8 effective back exercises you’ve not tried

Your back needs to be trained using a variety of different exercises and angles. Here are 8 highly effective back exercises you may never have tried.

1 – Bench-Supported Single-Arm Pulldown


A lats-focused pulldown working one arm at a time. The bench places you in a stable position to help focus-in on recruiting your lats. Your upper arm should somewhat come across your body just a little as you stretch upward.

2 – Rotational One-Arm Kettlebell Row


Rowing with a kettlebell feels different largely due to the weight distribution. Twitching to an underhand grip helps keep your elbow close to your hip, encouraging more lats engagement. There’s also an increased challenge on your biceps and grip strength.

3 – Rope Seated Cable Row


Using a rope allows more freedom and slight rotation of your grip. While having more of a palms-down grip allows a greater stretch and elongation of your lats, the palms-up grip allows more of a squeeze as you pull back. Do whatever feels most natural with your grip (more or less of a switch). Let your scapulae glide around your rib cage freely.

4 – Elbows-Out Compound Row


A “full body” row that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Compound rows can be done with a cable, but in my opinion best done with a heavy band. These combine a powerful hip extension with a row. The video shows an elbows-out row, but feel free to mix it up with different pulling angles.

5 – Seal Row


Chest supported rowing variations are an excellent way to work your upper back without having to fatigue your lower. In the context of a single workout or full phase of training, management of stress and fatigue of different body areas are an important consideration. For example, for many, combining heavy deadlifts and bent-over barbell rows in the same training cycle are a recipe for a cranky back. Seal rows would be a better option for most.

6 – Deadstop Barbell Row


Think of these as a Pendlay row with all the benefits, but starting 3-6 inches higher off the floor. The deadstop makes the row harder since you’re not able to use momentum or muscle elastic properties to lift the bar up again. The higher position off the floor also assists in keeping you “tight” between reps, while staying in an active and effective range of motion.

7 – Arcing kettlebell Row with Band


A row with added lats emphasis via the arc and the band. The band adds another loading direction to the arcing kettlebell, biasing more lats engagement as compared to most other rowing variations.

8 – Chinese Back Plank


No equipment? No problem! Grab three chairs or benches, one for your feet and one for each or your arms either side. Think of these as an upside down plank, keeping your entire posterior chain engaged and driving your elbows down to keep you up. These’ll challenge your entire upper and lower back, glutes and hamstrings. It’s also a good bodyweight strength challenge – 30 seconds or more is your target. 

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