead handles and with elbows slightly bent — to put the load on the lats instead of the biceps — pull down. Focus on pulling with the lats. Pause for a complete contraction at the midpoint and release the weight in a slow, controlled and smooth movement. Never lean back too far, or you’ll limit the range of motion. I usually reach failure at the eighth repetition, and I will do one or two forced reps if a partner is at the ready.


Barbell rows are the primary mass builder and for good reason: My style of doing the movement ties into all areas of the back. I take an overhand grip on the bar — my hands are a little less than shoulder-width apart — and adopt a position in which my body is at a 70-degree angle to the floor. Most bodybuilders do barbell rows with their bodies parallel to the floor, pulling the bar into the chest. But if you want to hit the bulk of the lats and lift with max weight, align your upper body at a 70-degree angle and pull the bar up off the floor and lift it to the waist.

Finish the session with one warm-up set and three working sets of six to eight reps of seated cable rows done with a long bar. I prefer a shoulder-width overhand grip to thicken the teres major and rhomboid muscles. I lean forward slightly to initiate the rep and stretch the lats. With elbows out, I bring the bar to my upper abs and lower chest area. Pulling the elbows as far back as possible helps to target the upper back and to produce a complete contraction.

Allow for six or seven days for your back to recover after this workout. Mix in deadlifts and Nautilus pullovers (in place of the Hammer Strength machine pulldowns) to keep the workouts fresh, interesting and motivating enough to help you reach your goals for a better bigger back. – FLEX


  • Hammer Strength Pulldowns | SETS: 2* | REPS: 8
  • Hammer Strength Pulldowns | SETS: 3 | REPS: 8
  • Barbell Rows | SETS: 1* | REPS: 8
  • Barbell Rows | SETS: 3 | REPS: 6-8
  • Seated Cable Rows | SETS: 1* | REPS: 8
  • Seated Cable Rows | SETS: 3 | REPS: 6-8

* Warm-up set