The Best Lat & Back Exercises

by Kevin Rail

About Kevin Rail




The back contains multiple muscles. The latissimus dorsi is the muscle that flares out to the sides in the upper region. The rhomboids are found between the shoulders. The erector spinae is a strip of muscle found in the lower back. Although the trapezius is a shoulder muscle, it is located at the top of the back. The best exercises to target these areas will be most effective when done with proper form.


Pull-ups are lat exercises that also recruit the rhomboids and traps. Jump up and grab a pull-up bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. With your core tight, knees bent and legs crossed behind you, pull yourself up until your chest meets the bar. Slowly lower yourself down and repeat eight to 12 times. While pulling yourself up, do not sway back and forth for momentum.

Bent-over Rows

Bent-over rows work the middle of your back and can be done with a barbell. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the bar in front of your thighs with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Slowly bend forward until your back is just higher than parallel to the floor. Your arms should be completely extended at this point. In a controlled movement, lift the bar up to your stomach and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Slowly lower the bar down and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.


Shrugs isolate your traps and can be done with dumbbells. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms straight and the weights held at your sides with your palms facing in. While maintaining straight arms, elevate your shoulders straight up in the air and squeeze forcefully for a full second. Slowly lower and repeat 10 to 12 times.

Lat Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns target your lats and are done with a lat pulldown machine. Attach a wide bar to the pulley, sit on the seat and adjust the thigh pad on top of your legs so it fits tightly. Once in this position, reach up and grab the bar with a wide grip, lean back slightly and pull the bar down in front of your body. When the bar is at chest height, squeeze your shoulder blades together, raise the bar back up and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.


Deadlifts are lower-back exercises that also target your legs, and they can be performed with a weighted barbell that is on the floor. Stand behind the bar with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend down, grab the bar with a wide grip, lift it off the floor and come to a standing position. The bar should now be resting against the front of your thighs. Lower the bar and repeat 10 to 12 times. Maintain a tight core and straight back throughout.

Back Extensions

Back extensions isolate the lower-back muscles and can be performed with the weight of your body. Lie face-down on the floor with your hands on the sides of your head. Slowly lift your upper body off the floor by contracting your lower back muscles. Only go as far as you can and hold for a second. Lower back down and repeat 10 to 12 times.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or