While arms and chest often take precedent over the muscle groups behind us, nothing is more impressive than a big muscular back. The back muscles are an impressive group to train. They have so many functions and can be hit in so many ways, from so many angles, using such a variety of exercises. That said, as always you should focus on staples such as pull-ups, rows, and a few pull-downs.
The problem with back training is, a lot of ego gets in the way and form often gets sacrificed. While it's important to move a decent amount of weight and put some load on the muscles, it is imperative to make sure the right muscles are working.
I think experimenting with different exercises is great. Not only does it change things up and break the up the monotony, but you might also find something that works well and can stay in your program for years to come. Below we are going to list a good mix of back exercises, some allowing you to move significant amounts of weight and others forcing you to put the ego aside and be strict.
1) Pendlay Rows
''Pendlay Rows'' get their name from the coach who invented them, Glenn Pendlay. There are differences between a Pendlay Row and a traditional barbell row that body builders typically perform and according to the coach that popularised the variation, they are much more effective.
Pendlay rows involve your torso being at a 45-degree angle, horizontal to the ground, and pulling the bar directly from the floor, resetting it after every rep. Knees are slightly bent and the torso angle doesn't change. This allows the movement to be much more explosive than the traditional body building variation of the exercise. They are an awesome back builder. Learn the finer points from the man who they are named after below.
2) Seal Rows
Seal Rows get their name because well, they take out all leg and hip involvement and make you a bit like a Seal. Seal rows put your torso at the same angle as the Pendlay row, but unlike it, they are chest supported. This means they aren't as explosive and force you to be extremely strict, using your upper back and lat muscles only. Alberto Nunez, coach and natural bodybuilder is a massive fan of them and has this awesome video below touting their many benefits.
3) J Pulldowns
J Pulldowns are a lat exercise performed kneeling, or standing, with a rope attachment on a high cable attachment. J Pulldowns work the lat in a similar fashion to lat pullover machines, but most gyms won't have one of these. So if you are looking for a different way of hitting your lats and don't have access to a pullover machine, give these a shot. Check out how to perform them below.
4) Meadow Rows
Meadow rows get their name from John Meadows aka the Mountain Dog. As he states in the below video, these rows work more of the upper back. They are somewhat of a cross between a one arm t-bar row, but the action is more of that of a one arm dumbbell row. All that aside, they are an awesome for developing back thickness.
5) Single Arm Pullovers
Here is a bit of a hybrid, but fantastic for developing lats and that illusive mind-muscle connection. The concept is a lot like the J Pulldown but is a little bit different. Just like the J pulldown, it involves a rope and a cable machine, but as Alberto(making his second appearance in this article) mentions in the video below, has a few little tweaks that make it special.
This one arm variation is great for those who struggle to activate the lats correctly and get them to grow.