Best Back and Shoulder Workouts to Build Muscle

Masthead Image
Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Monday January 2, 2023

Body + Mind is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through some of the links on our site. 

When stepping into the gym to progress your fitness gains, you may wonder where to start. Building your back and shoulders are the perfect muscles to target to create an hourglass shape. No matter your personal goals, ensuring you have a strong upper body will help in your general life and when working to build your lower body too. Here are the best back and shoulder workouts to build muscle you can try the next time you head to the gym. 

Structuring Your Workouts

When you are looking to build muscle in your back and shoulders, there are exercises you can do to target that specific muscle group. Depending on your goals, you will want to start with compound lifts, which combine more than one muscle group at a time. You will want to do this because they use more energy than isolation exercises. When performing the compound exercises as a priority, people have reported more gains than focusing on only isolation exercises. 

This does not mean that you should not include isolation exercises in your routine. Make sure you do 2-3 compound exercises before heading into 2-3 isolation exercises. When doing exercises, remember you need to challenge yourself so pick a weight you will be able to successfully complete around eight reps with, and when it becomes easy to reach around twelve, you increase the weight. When you follow the proper structure and continue to progress you will feel the benefits of joining the gym in no time. 

Back Workouts

Here are some back workouts to try in the gym.

Bent Over Barbell Rows 

The barbell row is a compound lift that primarily targets your lats, trapezius, and rear deltoids and secondarily targets your biceps, lower back and forearms. You can do this exercise with an overhand or underhand grip variation. Here is how to perform a barbell row.

  1. Grip the bar and bend at your waist so the bar is hanging from your arms. Keep your core engaged and a neutral spine.
  2. Inhale and pull the bar towards your belly button.
  3. Control the weight lowering to the starting position.

Lat Pulldown 

Lat pulldowns are a compound exercise and are exactly how they sound. They primarily target the lats and secondarily work the biceps, rear deltoids and forearms. Use an attachment slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Here is how to do the lat pulldown.

  1. Grip the bar and sit down with your thighs under the leg support and keep your chest up. 
  2. Inhale and pull the bar towards your upper chest.
  3. Exhale and return till your arms are fully extended.

Shoulder Workouts

Strong shoulders are essential to preventing injury and creating a strong upper body. Here are some exercises to help build your shoulder strength. 

Seated Dumbell Shoulder Press

The seated dumbbell shoulder press is excellent for working your front deltoid. It secondarily works your triceps and lateral deltoid. Dumbbells are often used for this exercise because it increases the demand for shoulder stability and has a longer range of motion. Sitting down while doing it will reduce the need to stabilize your core so you can focus more on your press. 

  1. Sit on a bench with a raised backrest and grab a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Place them on your knees and lift each leg to get them into the starting position at your shoulders. 
  3. Press the dumbbells up and straighten your arms while exhaling
  4. Lower the dumbbells with controlled motions back to the starting position.

Barbell Upright Row

The primary muscle worked for the barbell upright row is the lateral deltoid. The secondary muscles are the front deltoid, trapezius and biceps. You can experiment with the grip to see what feels best for your body. This is how to do the barbell upright row. 

  1. Grip the bar with an overhand grip slightly less than should-width apart.
  2. Pull the bar straight up until slightly below your chin
  3. Lower the bar to the starting position with control. 

The Bottom Line 

Building muscle in your back and shoulders is a great way to improve your overall strength. Remember to be patient when waiting to see results and keep yourself accountable for the work you do put in to build the muscles. 

Previous Article6 Brain Health Tips to Prevent Dementia Next Article5 Kombucha Health Benefits That Will Make You Drink Up
Subscribe CTA Image

Subscribers get even more tailored tips & deets delivered directly to their inboxes!