Top Exercises for Back Definition

Many weightlifters focus on the muscles you can see on the front of the body. However, targeting your back muscles not only creates a sculpted back, but also reduces your injury risk. Building a well-defined back involves strength training your back once or twice a week with exercises targeting the main muscle groups. It may also be necessary to include aerobic exercise and a nutritional plan to help reduce body fat.



The pullup is the one of the most effective body-weight exercises for building size and strength in your back. The latissimus dorsi, the winged-shaped muscle located in the middle of your back, is primarily targeted during the pullup, but the rhomboids, levator scapulae and teres major are also stressed. Grasp the pullup bar using a wide overhand grip. Pull your body up until your chin reaches the bar. Slowly lower your body until your arms and shoulders are fully extended. Repeat six to 10 times for three sets, resting 60 seconds between sets. Use an assisted pullup machine or a spotter if you are unable to complete pullups on your own.


The deadlift is one of the most effective compound exercises to strengthen and build muscle on the posterior side of the body. The erector spinae, which is the deep muscle that runs along your spine, is stressed isometrically during the deadlift. Additionally, your trapezius, rhomboids and glutes are stimulated during the deadlift. Begin by standing with your feet slightly apart. Grasp the barbell shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip or a mixed over-underhand grip. Keeping your back flat, head up and butt low, lift the bar off the ground by extending your hips and knees. Straighten your torso and pull your shoulders back at the top of the movement. Lower to the starting position, keeping your back flat at all times. Do eight to 12 repetitions for three sets. Rest 45 seconds between sets.

Bent-Over Barbell Row

Bent-over barbell rows help shape and sculpt the middle of your back. They target your upper latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and middle trapezius. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your waist until your torso is at a 45-degree angle. Keep your back straight and retract your shoulder blades, pulling the bar toward your torso. Squeeze your upper back at the top of the movement before lowering with control back to the arms-extended position. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, resting 45 seconds between sets.

Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row stimulates nearly every muscle in your back and is an effective way to conclude your back workout. Sit on the seat or bench in front of the cable machine and hold the cable attachment with both hands. Place your feet on the vertical platform and slide your hips back, keeping your knees slightly bent. Pull the cable attachment to your waist while straightening your lower back, squeezing your shoulder blades together and pushing your chest forward. Return the cable to the starting position by extending your arms and stretching your shoulders and lower back forward. Do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

  • ExRx: Barbell Deadlift
  • "Strength Training Anatomy"; Frederic Delavier; 2001
  • "Oxygen" magazine; Three Weeks to Your Ultimate Arms; Amanda Vogel; March 2011

Photo Credits:

  • Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images

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