9 Exercises You Can Pair With Your Back Workout

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A man's back muscles with arrows pointing to bicep curls and rear delt raises.

Trainees often tack on a few sets of bicep curls at the end of their back workouts. However, there is one other, arguably better exercise you can do with your back too.

The bent-over lateral raise is an effective accessory exercise to include with back training, after your main exercises. It primarily targets the rear delts and upper back, which are already worked with the main movements, making it a suitable addition.

If you’re uncertain how to incorporate bent-over lateral raises, don’t fret. I’ll provide you with an example, along with 8 other exercises that go well with back.

1. Hit Bent-Over Lateral Raises at the End

Oftentimes, bent-over lateral raises are performed on shoulder days. This makes sense because they work the rear delts, which are shoulder muscles. This portion of the shoulder is located on the back of the body, next to the traps.

Therefore, back exercises such as rows, pulldowns, and pull-ups stimulate the rear delts. By adding bent-over lateral raises toward the end of your back workout you’ll smoke that little muscle after it’s been pre-exhausted.

This helps develop a mind-muscle connection, specifically if they’re underdeveloped. Bent laterals even work your upper back, especially if you raise your arms above parallel to the floor.

Sample Workout:

  1. Bent-over rows: 4 sets x 8 reps
  2. Lat pulldowns: 2 x 10
  3. Single arm dumbbell rows: 3 x 12 each arm
  4. Bent-over lateral raises: 2 x 15

Check out my article related to how and why working your rear delts with the back is a smart choice if you want more details regarding that topic.

2. End With Bicep Curls To Maximize Stimulation

If you like chasing the pump, ending your back workout with curls is beneficial for the biceps. This is because the biceps are an elbow flexor, meaning they bend the arm.

The majority of back exercises require elbow flexion. So your biceps are going to be pre-exhausted and pumped to some degree already.

Like the rear delts, this is the perfect time to do an isolation exercise such as curls. Try this approach if you have trouble engaging the biceps with curls alone.

Sample Workout:

  1. Lat pulldowns: 4 x 12
  2. Seated machine row: 3 x 10
  3. Straight arm pulldowns: 3 x 15
  4. Dumbbell bicep curls: 3 x 20

3. Do Chest Presses With Rows Using APS Supersets

APS stands for agonist-antagonist sets. These sets pair two opposing exercises together, saving time and giving the antagonist muscle a break without just sitting stagnant.

This can be accomplished by pairing your first back exercise, such as bent-over rows with chest presses. You’d start the workout with rows since the back is the main muscle group for the day. Then after one set take a 10-20 second break, perform a set of chest presses, and take another 10-20 second break.

Repeat the sequence of alternating between those two exercises for your desired number of sets. In theory, the fatigue of doing rows won’t inhibit your chest press performance and vice versa. If you want to get in and out of the gym quickly and efficiently, try this out.

Sample Workout:

Exercises 1 and 2 are paired, and so are 4 and 5 (take a 20-second break before alternating).

  1. Bent-over dumbbell rows: 4 x 10
  2. Dumbbell chest press: 4 x 10
  3. Lat pullovers: 3 x 15
  4. Cable bicep curls: 2 x 20
  5. Tricep pushdown: 2 x 15

4. Do Seated Leg Curls After Your Deadlifts

Deadlifts work the entire back, and also the hamstrings. If your hamstrings fatigue before your back you’ll have to cut the set early to avoid injury. This limits the back muscles from progressive overload and growth.

If your hamstrings are the weak link, train them directly after deadlifts with leg curls since they’ll be pre-exhausted and easier to stimulate. As they get stronger your deadlifts will too, leading to more back gains. This strategy can be used on a full-body posterior chain workout that emphasizes the back.

Sample Workout:

  1. Deadlifts: 4 x 6
  2. Seated leg curls: 3 x 12
  3. Bent-over rows: 3 x 10
  4. Hyperextensions: 2 x 12

5. Use the Reverse Pec Deck Machine

Like bent-over laterals, the reverse pec deck isolates the rear delts. Again this helps build the muscle connection as the preceding back movements have already hit the rear delts to some extent.

Sample Workout:

  1. Lat pulldowns: 5 x 10
  2. Face pulls: 3 x 15
  3. Reverse pec deck: 4 x 20

6. Replace Bicep Curls With Tricep Pushdowns

As I mentioned, back exercises fatigue the biceps, which isn’t optimal if you’re looking to progress in strength with curls for instance. Gauging your true bicep strength is going to be difficult if they’re not fresh.

Training the biceps at the beginning of a back workout is one solution. However, reduces your performance with the subsequential back exercises. Creating the same negative effect for the larger, more important muscle group.

To maximize back progress without restricting bicep progressive overload, you can do triceps with the back and biceps on chest day. This allows you to work all four muscles with less fatigue bleeding over from one exercise to the other.

Sample Workout:

  1. Bent-over rows: 5 x 12
  2. Face pulls: 3 x 15
  3. Shrugs: 3 x 20
  4. Tricep pushdowns: 4 x 12

7. Finish Off With Cable Face Pulls

Cable face pulls are another common shoulder exercise because they work the rear delts. They’re also a good movement for the upper back as a whole.

Doing them for moderate to high reps at the end of a back day is sure to obliterate your traps and rhomboids. This is also effective for progressively overloading as long as the exercise order stays consistent for a few weeks.

Sample Workout:

  1. Deadlifts: 4 x 8
  2. Helms row: 3 x 15
  3. Shoulder height cable face pulls: 4 x 12

8. Do Upright Rows if Your Upper Traps Are Weak

The upper traps are a neglected back muscle, simply because they’re not recruited very well with bent-over rows or pulldowns. They primarily engage via scapular elevation, which occurs during the upright row.

The side delts are going to be engaged too so use light weights after your main back exercises to avoid shoulder discomfort.

I find the dumbbell version is easier on my wrists as I can control each arm freely. This also prevents imbalances and impingements.

Sample Workout:

  1. Pull-ups: 4 x 8
  2. Single arm rows: 3 x 12 each arm
  3. Upright rows: 3 x 15

9. Perform Shrugs on Back Instead of Shoulder Day

Shrugs are another upper trap exercise to tack on with your back workout. They’re a single joint movement, meaning there isn’t significant activation from the shoulders, unlike upright rows. This isolates the upper traps without secondary muscle fatigue.

Sample Workout:

  1. Kroc rows: 4 x 12
  2. Face pulls: 4 x 15
  3. Shrugs: 3 x 20
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!