When it comes to back exercises, most men favour pull-ups and lat pull-downs. It’s no wonder, since these two movements primarily target the latissimus dorsi (aka lats), your largest back muscle.
And that probably explains why the average guy’s back workout rarely consists of anything else. Trouble is, “largest” doesn’t mean “only”. Think of it this way: focusing solely on your lats is sort of like working your chest but skipping your abs; and you’d never treat your “front” that way.

“Training the muscles surrounding your lats, particularly your rhomboid and trapezius muscles, will quickly add strength and size to your upper body,” says CJ Murphy, owner of the US’s Total Performance Sports. Your rhomboids and trapezius stabilise your shoulder blades, which allow your shoulder joints to move your arms in every direction. By developing these muscles, you’ll add mass to your upper back and rear shoulders, and see improvements in every upper-body lift. Complete Murphy’s routine once a week.

Bigger Muscle

This workout trains your rear deltoids, rhomboids and trapezius – all commonly neglected muscles of your upper body. By shoring up these weak spots, you’ll pack on muscle and build a more symmetrical physique.

A Wider Upper Back

The pull-up and lat pull-down in this workout are slightly different from standard versions. You’ll initiate each move by sliding your shoulder blades down. This allows your lats to contract through a larger range of motion, so they develop fully.

Total-Body Strength

The deadlift is more than just a muscle builder for your lower back and hamstrings. It strengthens your back from top to bottom and conditions your “posterior chain” – all the muscles on the back of your body – to work in coordination.

Workout 1 (Week 1)

Deadlift

Stand with a barbell on the floor in front of you, with the bar over your toes. Bend your knees and grasp the bar with an alternating grip (one palm towards you, the other facing away), your hands just outside your knees. Keeping your head and back straight, stand up. Keep the bar close to your body as you lift it. Slowly lower the bar.

The Plan

Do three sets of three repetitions using the heaviest weight that allows for perfect form. Rest for 60 seconds between sets.

Pull-Up

Grab a chin-up bar with an overhand grip (palms forward), your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Hang with your arms straight, then pull your shoulder blades down. Pull your chest to the bar. Pause, then lower yourself to the starting position.

The Plan

Do six to eight repetitions. Perform this move and the next as a superset. That is, move from one exercise to the other without rest.

Back Raise

Position yourself in a back-extension station, and hook your feet under the leg anchor. With your upper thighs resting on the pad, lock your hands behind your head and bend forwards at the hips until your upper body is just short of perpendicular to the floor. Slowly raise your torso until it’s in line with your lower body, then lower it.

The Plan

Do six to eight repetitions, then rest for 60 seconds. Repeat the superset two more times, for a total of three sets.