Back Exercises to help push your bench!

In about a 6-month span I have added 35lbs to my bench press. To some that may not seem like a lot, but in the works of powerlifting, that is monumental. I’ve experimented with different back exercises over the years. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. I have since figured out and learned in school about agonist and antagonist muscle groups. Many have heard the sayings called push and pull. These two are top dogs in lifting heavy weights. These are extremely important in bench pressing.

Bench pressing requires a strong chest, a strong support system as well as powerful triceps muscles. The biceps also plays major role in stabilization as the bar is coming down on the eccentric phase. In saying all of this, there is a proper way to bench to maximize gains. Bench press requires strong trapezius muscles and anterior/posterior delts, but it really takes the back muscles to support the load in front. The rhomboids, and lats have to be extremely strong and able to stay tight during the descent of the barbell on the chest. Shoulder blades must be pinched together and the elbows must be turned in to properly engage the latissmus Dorsi muscles. Being able to keep that tightness is a major key. This takes not only strength, but practice as well.

Top Back Exercises

I have 3 exercises that are an absolute staple in my training. Non-coincidentally they’re all rows.

  1. Chest Supported Row
  2. Seated Cable Row
  3. Bent Over Barbell Row

The first variation I like to use is a chest-supported row. The chest-supported row truly works the agonist/antagonist relationship. Having your chest on a slight incline bench, take a set of dumbbells below followed up with retracting the shoulder blades and tucking the elbows to the hips.

This is a great exercise to superset with any chest movement.

Taking it one step further and try a 5-6 second isometric hold on each rep. This will help you in competition.

My second favorite back exercise is a seated cable row with a Vbar attachment. The vbar attachment focuses on keeping the elbows tight to the body and lets you get a good squeeze and proper stretch as you return the weight slowly. Seated rows can be great for building the back up to support some big weight.

Lastly an exercise I really enjoy is a bent over barbell row. Bent over barbell rows require you to be in a flexed position from the hips. Starting from the bottom try to use little to no momentum and pull the barbell into your chest. As the barbell gets closer and closer to your chest, you want to squeeze the shoulder blades together and slowly return the weight to the floor. This exercise can really target the upper back and traps.

Incorporate these 3 exercises into your next back day to help maximize strength gains.

Beginner reps
2-3 sets 10-12 reps (light-moderate weight)

Intermediate 3-4 sets
12-15 reps (moderate weight)

4-5 sets 15 reps (heavy —with a drop set)

And lets not forget the good old-fashioned pull up.

Pull ups whether they’re weighted or just body weight, they can and should be a major variable in anyone’s training. If you can’t perform a pull-up right away that is ok. Start with negatives from a pull up bar and utilize lots of ring rows with slow eccentrics. But make sure you are working the foundation and truly trying to build that back up properly. Try these movements out on your next chest and back day! I guarantee you will like them!