4 exercises to chisel your back muscles

Shoaib Siddiq Nov 20 2015

Back muscles are group of larger muscles that not only support our body but, when well developed, they give that V-shape every man craves for. But owing to the diversity of muscles and the huge area they cover, it makes them hard to train and exercise.

Major back muscles include the trapezius (or traps for short) and rhomboid muscles on the upper side, latissimusdorsi (or lats for short) and serratus muscles on the sides, and erector spinae muscles in the midline and lower back. Most training regimes lack a complete back workout targeting each and every muscle.


Going too heavy on back exercises can result in improper form and lead to injury while going too light on them will not be sufficient to cause micro-trauma and induce muscle growth. What makes the exercise even more complicated are the secondary muscles targeted in the back workout, mainly biceps and posterior deltoids (back portion of shoulder muscle), which can exhaust before one is done with his back workout.

Here are a few back exercises to target every muscle in the back, along with proper form and common mistakes.


Primary target muscle: Trapezius

Whether you want to do barbell shrug or dumbbell shrug that is up to you. Shrugs work the traps, the upper most muscle of back which can be seen as collar muscles on either side of neck. The movement elevates and depresses the scapula, working the traps.

How to do it:

Hold a barbell with shoulder width or dumbbells lying on either side of your body. Loosen up your upper back so the shoulders are depressed. This is the starting position of the workout. Slowly elevate your shoulder blade as far as you can, hold for a second and slowly lower it back to the start position. Do three sets of 15-20 reps.

Common mistakes:

  1. Not using the full range of motion
  2. Rotation of the shoulder blades
  3. Not holding on the top position

Alternate exercise:

Upright rows



Primary target muscle: Rhomboids

Bent-over barbell row works the upper middle part of the back by retracting the shoulder bone (scapula).

How to do it:

Grab a bar with under-grip, shoulder-width apart. Bend over so that your back is as parallel to the floor as possible. Hold the barbell diagonally in front of you below your chest; this is the starting position. Slowly bring the barbell close to your belly button with the retraction of scapula only. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Back should be flat throughout the lift. Do three sets of 6-9 reps.

Common mistake: 

  1. Arching of back
  2. Body not parallel to the floor
  3. Holding breath
  4. Using biceps to pull the weight

Alternate exercise:

  1. Seated cable rows
  2. Bent over dumbbell rows
  3. T-bar rows



Primary target muscle: Lats

The master of back exercise, it gives you everything – from strength to more width.

How to do it:

Hold on the pull-up bar with pronated true grip. Your body should be hanging from the pull-up bar; this is the start position. Pull your body up by depressing the scapula as if you are trying to bring the bar down. Hold for a second on top position before slowly lowering yourself down to the start position. Do three sets of maximum reps.

Common mistakes: 

  1. Using lower body to lift yourself up
  2. Not using the full range of motion

Alternate exercise:

  1. Wide grip lat pull-down
  2. Behind the back pull-up
  3. V-bar pull down



Primary target muscle: Lower back and erector muscles

This exercise is for pros. This compound exercise works your lower back unlike any other.

How to do it:

Grab a barbell with alternate grip or pronated grip, the bar should be lying on the ground close to your heels. This is the start position. Slowly lift the weight up without bending the knees till your back is straight. Hold for a second before slowly lowering the barbell down to the start position. Perform 4 sets of 3-5 reps.

Common mistake: 

  1. Bending of knees
  2. Arching of back
  3. Holding breath

Alternate exercise:

  1. Hyperextensions
  2. Stiff-leg good mornings


Try these exercises and see the difference in your back muscles.

Shoaib Siddiq

Shoaib Siddiq:

Shoaib is currently a 3rd year MBBS student. Apart from studying, you can often find him in gym either resistance training or practising mixed martial arts. With his love for fitness training and knowledge that comes along with it, he writes various fitness related articles for HTV.