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Back Workouts With Barbells

by Jeremy Ethier - June 2, 2022

Looking for a solid back workout involving just barbells? You're in luck. Here's a list of the most effective barbell exercises you could ever include in your workouts.

Barbells are a widely accepted standard when it comes to workout equipment. They are versatile, easy to adjust as you get stronger, and allow you to use loads heavy enough to drive meaningful progress in the gym.

If you have access to barbells and the weight plates necessary to load them in a way that matches your current back strength, back workouts with barbells will help you further develop your back.

I’ve listed a handful of the most effective barbell exercises below divided by the back muscles they are best used for training.

Think of this like a cheat sheet that you can use to determine effective exercise replacements for any back workouts you happen to come across and want to use — even if you don’t have the equipment necessary to use the base program as-is.

This way, you’ll still adapt in the way the program intends, even if your equipment is limited — or, if you just have a preference to perform back workouts with barbells over other types.

If you want to perform a solid back workout with barbells, just perform the following barbell-only exercises in order for the number of sets and reps I prescribe alongside each.

Each exercise also comes along with a brief recommendation for where to put it in your back workouts, in case you decide you want to take one of these exercises and plug it into your own custom back workout.

Before that: if you're looking for a training program that'll help you set up every single one of your workouts for optimal muscle growth, I've got just the thing for you. Every BWS program is designed to be an all-in-one, science-based process that’ll get you building muscle FAST. For more information:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

#1: Barbell Conventional Deadlifts, 4 sets of 4-6 reps

  • Begin the movement by standing directly in front of a barbell so that the bar is directly over your mid foot.
  • Bend down by both squatting and hinging at your hips while focusing on keeping your torso relatively upright and entirely straight.
  • With your arms fully extended in front of you, grab the barbell tightly.
  • Exhale and begin squatting upwards while slightly hinging at your hip to move your torso more upright.
  • After the bar passes your knees, drive your hips forward and stand upright while continuing to maintain a flat back.
  • Continue until you are standing fully upright, do not lean back at the top.
  • Then, inhale and begin lowering the bar by beginning to bend at both your hips and your knees.
  • Once the bar passes your knees, squat down the rest of the way while continuing to maintain a flat back.
  • Place the bar on the floor and allow it to rest on the ground fully before beginning another rep.
  • Continue for as many reps as necessary.
Barbell Conventional Deadlifts

Back Workout Placement: Given the immense strain this exercise places on your body, it should be performed at the start of any back workout that it is involved in.

#2: Wide-Grip Barbell Rows, 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Bend down while maintaining a flat back until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
  • Grab a barbell with your hands far wider than shoulder-width apart and both palms facing you.
  • Exhale and begin rowing the barbell up towards your sternum while flaring your elbows out to the side.
  • While continuing to maintain a flat back, focus on bringing your shoulder blades back and together while you pull.
  • Continue until the bar touches the area around your sternum.
  • Inhale and begin lowering the bar down so that your arms are fully extended, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.
Wide Grip Barbell Rows

Back Workout Placement: This exercise should be performed towards the beginning of your back workouts. Typically this should be one of the first 3 exercises performed.

#3: Underhand Narrow Grip Barbell Rows, 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Bend down while maintaining a flat back until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
  • Grab a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and both palms facing away from you.
  • Exhale and begin rowing the barbell towards your belly button while keeping your arms by your sides.
  • While continuing to maintain a flat back, focus on driving your elbows backward as you pull.
  • Continue until the bar touches the area around your belly button.
  • Inhale and begin lowering the bar down so that your arms are fully extended, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.
Underhand Narrow Grip Barbell Row

Back Workout Placement: This exercise should be performed towards the beginning of your back workouts. Typically this should be one of the first 3 exercises performed.

The order in which you place an exercise in your workout can truly make all the difference in your results. Place the underhand narrow grip barbell row too late in your workout, for instance, and you're unlikely to sufficiently hit your upper back because your lower back is already fatigued—and will give up prematurely. But with so many exercises, how do you decide each exercise's placement in your workouts? That's where BWS programs come in. For more information:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

#4: Barbell Shrugs, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

  • Standing upright, grab a barbell and hold it in front of you with your arms fully extended using a wide grip.
  • Similar to a Dumbbell Shrug: exhale and shrug your shoulders upwards while keeping your arms fully extended and pulling your shoulder blades back.
  • Once your shoulders are shrugged as much as possible, inhale and lower the weight to the starting position.
  • Do not fully relax your upper traps at the bottom of the range of motion, continue to maintain tension.
  • Repeat for as many reps as your workout requires.
Barbell Shrugs

Back Workout Placement: Perform this exercise towards the end of your back workouts alongside any other isolation exercises that you have planned for your workout.

#5: Barbell Hyperextensions, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

  • Position yourself on a hyperextension bench so that the top of the pad is just below your hips.
  • Maintain a barbell on your upper back, held firmly in place with both hands.
  • Allow your torso to bend forward, rotating around the pad.
  • Continue until your torso is fully curled forward.
  • Then, exhale and begin straightening your torso while simultaneously raising it upwards.
  • Continue until your torso is in line with your lower body, creating a straight line. Inhale and lower yourself back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.
Barbell Hyperextensions

Back Workout Placement: This should be positioned towards the end of your workout. Given the lower back can sometimes help stabilize other exercises, it’s best to save this until a point where fatiguing your Erector Spinae won’t interfere with the rest of your back workout.

Example Back Workout With Barbells

Barbell Conventional Deadlifts: 4 sets of 4-6 reps

Wide-Grip Barbell Rows: 5 sets of 8-10 reps

Underhand Narrow Grip Barbell Rows: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Barbell Shrugs: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Barbell Hyperextensions: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Takeaway

Who said it was impossible to get a good, effective back workout in when all you have is a barbell? Not me, that's for sure. That said, on days you have access to more equipment, you might also want to check out one of the best back workouts you could ever do in a gym here

Once you have your training plan down pat, though, you should still remember to pair all of this with a solid nutrition plan to fuel and support your recovery and growth.

And for a step-by-step program that does all of this for you, by showing you how to train and how to eat week after week to maximize growth, then:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

Back Workouts With Barbells

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