A strong tapered back is an essential part of any physique, and is one of the larger muscle groups we can focus on in a given day at the gym. It is important to break down the back into sections to ensure all areas are targeted to achieve a symmetrical and balanced back.

When training back myself, I am usually aiming for size and development and this means training for hypertrophy. I like to hit my back from multiple angles, varying exercises to cover every section of the back. A familiar routine for me would be as follows:

The below workout should be performed doing 4 sets of 8-10 reps. Warm up with a variety of chin ups.


  • Complete 4 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. Sit down on a pull-down machine with a wide bar attached to the top pulley. Make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. Keep your feet spread wide for a stable base.

  2. Grab the bar with the palms facing forward using the prescribed grip. For a wide grip, your hands need to be spaced out at a distance wider than shoulder width. For a medium grip, your hands need to be spaced out at a distance equal to your shoulder width and for a close grip at a distance smaller than your shoulder width.

  3. As you have both arms extended in front of you holding the bar at the chosen grip width, bring your torso back around 30 degrees or so while maintaining an arched lower back and sticking your chest out. This is your starting position.

  4. As you breathe out, bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back. Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. The upper torso should remain stationary and only the arms should move. The forearms should do no other work except for holding the bar; therefore do not try to pull down the bar using the forearms.
  5. After a second at the contracted position squeezing your shoulder blades together, slowly raise the bar back to the starting position when your arms are fully extended and the lats are fully stretched. Inhale during this portion of the movement.



  •  Complete 4 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. Sit down on the machine and place your feet on the front platform or crossbar provided making sure that your knees are slightly bent and not locked.

  2. Lean over as you keep the natural alignment of your back and grab the V-bar handles.

  3. With your arms extended pull back until your torso is at a 90-degree angle from your legs. Your back should be slightly arched and your chest should be sticking out. You should be feeling a nice stretch on your lats as you hold the bar in front of you. This is the starting position of the exercise.

  4. Keeping the torso stationary, pull the handles back towards your torso while keeping the arms close to it until you touch the abdominals. Breathe out as you perform that movement. At that point you should be squeezing your back muscles hard. Hold that contraction for a second and slowly go back to the original position while breathing in.


  • Complete 4 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. Sit down on a pull-down machine with a V-Bar attached to the top pulley.

  2. Adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. These pads will prevent your body from being raised by the resistance attached to the bar.

  3. Grab the V-bar with the palms facing each other (a neutral grip). Stick your chest out and lean yourself back slightly (around 30-degrees) in order to better engage the lats. This will be your starting position.

  4. Using your lats, pull the bar down as you squeeze your shoulder blades. Continue until your chest nearly touches the V-bar. Exhale as you execute this motion. Keep the torso stationary throughout the movement.|

  5. After a second hold on the contracted position, slowly bring the bar back to the starting position as you breathe in.



  • Complete 4 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. With a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing your torso), bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward by bending at the waist; as you bend make sure to keep your back straight until it is almost parallel to the floor. Make sure that you keep the head up. The weights should hang directly in front of you as your arms hang perpendicular to the floor and your torso. This is your starting position.

  2. While keeping the torso stationary, lift the dumbbells to your side (as you breathe out), keeping the elbows close to the body (do not exert any force with the forearm other than holding the weights). On the top contracted position, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a second.

  3. Slowly lower the weight again to the starting position as you inhale.

  4. it is important to use a weight that you can manage without placing too much stress on the lower back while maintaining position.



  • Complete 4 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. Stand erect with a dumbbell on each hand (palms facing your torso), arms extended on the sides.

  2. Lift the dumbbells by elevating the shoulders as high as possible while you exhale. You should aim as if you want to squeeze your shoulders together behind your head.  Hold the contraction at the top for a second.

  3. The arms should remain extended at all times. Refrain from using the biceps to help lift the dumbbells. Only the shoulders should be moving up and down.

  4. Lower the dumbbells back to the original position.



  • Complete 4 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. Using a managable weight, hold the barbell with your hands a comfortable distance apart. Bending at the hips, with knees slightly bent, pronate til your upper body is almost parallel to the floor with your arms hanging freely with the weight. this is your starting position.

  2. Different grips (overhand/underhand) will target specific muscles, so alternating from set to set can be beneficial.

  3. Utilising the upper back muscles and bending at the elbows, contract until the bar is raised toward your abdominal/chest area. Your angle of travel will be determined by your grip and how bent over you are comfortable with.

  4. hold for a moment before relaxing the upper back and returning the arms to the starting position.

  5. If you are using an underhand grip for this exercise, remember your biceps will take some of the load, so make sure you use a weight that won't fatigue the biceps before the target muscle group.

Important Notes:

  • Use a weight that allows you to complete your rep range but does seriously challenge your body.
  • Good form is always important but when training back, your spine is often involved heavily, so form is crucial. Lift safely.
  • Different grips (overhand/underhand/neutral) can make a big difference with targeting different muscles. Experiment next time you are in the gym and feel the difference.