Fitness expert Jeff Nippard recently shared the best and worst exercises for back development. Training the back is crucial for performing everyday physical activities, maintaining a good posture, and improving performance in sports and other intense activities.
However, it becomes essential to choose the correct exercises to reap the full benefits of back training and Nippard did the necessary research to help us formulate an effective back training plan.
Jeff Nippard is one of the foremost YouTubers in the science-based fitness community. He routinely shares well-researched bodybuilding and fitness advice on his YouTube channel. Courtesy of the insightful content, the Canadian has amassed a massive 4.18 million followers on the platform.
In a recent video posted on his YouTube channel, Nippard rated the exercises in six tears, with tier 1 being the best and tier 6 being the worst for back development. He based his ratings on three criteria – stretch and tension, a smooth and painless resistance profile, and ease of progression regarding weight.
Jeff Nippard ranks back exercises in order of effectiveness
According to Jeff Nippard’s research, the following are the back exercises ranked in order of effectiveness.
- Wide-grip Lat Pulldowns
- Close Neutral-grip Lat Pulldowns
- Half-kneeling One Arm Lat Pulldown
- Meadows Rows
- Chest-supported Rows
- Seated Cable Rows
- Close Neutral-grip Pull-Ups
- Crossbody Lat Pull Around
- Deficit Pendley Rows
- Bent Over Dumbbell Rows
- Kroc Rows
- Lying and Seated Rope Face Pulls
- Cable Lat Pullover
- Dumbbell Pullover
- Renegade rows
- Dumbbell Rows to Curls
- Dumbbell Rows to Presses
The Canadian fitness influencer explained the logic behind his rankings in the video and here are some of his key takeaways and arguments based on science.
Starting with the worst, Nippard argued that combination exercises like renegade rows and dumbbell rows-to-curls are best avoided to stimulate the back. However, according to Nippard, their net impact on back development is negligible because not possible to stimulate different muscles with the same weight in a combination exercise.
Some of the most popular back exercises have a surprisingly low impact on back development
As it turns out, even some of the most popular back exercises do not pass Nippard’s three-criteria test to rank high in the list of best back exercises.
While deadlifts are considered among the best exercises for strength and muscle gain, Nippard feels that their role, purely in back development, is not as significant:
“It doesn’t stretch your lats or mid-back much at all. Also, it doesn’t take your lats or traps through an active range of motion.”
Nippard’s research suggests that even the free-standing T-bar row is not the absolute best exercise for back development. Stability can be an issue despite a good resistance profile and the stretch you get on the latissimus dorsi muscles.
However, the benefits of these exercises in overall strength and muscle-building are undeniable and the Canadian fitness expert recommends incorporating them in the training routine.
Some of the simplest exercises are the best bet for back development
Like every aspect of life, the most ordinary-looking things prove to be the most effective in the long run although they do not have the glamor or hype around them. This phenomenon follows in Nippard’s study as well.
Going by the criteria of stretch on the muscles, resistance profile, and progression, variations of lat pulldowns, seated rows, meadows rows, and pull-ups prove to be the best exercises for back development. Additionally, isolation exercises like lat pullovers are extremely effective in building a wide and thick back.
If Nippard were to choose the absolute best back exercise, he would choose variations of chest-supported rows as he explained:
“It is just so good for smashing both the lats and mid-back and there are so many effective ways to do it.”
The 32-year-old includes all the variations of chest-supported rows like cable rows, T-bar rows, incline rows, and plate-loaded machine rows.
“Having your chest supported allows you to focus all the tension on your back. These are an absolute staple and should 100 percent be included in your bodybuilding routine.”
Although the exercises vary in terms of effectiveness, one size doesn’t fit all. and it is necessary to add and remove the exercises based on every individual’s personal experience. However, Jeff Nippard’s research provides a great baseline to start.
Watch the full video below, courtesy of Jeff Nippard’s YouTube channel: