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November 06, 2021 8 min read

A trained back can help make your body look strong and sculpted, but it’s also important for posture and overall strength. Strengthening and growing the muscles in your back takes time, discipline, and the right exercises.

The barbell is a popular piece of equipment for back exercises and can be a beneficial tool for strength and size.

It’s versatile and can be used by all fitness levels as the weight can be adjusted for more or less of a challenge. A lot of big muscles live in your back, so they can require heavier weight than a smaller muscle like the bicep. The barbell offers the option for heavy weight to help you build a bigger, stronger back.

How Back Muscles Contribute To Overall Health

If you don’t know that your back provides you with the support for basically every movement you ever perform on a daily basis, there is a high possibility that you’re living under a rock. 

Lifters tend to put more of an emphasis on the muscles that are highlighted in the mirror such as their core, biceps, glutes and chest muscles but they forget about one of the most important muscle groups: the back muscles.

Back training is important, and back muscle strength can even be a predictor of our quality of life

Benefits Of Strengthening Back Muscles:

  • Improved Posture:  For the majority of us, we spend our days sitting for about 8 hours a day at a desk with our backs hunched over. This leads to weakened muscles which can inhibit shoulder mobility and lead to back pain. By strengthening your back muscles, you are prioritizing your posture and as a result, you are improving your overall health.
  • Improved Strength:  Your back muscles are some of the largest in your body and challenging them can lead to increased lean muscle mass and strength. This can also enhance your range of motion and overall balance which are both extremely important as you age. Not only does increased muscle mass mean more strength, but it also increases your BMR, as muscle requires more energy than fat, which can make it easier to lose any excess body fat that prevents your muscles from showing.
  • Improved Spinal Stability:  Your back muscles play a large role in maintaining spinal stability. Weak muscles can lead to spinal stability which can be detrimental to your health. Your spinal column is not something you want to mess with; it is your body's central support structure. Without your spine, you cannot sit, stand, walk, twist or essentially perform any action. Weak  muscles and ligaments that surround the spine can cause simple movements such as twisting, stretching and lifting to be a challenge. Therefore, it might be a good idea to invest time to incorporate barbell exercises to strengthen your back muscles, and decrease the chance of spinal injury.

Why use a barbell to build a massive back?

A barbell  can be used for a variety of purposes such as weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, and anything in between, and the ability to add massive amounts of weight to it makes it the perfect tool to continuously push your limits and increase your strength and size.

A row of empty Barbells on rack against the wall in Gym with dark gray wall


A standard barbell weighs 45 lbs, but there are thinner ones, often used by females, that weigh 35 lbs. You'll want to take this into account when adding up the weight on your bar. 

Many also are designed with knurling which offers more grip, as well as a guide to help keep your hand placement correct and even. 

Selecting the Right Barbell Weight

Exercise can be quite subjective, and there is no one size fits all. No matter how many workout plans you read or articles you invest your time in, only you know your body and its capabilities best. There are a variety of resources that can guide you in the right direction, but you still always have to observe yourself to prevent the possibility of pain or injury. 

Many people have the misconception that more is better, especially when it comes to weightlifting, but it can actually be the opposite.

If you are performing an exercise with too much weight, you risk performing the exercise with the wrong form which can lead to muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances can cause a domino effect of issues including synergistic dominance, reciprocal inhibition, and decreased neuromuscular control.

1. Perform The Exercise With Your Body Weight

This might sound odd to all of you who are eager to get those gains, but at the end of the day, the most important part of strength training is to perform the movement with correct form. If you are unable to perform the exercise properly bodyweight, adding weight may only increase your risk of a dangerous, inefficient workout. It’s important to master your form prior to adding any additional weight to the movement.

2. Start Lifting With Just The Bar

Begin performing the exercise with just the bar and see how it feels. You might notice some muscle deficiencies such as your non-dominant side being weaker than the other. Do not start adding weight until you are able to perform the exercise in proper form or else you will risk those muscle imbalances mentioned earlier.

3. Start Adding Weight To The Barbell

There might be some trial and error when you are trying to figure out how much weight to use. It is recommended that you start with just the bar to warm up for each exercise to get your body primed for the movement. 

To start off, a good rule of thumb is to add 2-5 pounds for upper body exercises and 5-10 pounds for lower body exercises.

If you found that you were able to complete the exercise easily with proper form, you can try adding more weight to the bar. 

If the previous set felt too easy, try adding 5 pounds. If the previous set felt challenging, start off with adding 2.5 pounds. You can use this as your rule of thumb until you find yourself unable to maintain proper form during the movement, or if you are simply unable to lift anymore.

It's better to start off light rather than use too much weight and put yourself at risk for injury. Keep your eyes on the prize and keep lifting! Making a plan and sticking to it is a great way to reach your goals faster

    7 Best Barbell Back Exercises For Strength and Size

    1. Good Morning

    Muscles Worked:

    • Primary: glutes and hamstrings 
    • Secondary: muscles in the posterior chain including upper back, lats and calves 

     How to do the Good Morning: 

    1. Stand up with your feet placed shoulder-width apart. 
    2. Place a barbell on your upper back. Inhale and begin to hinge at the hips, maintaining a slight bend in the knees and a neutral spine. 
    3. Make sure your chest is up and your shoulders are down. 
    4. Begin to lift back up and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement when you are back to starting position.
    5. Repeat steps 1-4 for your desired number of sets and reps.

    Good mornings can also be performed with  resistance bands to change it up.

    2. Single-Arm T-Bar Row

    Muscles Worked:

    • Primary: latissimus dorsi 
    • Secondary: teres major, trapezius, erector spinae

     How to do the Single-Arm T-Bar Row:  

    1. Place your desired amount of weight on one side of a barbell and secure the other end in a corner. 
    2. Hinge at your hips and straddle the bar to begin to pull it towards your chest. 
    3. Make sure your elbows are close to your body and squeeze your shoulder blades at the top to maximize engagement. 
    4. Slowly, return to the starting position and repeat steps 1-3 for your desired number of reps and sets.

    3. Seal Row

    Muscles Worked:

    • Primary: lats, trapezius, rear deltoids 
    • Secondary: biceps, forearm flexors, rotator cuff

     How to do the Seal Row:  

    1. Place a barbell on the floor below a bench. 
    2. Lie down with your chest placed on the flat bench and grab ahold of the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
    3. Inhale as you begin to pull the bar up towards you. Bring it up as high as you possibly can and hold it for a moment before lowering the weight. 
    4. Slowly, begin to lower the bar back down to the starting position.
    5. Repeat steps 1-4 for your desired number of sets and reps.

    4. Barbell Deadlift

    Muscles Worked:

    • Primary: quadriceps, lower back, glutes, trapezius
    • Secondary: rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, hamstrings, calves, abdominals

    You knew it was coming. It would be wrong not to include it in one of the best back exercises. 

     How to do the Barbell Deadlift: 

    1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and place a barbell in front of you. 
    2. Begin to send your hips back and bend at the knees to lean your torso forward and grab the bar. Make sure you are engaging your core and keep a flat back. 
    3. Grab a hold of the bar shoulder-width apart with an overhand grip and push your weight into the ground to bring the weight up with you to standing position. 
    4. Pause at the top and begin to reverse the movement by bending at your knees and hinging at the hips to lower the weight back to the ground.
    5. Repeat steps 1-4 for your desired number of reps and sets.

    Note: Make sure you keep the barbell in close proximity to your body for the entire movement.

    5. Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row

    Muscles Worked:

    • Primary: middle back
    • Secondary: biceps, shoulders, lats

     How to do the Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row:  

    1. Stand upright and grab the bar wider than shoulder-width apart. 
    2. Bend at the knees bring your upper body forward but still maintain a neutral spine. The only movement in this exercise will be when you are moving the barbell upwards, the rest of your upper body should stay stationary. 
    3. Place the barbell just above knee level and begin to pull the bar up to just below chest level. 
    4. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top of the exercise to maximize engagement and then begin to lower the bar back down to the starting position.
    5. Repeat steps 1-4 with control for your desired number of reps and sets.

    6. Meadow’s Barbell Row

    Muscles Worked:

    • Primary: latissimus dorsi
    • Secondary: biceps, forearms, posterior delts, trapezius

     How to do the Meadow's Barbell Row:  

    1. Stand in a staggered stance with your front foot placed perpendicularly to the bar. 
    2. Hinge at the hips to bend over your waist and grip the barbell with an overhand grip.
    3. Place your elbow on the front thigh so that the hip closest to the barbell is higher than the front rip. 
    4. Negin to row the weight up so your hand is outside of your chest.
    5. Lower the weight back down and repeat steps 1-4 with control for your desired number of reps and sets.

    7. Pendlay Row

    Muscles Worked:

    • Primary: lats, trapezius, rear deltoids 
    • Secondary: biceps, lower back, forearm flexors, rotator cuff

     How to do the Pendlay Row:  

    1. Begin with the bar on the floor. Bend at the hips and stand over top of the bar with a nearly horizontal back in relation to the floor. 
    2. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip at shoulder-width apart. 
    3. Squeeze your armpits and elbows close to your body and bring your chest up to pull the barbell towards your sternum. 
    4. Return the barbell to the floor. 
    5. Repeat steps 1-4 for your desired number of reps and sets.

    Take Away

    The health of your back muscles contributes to your overall health. Our bodies are made up of many components, and we can’t pick and choose which muscles we want to focus on.

    By incorporating any of these exercises, you are taking the first step in the right direction to not only increase the strength and size of your back muscles but also improve your posture, strength and spinal stability.

    Hitting the gym regularly with a balanced routine and ATP-Fusion for increased energy and strength gains will have you feeling stronger and more sculpted in no time.