Body Sculpting For Men: 5 Key Exercises For A Complete Back Workout

By doing these five key exercises, you should be able to build your back into the very best it can be.

When body sculpting, we often forget the muscles we don't see. It has been said that when Arnold Schwarzenegger needed to build his calves to round out his overall musculature, he cut all of his sweatpants off at the knees so that every time he walked into the gym, he'd always see his calves whenever he looked into the mirrors. Of course, it isn't as easy when you have a weak back musculature, but remembering that the three major muscles of the back need to be built, just as the chest does, will help.

The Trapezius (traps) is the largest muscle covering the upper back. You are contracting the traps when you pull your shoulders up and back.

The Latissimus Dorsi (lats) muscles connect the chest and back under your arms. You are contracting the lats when you pull your upper arms down and back. In order to properly contract your lats, you must arch your back during lat exercises.

The Erector Spinae (spinal erector) muscles are the two thick strips of muscle on either side of the spine in the lower back. The spinal erectors are used in straightening the spine from a bent-over position.

Following are five key exercises for building your best back ever:

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

Deadlifts are extremely effective and work the entire back from top to bottom and even work the hips and thighs. Standing behind a barbell, bend down and take hold of the bar. (To increase your grip power, grab the bar with one hand forward and one hand reversed.) Keeping the bar close to your body, a narrow stance and your legs stiff, lift the weight from the floor in a controlled manner while keeping your arms and back as straight as possible. Continue to pull the bar upward until you are in an upright position with you back and shoulders straight and the bar across your thighs. Once you've reached this position, lower the weight back down without touching it to the floor. Continue for the required number of repetitions, only lowering the weight to the floor between sets.

Barbell Upright Rows

This exercise emphasizes the trapezius with a secondary benefit to the deltoids, biceps, and forearms. Stand straight and take a narrow grip on the barbell with your palms facing inward. The starting position for this exercise is with your back and arms straight and the barbell resting across your upper thighs. Keeping the barbell moving in a line close to your body, pull it upward, always keeping your elbows above the level of your hands. Bring the bar to neck level, pause for a moment and then slowly lower it until you have come back to the starting position with the bar at thigh level.


This exercise works the trapezius, neck and upper back muscles. The starting position is the same as in Barbell upright rows, standing straight with either a barbell or dumbbells resting against your thighs. The difference here is that the grip should be wider than used with rows. The best grip is one just slightly less than shoulder width with your palms facing inward. To begin the exercise, simply shrug your shoulders upward, toward your ears. At the peak of your shrug, slowly rotate your shoulders back as though you are trying to make your shoulder blades touch, then gently return to the starting position. Remember to do this exercise without bending your elbows, and always keep your movements smooth and controlled.

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

This exercise focuses on the lats and provides a secondary benefit to the biceps. Standing behind a bench placed lengthwise, bend forward and place the palm of your left hand and your left knee on the bench for stability. Reaching down with your right hand, pick up a dumbbell and pull it to your shoulder. Remember to use your back muscles for this movement. Then lower the weight slowly to a point where your back muscles stretch but not unnaturally so. Repeat the exercise for the prescribed number of repetition for that side and then change your stance to work the other side equally.

Bent-Over Lateral Raises w/ Dumbbells

This movement is for the upper-back muscles and also benefits the shoulders. With one dumbbell in each hand, bend at the waist until your body is bent at a 90-degree angle. Remember to bend your knees just enough so as not to strain your back. With your arms as straight as possible (bending at the elbows is cheating and will not earn you the full benefits of the exercise), raise the dumbbells out laterally to their respective sides. After reaching shoulder height with both dumbbells at the same time, slowly lower the dumbbells and repeat.

By doing these five exercises, each in a controlled manner and with good form, you should be able to build your back into the very best it can be. Although you may not see the fruits of your labors without a mirror, rest assured that others will notice the difference in your musculature, posture and form!

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