15 Best Bench Back Exercises for Building Muscle

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Bench Back Exercises

Out of all the different muscle groups that make up the posterior chain, the back is among the most vital.

It plays an important role in stabilizing your spine and enhancing your range of motion for twisting and bending.

The problem that many people face is that their lower back and legs are not stable enough to support their upper body while performing standing back movements.

If that’s you, then you’re in luck, because today I am going to show you 15 effective bench-back exercises.

These are designed to better isolate specific areas of your back without as much reliance on your lower back or legs for stabilization.

15 Weight Bench Back Exercises

After you try out all of these exercises I’d suggest picking 2-4 of them to perform at least one day per week.

Then after 4-6 weeks pick some new ones from the list.

This way you won’t get bored, while also avoiding plateaus in your progress.

Furthermore, the basic piece of equipment you’ll need access to for EVERY exercise listed below will be a flat or adjustable bench.

They will also INDIVIDUALLY require access to things like dumbbells, cable pulleys, a barbell, a squat rack, a smith machine, or resistance bands.

1. Single Arm Dumbbell Row

First off is the single-arm dumbbell row.

If you struggle with muscular imbalances in your back, then this one is for you.

By focusing on one side of your body at a time you can work your lats and upper back muscles through a greater range of motion.

Allowing you to build a solid mind-muscle connection to keep your shoulder joints in proper alignment.

How It’s Done

  1. Grab a dumbbell with your left hand using a neutral grip.
  2. Standing vertically inline with your bench, place your right knee and hand onto it for support.
  3. Bend forward so that your back is parallel to the floor.
  4. Begin pulling the dumbbell upwards until it reaches the side of your torso, making sure to retract your left shoulder blade as you pull.
  5. Reverse until your arm is extended downwards with your shoulder blade protracted.
  6. Switch to the right arm.
  7. Repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.

When performing the single-arm dumbbell row, always be sure to start with your weakest side first.

Begin with a light enough weight to limit unnecessary swinging and use more weight as you get stronger.

Furthermore, if you wanna get explosive with the movement you can swap the dumbbell for a kettlebell.

The bell will also challenge your grip by adding some extra instability.

2. Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row is an effective alternative to compound pulling movements.

This is because it allows you to isolate your rhomboids and lats through a full range of motion while practicing good posture.

Plus, you’ll get some bicep and rear delt stimulation too.

Furthermore, using a seated position takes away SOME necessity for supporting your full body weight with your legs, which helps to increase the focus on specific muscles.

Also preventing common mistakes such as rounding your back or using momentum instead of strength.

How It’s Done

  1. Set your cable machine at about lower chest height, measured from the seated position.
  2. Set up your bench in front of the cables, with enough distance to allow you to achieve constant tension on the pulley.
  3. Attach and grab onto your handles of choice (Either a V-bar or Straight Bar).
  4. Sit on the bench with your torso upright.
  5. Extend your legs straight with your knees slightly bent into a secure position, placing them onto the foot pads if they’re available.
  6. From here, pull in a straight line toward your upper abdomen, while retracting your shoulder blades.
  7. Stop once the bar reaches the front of your torso with your arms bent at roughly 90 degrees.
  8. Reverse the motion back to the starting position.
  9. Leaning your upper body slightly forward while extending your arms to feel a deep stretch in your lats.
  10. Repeat for 8-12 reps of 2-4 sets.

You can adjust the pulley system higher or lower to hit your back from different angles.

For instance, a high setting will emphasize your upper traps.

While a lower setting will better engage your middle back muscles.

Always be sure to pull the cable through your elbows and use your hands like hooks to move the weight, rather than your biceps.

This will help you achieve a greater mind-to-muscle connection in all the right areas.

3. Incline Dumbbell Row

Every time I think of this exercise, I picture Chris Bumstead rowing dumbbells that probably weigh double my current body weight (165 LBS).

I mean, if the 4x Classic Physique Mr. Olympia champ is doing it, then it must be a good one.

Using the bench for support will help you maintain stability.

Allowing you to place your body in a secure position to emphasize your lats through the use of protraction and retraction.

This is an especially useful alternative for individuals who have a hard time keeping their spine neutral during regular bent-over rows.

How It’s Done

  1. Set your bench to a 45-degree angle.
  2. Lay flat on the bench facing downwards with your toes firmly planted on the ground.
  3. Grasp the dumbbells using a neutral grip.
  4. With your arms hanging down and shoulder blades slightly protracted, begin pulling the weights toward your lower chest.
  5. Make sure to retract your shoulder blades as you pull and keep your elbows tight to your sides.
  6. Once you reach the top, squeeze for a second and slowly lower back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps.

You can use this move to engage more of your upper back by rotating the dumbbells into an overhand grip with palms facing your feet.

Then flare your elbows outward as you bring the weights up.

4. Chest-Supported Barbell Row

So far we’ve looked at some cable and dumbbell exercises.

But if you only have access to a barbell along with your bench, don’t worry cuz this one’s for you!

It’s exactly like the standard barbell row, minus the lower back pain.

The bench is going to help you maintain better posture and limit momentum as you perform the movement.

You’ll definitely feel a big difference in stability so you can focus on overloading your mid-back without needing too much weight on the bar.

How It’s Done

  1. Set your bench at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Lay on it with your stomach flat.
  3. Plant your feet firmly into the ground behind you.
  4. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  5. Lift the bar towards your abdomen while simultaneously retracting your shoulder blades.
  6. Then, slowly return to the starting position.
  7. Repeating this motion for 10-15 reps.

To avoid hitting the bar against the underside of the bench, be sure to slowly raise it while keeping your wrists pointed straight down

5. Dumbbell Pull-Over

Dumbbell pull-overs are a great exercise for opening up your lats and chest.

The combination of stretching against weight resistance will lead to increased blood flow for serious back muscle gains.

Plus, the motion of reaching behind your head will improve your shoulder mobility.

While also providing a nice pump in your triceps.

How It’s Done

  1. Begin by holding one end of a dumbbell with both hands.
  2. Lay with your upper back perpendicularly on the bench with your head and lower back elevated off the edges.
  3. Keep your legs bent at 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor.
  4. Extend your arms over your chest, while holding the dumbbell, making sure to keep a slight bend in your elbows.
  5. Squeeze your glutes and core to support your spine.
  6. From here, slowly lower them behind your head until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  7. Reverse the motion back to the starting position.
  8. Repeat for 10-12 reps of 2-3 sets.

If you have trouble holding your lower back and glutes without support from the bench, you can instead lay parallel so that your entire back is rested on it.

The downside to this modification is that it takes away some of the need to engage your core.

Which is an important function to practice for many other strength-related exercises and for general spinal stability.

6. Bench Pull-Ups

Don’t worry if pull-ups aren’t your strong suit, because, with the addition of the bench, you can use your legs for support.

This will allow you to focus on upper body technique, minimize momentum, and crank out a few more reps than usual.

Not to mention, the pull-up is one of, if not the best compound back exercise to achieve that notorious v-taper while building strength at the same time.

How It’s Done

  1. Place your bench a few feet in front of your pull-up bar
  2. Assume either an over or underhand grip on the bar at shoulder width apart.
  3. Set your heels on the bench with your knees bent.
  4. Retract your shoulder blades and pull yourself up in a straight line.
  5. Stop once your chin is over the bar.
  6. Slowly lower back down into the extended position.
  7. Repeat until failure for 1-2 sets.

If you notice yourself fatiguing too quickly, move the bench a bit closer and put more pressure on your heels.

This will allow your legs to take some of the load away from your upper body.

Likewise, to add extra difficulty, set the bench further away, resulting in less leg assistance.

7. Supinated Grip Chest Supported Row

The key difference between the supinated and overhand grip row is that this one allows you to overload your lats with more weight.

This is mainly because the under (supinated) hand position makes it easier to maintain a strong grip to pull through your elbows.

In addition to better lat engagement, the supinated grip row may put extra emphasis on your biceps.

How It’s Done

  1. Adjust your bench to a moderate incline.
  2. Lay with your stomach flat and your toes planted on the floor.
  3. Grab the bar with a shoulder-width apart underhand grip.
  4. Your arms should be extended and your shoulder blades protracted.
  5. From this position pull the bar up while retracting your shoulder blades, aiming at your abdomen.
  6. Once your arms are bent at 90 degrees, hold for a second.
  7. Reverse back to the starting position.
  8. Replicate this motion for 6-12 reps of 2-4 sets.

Make sure to keep your biceps as relaxed as possible.

If you notice them starting to take over the movement, reduce the weight and practice pulling through your elbows.

Otherwise, your lats will not effectively be engaged and you could risk tearing your bicep.

8. Lying Lateral Raise Progression

This exercise is an advanced adaptation of the Arnold Schwarzenegger raises and will not only target your shoulder muscles but also your upper back.

The angle of this movement will isolate your delts and traps without the necessity of using absurd amounts of weight.

Plus, it’s unilateral, so you can focus on working one side at a time.

Helping you identify and fix any existing imbalances in the areas being targeted.

How It’s Done

  1. Lay on your right side using an incline bench set at 45 degrees.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in your left hand.
  3. With your top, upper arm resting on your stomach, begin raising the weight overhead.
  4. From there, slowly lower the weight behind your hips as far as your left arm will comfortably go. Pause for a second.
  5. Then raise it back up overhead and onto your stomach using a circular motion.
  6. Repeat this sequence for 10-20 reps before switching to the other arm for a total of 2-3 sets.

Remember to start with your weaker arm first, and always use the same amount of weight, sets, and reps on both sides.

Be sure to minimize swinging or cheating by using a light enough weight.

9. Elevated Inverted Row

Ahh, the good ole elevated inverted row.

A challenging exercise that will indeed challenge your back, forearms, biceps, and shoulders.

It also builds tremendous core stability, making it the perfect progression for anyone wanting to improve their pull-up game.

How It’s Done

  1. Set a barbell in a squat rack at waist height.
  2. Place a flat bench in front of the rack, far enough away to fully extend your legs while placing your heels on it.
  3. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip and elevate your feet hip-width apart on the bench.
  4. Brace your core and begin pulling yourself up to the top position until the bar touches your chest.
  5. Then, reverse the motion by re-extending your arms, and moving your body closer to the floor.
  6. Do this for 1-2 sets until failure.

Be sure to keep your shoulder blades retracted and your body in a straight line throughout the entire range of motion.

This movement can be easily modified by increasing or decreasing the angle of your body in relation to the floor.

The lesser the angle, the harder, the greater the angle, the easier it will be.

10. Seal Row

No Seals were harmed during the creation of this exercise.

What will be harmed is the ego of your gym partner after you secretly perform the seal row and increase your explosive pulling power.

This will translate to strength gains in compound movements including deadlifts, barbell rows, and bench presses.

It’s also a fairly versatile move to execute since you can use either a barbell or dumbbells.

Typically you’ll notice that performing it with a bar is better for practicing explosiveness, while dumbbells are better for hypertrophy training.

And to top it off, your lats will achieve adequate stimulation with minimal lower back fatigue and zero leg drive, so there’s no cheating the rep.

How It’s Done

  1. Lay face down on a flat bench with your entire body in a straight line.
  2. Grasp the dumbbells with a neutral grip.
  3. Begin pulling the dumbbells up to your sides until your arms are bent at 90 degrees.
  4. Then lower the weights down to the floor.
  5. Repeating this motion for 10-15 reps.

By adjusting your elbow position you can place greater emphasis on your traps and rear delts.

To do this flare your elbows outwards, and instead of pulling towards your nipples, aim the weights at shoulder level.

11. Bench Plank Row

You’ll notice that the plank row is very similar to the single-arm dumbbell row.

The key difference is that instead of assuming a staggered stance or elevating one knee, your legs will be squared back.

This will engage your abdominals more effectively since you won’t be using the front leg as a stilt.

Plus, you’ll be able to work your back muscles through a deeper range of motion.

How It’s Done

  1. Begin by standing perpendicular to a bench and placing one arm on it.
  2. Grab a dumbbell with your free hand.
  3. Step into a plank position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  4. Row the weight up to your side until your palm is even with your torso.
  5. Making sure to retract your shoulder blade as you go up, protracting as you go down.
  6. Perform 10-15 reps on each side.

To prevent your lower back from rounding over, make sure to properly brace your abdominals throughout the movement.

Also, if you want to make the move even harder, place another bench behind you to elevate your legs off the round.

This will require even greater core activation.

12. Bench Reverse Fly

The rear delt is one of the most overlooked muscles in the upper back.

Unfortunately, this leads to rounded over shoulders, causing many people to walk around with the posture of a 90-year-old.

Luckily, reverse flies are highly effective at isolating this area, while stimulating the traps too.

Both of which are important for proper scapula retraction and shoulder joint alignment.

How It’s Done

  1. With an adjustable bench set up at 45 degrees, lay down so that the top half of your torso is hanging over the bench.
  2. Place your feet on the ground, directly under your hips.
  3. Grasp the dumbbells with a neutral grip.
  4. Let your arms hang towards the floor with your shoulder blades protracted.
  5. Lift the weights straight out until you feel a full contraction in your rear deltoids.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position.
  7. Repeating this sequence for 2-4 sets of 10-30 reps.

When trying to isolate your rear delts, always be sure to arch the dumbbells directly up and out, not backward.

And don’t go too high as this will cause larger muscles to take over the movement.

However, if you want to focus on your traps and rhomboids, then pull the weights higher up and arch them slightly backward.

13. Resistance Band Chest Supported Row

Utilizing the resistance band is a great way to recruit stabilizer muscles that are often overlooked with normal weights.

It’ll also provide constant tension, potentially leading to greater muscle growth.

How It’s Done

  1. Position a 45-degree incline bench in front of a secure post.
  2. Anchor the resistance band around the post.
  3. Lay on your stomach on the bench and grasp the band handles with a neutral grip.
  4. Begin pulling your hands toward your sides with your elbows tucked.
  5. Go as far as the band tension will allow, then reverse to the extended position.
  6. Repeating for 10-15 reps.

You can modify this movement by anchoring the band at various heights on the post to isolate different muscles.

14. Incline Bench Lat Pulldown

This variation of the pulldown will allow you to emphasize the stretch in your lats at the top of the movement.

Plus, you won’t have to worry as much about trying to keep an upright torso, as the bench will provide support.

How It’s Done

  1. Place your bench at a high incline angle directly in front of a cable machine.
  2. Assume an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the pulldown bar.
  3. Plant your feet securely into the ground.
  4. Drive the bar down to your upper chest and squeeze for a moment.
  5. Release the weight up, allowing your arms to extend for a nice lat stretch.
  6. Replicate this motion for 10-12 reps.

By switching to an underhand grip you can place more emphasis on your lower lats and biceps.

15. Flat Bench Hyperextension

If strengthening the lower back muscles is your goal, then this should be your go-to exercise.

It requires you to perform both flexion and extension.

These are vital for building your spinal erectors and increasing mobility.

Hyperextensions are also fairly low impact on your joints since they’re typically a bodyweight exercise.

How It’s Done

  1. Lay on a flat bench so your hips are even with the edge and your torso is hanging off.
  2. Have your feet pressed into the sides of the bench and squeeze your legs together to hold yourself in place.
  3. Cross your arms over your chest.
  4. Now, begin the flexion motion by lowering your chest toward the floor, stopping before your head hits.
  5. Then, raise yourself upwards until your erectors are fully flexed (this is an extension).
  6. Perform this move for 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps.

You can add difficulty by holding a weight plate in your hands throughout the movement.

ALWAYS be sure to engage your glutes, hamstrings, and core to ensure proper form for avoiding lower back injuries.

Benefits of Using a Bench for Back Training

In regards to using a bench in your back training, there are three benefits that I’m going to discuss:

  • Extra Stability
  • Better Isolation
  • Prevents Lower Back Pain

With these factors at play, you’ll be able to use the exercises above to maximize your muscle growth in areas that might otherwise be considered your weak points.

Of course, proper form and consistency will be key when it comes to how well they will work for you.

Extra Stability

When doing bench back exercises, you’ll either be laying on or holding it with one arm.

This will provide extra stability while performing the given exercise.

In turn, decreasing momentum, or cheating, making it easier to lift through the muscle fibers.

Better Isolation

Bench exercises will allow you to better isolate specific muscles in your back.

You won’t have to worry about holding yourself up, since the bench will be supporting your body weight.

Allowing you to achieve comfortable scapular protraction and retraction.

Two motions that are crucial to effectively engage the back muscles.

Prevents Lower Back Pain

Using a bench will help prevent lower back pain because you won’t have to rely on stabilizer muscles to hold your body in a bent-over position.

This will reduce fatigue and the risk of rounding.

Sample Bench Back Workouts

Below are three sample back and bicep workouts that will all utilize a bench (You won’t need it for every exercise).

The first one will also require a cable machine with handle attachments.

While the second one will use a barbell with weight plates.

And for the third one, you will need dumbbells.

1. Cable Focused

  • Seated Rows: 4 sets x 6-10 reps
  • Lat Pulldowns: 3 x 8-12, 1 drop set x 20
  • Cable Pull-Over: 3 x 10-15
  • Bicep Cable Curls: 2 x 15-20

2. Barbell Focused

  • Pull-Ups: 3 sets x 5-10 reps
  • Barbell Chest Supported Row (Grip of Choice): 4 x 6-12
  • Single-Arm Landmine Row: 5 x 10-15
  • Barbell Curls: 2 x 8-12

Check out my related article about the trap bar here.

3. Dumbbell Focused

  • Single Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets x 10-15 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Row: 4 x 8-12
  • Dumbbell Pull-Over: 3 x 12-15
  • Incline Dumbbell Curls: 3 x 10-15

Main Back Muscles You’ll Be Targeting: Explained

Latissimus Dorsi

The lats are the most popular, and largest muscle within the back, and for good reason.

They help with many functions, from shoulder mobility to spine stability to rib cage breathability.

Spinal Erectors

The spinal erectors run along the entire spine, from head to butt.

They control motions like bending, twisting, and standing up straight.


The rhomboids are deep muscles located within the upper back region.

One of their responsibilities is scapular retraction.


The trapezius or trap is a pair of muscles located side by side on the upper back.

Each is made of three sections: upper, middle, and lower.

They work in unison to support neck and scapular mobility.

This is important for maintaining good posture while standing upright.

Rear Delts

The rear deltoids are responsible for lateral arm movements.

They are the posterior shoulder muscle and are considered part of the upper back too.

FAQ for Weight Bench Back Exercises

Is Bench a Good Back Workout?

The bench press is not that good of a back workout for muscle isolation.

However, when done with proper form it will require the latissimus dorsi, rear deltoids, and rhomboids to be engaged.

What Back Exercises Help Bench Press?

The best back exercises that help with bench presses are the:

– Bent Over Row
– Pull-Up
– Lat Pulldown
– Resistance Band Pull-Apart

How Do You Work Your Back With a Bench?

To work your back with a bench, lay flat on your stomach, with your legs straight in line.

Grab a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip.

Pull the weights up to the sides of your torso as high as you can go.

Then reverse the motion, until the weights touch the floor and repeat.

This exercise is called the seal row.

What Happens if You Don’t Arch Your Back When Benching?

If you don’t arch your back when benching you will lose momentum from your legs and lats, and decrease your pec involvement.

Not arching also puts your shoulders in a vulnerable position, increasing the risk of impingement or tearing.






Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an NCCA-accredited Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at edecremer@wildnswole.com!