Different areas of your body require different workouts to grow and strengthen. Find out what barbell exercises can do these things for your back muscles.
The back muscles are relatively strong which makes a barbell a great piece of exercise equipment to work them.
Keep in mind that you still need the right resistance, repetition ranges, and consistency to see results.
1. Barbell bent-over rows
Barbell bent-over rows are a classic compound back exercise that definitely deserves your consideration. Take the following steps to do this exercise:
- Load the barbell with the right amount of weight and stand in front of it.
- Put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the barbell with an overhanded grip. That means your hand palms point back/down in this step.
- Raise the barbell and stand up straight. Keep your spine more or less straight throughout this step and the rest of the exercise.
- Bend your knees slightly and tilt your upper body forward as far as comfortable or until it is about horizontal. Let your arms and shoulder blades with the barbell hang down for now.
- Raise the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. You do this by first pulling your shoulder blades back and then folding your upper arms.
- Slowly return the barbell to the position of step 4.
This barbell back exercise mainly works your trapezius (upper back), latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), and biceps.
Additionally, your forearm grip muscles, erector spinae (lower back), glutes, and hamstrings will have to work a nice amount to keep your body in position.
Engaging this many muscles in one exercise can be great in the sense that it resembles how real-life daily activities would challenge your body.
One potential downside of barbell bent-over rows is that it can be hard to stay in position. Especially if you already did a few other exercises.
2. Barbell deadlifts
This next exercise is another example where you don’t need any other equipment besides a barbell and weight plates. Take the following steps to do a barbell deadlift:
- Load the barbell with the desired amount of weight and stand in front of it.
- Put your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the barbell with an overhanded grip.
- Lift the barbell so that you get in an upright position where your knees are slightly less than stretched. Keep your spine straight and your shoulder blades pulled back throughout the movement.
- Lower the barbell back to the floor.
In some ways, deadlifts are a straightforward exercise but you do want to pay enough attention to the technique points.
That aside, deadlifts mainly work your glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), erector spinae (lower back), quadriceps, and forearm grip muscles.
Additionally, your trapezius muscles will have to work a nice amount to keep your shoulder blades in the right position.
In simpler words, you can definitely include deadlifts in the list of barbell lower back exercises. At the same time, it focuses a lot on your leg muscles too.
3. Meadows rows
To do the next barbell back exercise you need a landmine setup. This is basically a way to anchor one end of a barbell to the ground.
A landmine setup may sound and seem unusual but it can be good for doing certain movements like Meadows rows. Take the following steps to do this back exercise:
- Put the barbell in the landmine attachment on one side and load the other side with the desired amount of weight.
- Stand with one foot next to the free barbell sleeve and your side toward the anchor. Put your other foot right behind the weight plates and put your hand closest to the anchor on the barbell sleeve but let your arm and shoulder blade hang down. Keep your knees slightly bent.
- Slowly raise the barbell by pulling your shoulder blade back and folding your arm.
- Lower the barbell back to the ground in a controlled motion.
- Complete your set and repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.
Meadows rows have a few advantages and disadvantages that influence whether this barbell exercise should be a part of your back workout routine.
First of all, you have to work out your back muscles on one side at a time.
On the one hand, this does require more time to complete your workout.
On the other hand, this makes it easier to avoid or resolve muscle imbalances. In regular barbell rows, it is possible that you use one side more than the other.
Another benefit is that Meadows rows allow your trapezius and latissimus dorsi back muscles to go through a slightly bigger range of motions. This tends to be good for results.
4. Barbell T row
To do a barbell T row, you again need a landmine setup. This time, you also need a T-bar landmine handle and preferably an elevation for your feet.
Once you have the equipment requirements, take the following steps to do a barbell T-row:
- Set up the landmine, put on the T-bar handle, and put on the desired amount of weight.
- Hold the T-bar handle and stand over the barbell with your face away from the anchor.
- Raise the T-bar as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. The upward force comes from pulling your shoulder blade back and folding your arms.
- Slowly lower the T-bar handle so that you are back in the position of step 2.
The barbell T row is similar to the bent-over row in that it works your trapezius, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and to some extent, forearm grip muscles, erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings.
Something that makes this barbell back exercise different is that you have to pay less attention to balance. At the same time, you still engage some of the extra muscles that not all row variations offer.
In simpler words, you could find it easier to really focus on working your back muscles with the barbell T row. This could benefit your training results.
5. Barbell pullover
Barbell pullovers require you to have a flat weight bench on top of a barbell with weight plates. Once you have these, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Sit on the weight bench with the barbell resting on your upper legs. Your hands are about shoulder-width apart with your hand palms pointing down.
- Kick the barbell back and lie down on the weight bench in one motion. Keep the barbell at chest height for now.
- Push the barbell up until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Point your arms slightly more back than in a vertical position.
- Slowly move the barbell back and down as far as comfortable. To work your back, you want to point your elbows somewhat outward.
- Return the barbell to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
If you do them right, pullovers are a barbell lat exercise. Your lats aka latissimus dorsi are the muscle under your upper arms in your middle/upper back that can give you a V-shaped look.
It is also possible that you feel your lower chest working. In that case, you want to focus more on pointing your elbows outward to really make the pullover a barbell back exercise.
6. Barbell back extension
To do this next exercise you want a specific back extension machine. This is a construction where you can anchor your body at more or less a 45-degree angle.
With this, take the following steps to do a barbell back extension:
- Put the barbell with weight plates on the ground in front of the hip pad of the back extension machine.
- Adjust the height of the hip pad for your body size and take place in the back extension machine. Make sure your ankles are anchored tightly behind the pads. Keep your spine straight for now and let your arms hang down.
- Slowly lower your arms to grab the barbell by tilting your upper body forward. Whether you should keep your spine straight or bend it depends on the muscles you want to work.
- Raise the barbell by tilting your upper body back in a controlled motion. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back somewhat. You are back in the position of step 2 but with the barbell in your hands.
- Repeat the up-down motions for the number of repetitions you want to do.
If you really bend your spine, barbell back extensions are an effective exercise for working your erector spinae aka lower back muscles.
You can also keep your spine straight. In that case, you mostly work your glutes and hamstrings but also still work your erector spinae albeit in an isometric (static) way.
How do you build your back with a barbell?
You build your back with a barbell by consistently doing exercises that challenge the right muscles with enough resistance and repetitions.