Back and Shoulder Workout Routine (10 Exercises)

Training your back and shoulders on the same day is a great way to combine these two important muscle groups. This back and shoulder workout routine is designed to build a muscular, strong back and wide, massive shoulder muscles.

In this article, you’ll learn the benefits of training back and shoulders in the same workout and an overview of the workout routine. You also find a thorough breakdown of the best exercises for your back and shoulders and instructions on how to perform them.

This back and shoulder workout routine is one of many premium workouts in the StrengthLog app, which you can download for free using the buttons below.

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The Importance of a Strong and Muscular Back

Out of sight, out of mind, they say. However, for a bodybuilder or athlete, the back muscles are some of the most crucial for performance and aesthetics. Without a back to match the rest of your body, your physique will never be the best it can be.

Your back muscles are some of the biggest and strongest muscles in your body and require a lot of hard work and sweat to develop. However, the effort is worth it, as a muscular back immediately stands out and demands attention.

When it comes to performance, almost all athletic activities depend on your back. If your back strength isn’t there, you’re limited in what you can achieve—even everyday things like lifting something heavy from the floor benefit from a strong back.

Strong and Broad Shoulders Help You Look Your Best

To look your best, you need some muscle mass on those shoulders. For many, wide shoulders is the hallmark of an athletic physique. In addition, broad shoulders enhance the visual appearance of your back and make your arms look more prominent. If you’re a bodybuilder, the 3D look of a pair of massive shoulders makes for a stand-out upper body.

For athletic purposes, the importance of strong shoulders can’t be overstated. Whenever you need upper-body performance, chances are you rely on your shoulder strength to back you up. Also, good shoulder stability helps reduce the shoulder joint injury risk.

Even if your bone structure isn’t ideal for naturally broad shoulders, a good shoulder workout routine like StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout will help you add muscle mass to your delts and make your entire upper body look more impressive.

Can You Train Back and Shoulder on the Same Day?

Sure thing! It’s more common to train back with biceps or give your back a training day all its own, but that doesn’t mean that training back and shoulders on the same day is a bad idea. On the contrary, combining your back and shoulder workouts into one training session offers several benefits.

When you train your back, your shoulder muscles are almost resting. That means you’ll still be your strongest when doing delt exercises even though you’ve already trained your back. Compare that to the popular chest+shoulder workout routine where your shoulders are heavily involved when you train your chest and tired when it’s time to hit them.

You can start your workout with either back or shoulders without it affecting the muscle group you train last. If you prioritize shoulders, train them first, and if your number one goal is building your back, hit it first in the workout.

Training back and shoulders on the same day is great for supersetting. If you’re tight on time, you can superset your back exercises with your shoulder exercises with no rest without taking a significant performance hit.

StrengthLog’s Back and Shoulder Workout: The Basics

In this workout, you train your back first, then your shoulders. Training your back is more demanding, and most people will likely prefer to do it when their energy levels are the highest. However, if you prioritize your shoulders, feel free to flip things around and start your workout with shoulders instead. One of the benefits of training back and shoulders on the same day is that you can tailor the workout to your preferences and still perform your best.

StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout is designed for the intermediate to advanced lifter or bodybuilder. It’s a high-volume workout, and if you’re a beginner, it’s likely too much too soon. Give StrengthLog’s Barbell Training Program for the Beginner, StrengthLog’s Upper/Lower Body Split Program, or Bodybuilding for Beginners a look for a great introduction to strength training in general or bodybuilding in particular. 

For this workout, you need a barbell, a set of dumbbells, a weight bench, and a cable pulley machine. Get ready for a combination of compound exercises with heavy weights and isolation exercises using relatively light weights where you chase the pump.

Here’s an overview of the back and shoulder workout.

Back Workout

The back workout consists of five exercises: four for your latissimus dorsi muscles, rhomboids, and trapezius, and one for your lower back. A combination of vertical pulls (pull-ups and pulldowns) and rows makes this an excellent back workout for both width and thickness.

  1. Pull-Up or Lat Pulldown
  2. Barbell Row
  3. Dumbbell Row
  4. Shrugs
  5. Back Extension

Shoulder Workout

Like the back session, your shoulder workout consists of five exercises, from heavy presses to isolation exercises like lateral raises to hit your shoulders from every different angle. You don’t want to ignore any part of this complex muscle group for complete delt development.

  1. Overhead Press
  2. Monkey Row
  3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  4. Dumbbell Front Raise
  5. Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

Training Volume and Recovery

StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout is a high-volume session that requires focus and effort, but you’re rewarded with complete back and shoulder development. You can see the exact number of sets and reps in your StrengthLog app.

Your back consists of several major muscle groups, including your lats, trapezius, rhomboids, and the erector spinae in your lower back. Your delts are divided into the anterior deltoid, the lateral deltoid, and the posterior deltoid.

Because the back and shoulders are such complex muscle groups, they need plenty of work for complete development. According to up-to-date scientific research, 12–20 weekly sets per muscle group may optimize muscle growth.1 The more sets you perform, the better your gains, up to a point. If you do too much, you’ll struggle to recover appropriately and might not get the expected results. StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout has you covered, even if you only do it once per week.

optimal training volume bodybuilding

StrengthLog’s Back and Shoulder Workout: The Exercises

It’s time to hit the gym! Pack your gym bag and prepare for a brutal back session and a fantastic shoulder workout!

Warming Up

Preparing your body for the work to come by warming up is always a good idea. You increase the blood flow to your muscles and improve your focus and flexibility, and you might also reduce the risk of injury.

Consider starting with five or so minutes of moderate-intensity cardio to get the blood flowing. While not essential, it’s a great way to increase your body temperature and increase your heart rate. You’re not going for aerobic fitness here, just warming up, so keep your exercise intensity low to moderate. You want to save your energy for the lifting.

Because the shoulder joint is complex and with a unique range of motion, you might want to do some shoulder-specific dynamic warm-up movements first.

  • Arm circles, going from small circles to a full range of motion.
  • Pendulum circles for the rotator cuff muscles.
  • Shoulder rolls, both forward and backward.
  • Overhead pressing movements without any external load.

You’ll also want to do a couple of ramp-up sets of lat pulldowns to prepare yourself for the first exercise of the back and shoulders workout routine.

Once you feel adequately warmed up, it’s time for the first exercise: the pull-up or the lat pulldown, depending on your preferences.

Pull-Up / Lat Pulldowns

For your first exercise of StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout, you can choose between pull-ups and the lat pulldown, both excellent exercises for building a wide upper back.

The pull-up, being a bodyweight exercise, requires no equipment except a pull-up bar. It’s a classic exercise used by athletes and bodybuilders looking to build back strength and size for more than a century. It primarily works your lats but also hits the lower parts of your trapezius muscle and biceps. Pull-ups require a lot of body control and stability and can be quite challenging to perform with strict form. If you cannot complete eight reps minimum, I suggest you substitute the pull-up for lat pulldowns. 

If you’re really strong, your body weight might not be enough. In that case, use a weight belt and hang a plate between your legs for additional resistance.

The lat pulldown is also an excellent exercise for building your lats. The lat pulldown machine makes it a comfortable and stable option, and many lifters find it easier to focus on the working muscles than the pull-up. 

The pull-up and the lat pulldown are both fantastic width-builders, so pick the one you prefer. Regardless of your choice, be sure to observe proper form. That means no kipping your legs and knees to get your body moving in the pull-up and avoiding leaning backward or rocking back and forth in the lat pulldown.

Back and shoulder workout: pull-up
Back and shoulder workout: lat pulldown

How to Do Pull-Ups

  1. Grip the bar with palms facing away from you, slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Keep your chest up, and look up at the bar.
  3. Inhale and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar or the bar touches your upper chest.
  4. Exhale and lower yourself with control until your arms are fully extended.

How to Do Lat Pulldowns

  1. Grip the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you), slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Sit down with your thighs under the leg support, keep your chest up, and look up at the bar.
  3. Inhale and pull the bar towards you.
  4. Pull the bar down until it is below your chin or touches your upper chest.
  5. Exhale and slowly return the bar until your arms are fully extended.

Barbell Row

The barbell row, also called the bent-over row, is a staple compound exercise in most back workouts for a good reason. It’s one of the best back exercises to pack on muscle and a great assistance exercise to increase your strength in powerlifting exercises like the squat and the deadlift.

If you look at how high-level bodybuilders perform barbell rows, you’ll notice that most perform the exercise differently. Some lean forward until the point of parallel; others stand almost upright. Some prefer an underhand grip over an underhand grip, and some use a wide grip while others hold their hands closer together.

These are all valid variations of the barbell row, but for StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout routine, you’re going back to old-school basics. Stand comfortably with your feet shoulder-width and holding the bar with an overhand grip and your hands just outside the width of your knees. Lean forward until your upper body is slightly above parallel to the floor, with your upper arms hanging straight down. Standing more upright transfers more of the work to your traps and upper back, but leaning forward like this makes for a fantastic mass builder for your entire back. 

Back and shoulder workout: barbell row

Muscles Worked in Barbell Rows

Muscles worked in barbell row exercise

How to Do Barbell Rows

Grip the bar with an overhand grip, and lean forward with the bar hanging from straight arms.
Inhale and pull the bar towards you.
Pull the bar as high as you can, so that it touches your abs or chest if possible.
With control, lower the bar back to the starting position.

Dumbbell Row

Dumbbell rows train your upper back, core muscles, and biceps. You won’t be able to use as much weight in a single-arm row as when using a barbell. Instead, dumbbell rows allow you to get a full range of motion, which might benefit muscle growth. It’s also an excellent exercise to build and maintain a good posture, strengthening the muscles needed to retract your shoulder blades to prevent slouching.

Row the dumbbell closer to the hip than the shoulder. That way, you force your back to do most of the work, not your biceps and rear deltoids.

Back and shoulder workout: dumbbell row

Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Rows

Muscles worked by dumbbell row

How to Do Dumbbell Rows

  1. Lean against a bench with one knee and hand, and hold a dumbbell in your other, straight hanging arm.
  2. Inhale pull the dumbbell as high as you can in a rowing movement.
  3. With control, lower the dumbbell back to the starting position while exhaling.

Shrugs

Shrugs build your trapezius, a large muscle that runs from the base of your neck, across your shoulders, and down to the middle of your back. Well-developed traps enhance the look of your back and your delts, making the shrug an essential exercise for StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout. It’s the best exercise to target your traps directly, and you can perform it using either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells.

Be sure to pull the weight straight up and down. Avoid rotating your shoulders, as it stresses your shoulder joint without benefits.

It’s easy to go too heavy in the shrug. Use lighter weights and a full range of motion from the starting position to a full contraction at the top.

Back and shoulder workout: shrugs

Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Shrugs

Muscles worked in dumbbell shrugs

How to Do Dumbbell Shrugs

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Lift your shoulders straight up as high as possible.
  3. Lower your shoulders again.

Back Extension

Back extensions work the erector spinae muscles that help straighten and rotate your back. They run all the way from your pelvis to the back of your skull. When a bodybuilder is ripped, you can see the erector spinae muscles in the shape of a Christmas tree in their lower back.

You can hold a weight plate to your chest if bodyweight back extensions aren’t challenging enough.

Back and shoulder workout: back extension

Muscles Worked in Back Extensions

Muscles worked in back extensions

How to Do Back Extensions

  1. Adjust a back extension bench and get into position. Hold a weight plate against your chest or a barbell across your shoulders if you want to use additional weight.
  2. Lean forward as far as you can by hinging in your hips.
  3. Reverse the movement with control and return to the starting pos

That’s your back workout done! You should have a good pump going by now. Time to train some shoulders! Because your delts aren’t heavily involved in most back exercises, you’ll be able to keep your training intensity up in the second half of StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout.

Overhead Press

You’re kicking things off with the overhead press, one of the best exercises for building impressive deltoid muscles, emphasizing the front delts. There are several variations of the overhead press, but we’re going with the standing overhead press with a barbell for this back and shoulder workout routine. It’ll allow you to use a heavier weight and force your shoulders to grow.

Press the bar to an overhead position with straight arms without bouncing or using your leg drive. Involving your lower body for momentum turns the overhead press into a push press, which is an excellent exercise in its own right. However, you’re trying to isolate your delts here, not work your whole body, so keep it strict and let your shoulders do the work.

Back and shoulder workout: overhead press

Muscles Worked in the Overhead Press

Muscles worked in overhead press exercise

How to Overhead Press

  1. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Inhale, lightly brace your core, and unrack the bar.
  3. Let the bar rest against your front delts while you take a step back from the rack.
  4. Press the bar up to straight arms, while exhaling.
  5. Inhale at the top, or while lowering the bar with control back to your shoulders.

Monkey Rows

The monkey row is the best shoulder exercise you’ve never heard of. An old-school favorite, the monkey row is a variant of the upright row but without the potential stress on the shoulder joint or wrists.

Monkey rows primarily target your lateral delts but also activate your rear delts and upper traps. A fantastic exercise for anyone with shoulder issues who can’t do upright rows, the monkey row offers shoulder gains without the pain.

Make sure you don’t use too heavy weights and shrug the dumbbells too much. A slight shrugging motion is OK, but you should feel it primarily in your side delts.

Back and shoulder workout: monkey row

Muscles Worked in Monkey Row

Muscles worked in monkey row.

Instructions

  1. With your arms by your sides, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Pull the dumbbells straight up as far as you can.
  3. With control, lower the dumbbells back to the starting po

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

While heavy compound exercises are the staple of anyone looking to gain strength and pack on the muscle, you should include some isolation work for complete muscular development. Case in point: your side delts. Overhead presses might be the bread and butter of your shoulder workout, but dumbbell lateral raises isolate your side delts and build shoulder width like no other exercise.

For best results, leave your ego outside the gym and select a pair of dumbbells that allow you to perform the exercise with proper form and get a good mind-muscle connection. The dumbbell lateral raise is potentially one of the best exercises for the outermost part of the deltoid.2 However, if you use momentum to lift more weight than you can handle, you transfer the work to the front of your shoulder and your traps instead, defeating the purpose of the exercise.

Back and shoulder workout: lateral raises


Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Muscles worked in dumbbell lateral raise

How to Do Dumbbell Lateral Raises

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells, in almost straight arms hanging by your sides.
  2. With control, lift the dumbbells outwards to your sides, until your upper arm is horizontal.
  3. Lower the dumbbells with control.
  4. Repeat for reps.

Front Raise

Pressing exercises for your chest and shoulders give your front delts plenty of attention, but for isolating them, nothing beats front raises, either with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. 

Like with side laterals, you might be tempted to select too heavy a weight. Avoid this rookie mistake, and ensure you isolate the correct muscles using dumbbells you can lift using your front deltoids only. No swinging!

Back and shoulder workout: front raises

Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Front Raises

Muscles worked in dumbbell front raise

How to Do Dumbbell Front Raises

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells in straight arms, in front of your hip.
  2. With control, lift the dumbbells forward with straight arms, until the dumbbells are at shoulder height.
  3. Reverse the movement and lower the dumbbells with control.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

A great shoulder workout features exercises that train all three heads of the deltoid. That’s why you’re finishing off StrengthLog’s back and shoulder workout with the dumbbell rear delt row, one of the best exercises for your posterior deltoids.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, select a relatively light pair of dumbbells to allow you to focus on your rear delts. If the weight is too heavy, you might turn the rear delt row into a back exercise.

Back and shoulder workout: dumbbell rear delt row

Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

Muscles worked in dumbbell rear delt row

How to Do Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

  1. Lean forward with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Inhale and make a wide rowing motion, where you let your upper arms go out towards the sides.
  3. With control, lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Frequently Asked Questions

You have questions; we have answers! Let’s do a little Q&A!

Can I Use Supersets With the Back and Shoulder Routine?

You certainly can! Because your back and shoulder exercises don’t interfere with each other, combining them into a superset workout is a great way to make your training session more time-efficient.

Supersets are neither better nor worse for building muscle than traditional sets, but if time is a factor, they can be a lifesaver. In addition, you get a great muscle pump!

A superset version of this workout could look like this:

  1. Pull-Up + Overhead Press
  2. Barbell Row + Monkey Row
  3. Dumbbell Row + Dumbbell Lateral Rise
  4. Shrugs + Front Raise
  5. Back Extension + Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

Feel free to rearrange the exercise order if you don’t enjoy a particular superset combination or find it too exhausting.

How Do I Fit the Back and Shoulder Workout into My Training Split?

Training back and shoulders on the same day makes for a versatile training session you can fit into almost any workout routine. Here are examples of 3- and 4-day workout splits using this back and shoulder workout:

3-Day Workout Split

  • Day 1: Chest + Arms
  • Day 2: Legs + Abs
  • Day 3: Back + Shoulders

4-Day Workout Split

  • Day 1: Chest + Abs
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Back + Shoulders
  • Day 4: Arms

What About Deadlifts?

You might have noticed the absence of deadlifts in the back and triceps workout routine.

The deadlift trains the entire posterior chain of muscles and is one of the best exercises to increase overall strength.

However, it also takes a lot out of you and is not necessary if you’re training for muscle hypertrophy. It is excluded from the workout to improve your overall recovery and allow you to go all-out on more hypertrophy-specific back exercises.

There is nothing wrong with deadlifts as part of a bodybuilding program, but for this one, it’s not part of the back workout.

Track the Back and Shoulder Workout Routine in the StrengthLog App

There you go! The back and shoulder routine hits the targeted muscle groups from all different angles to help you gain lean muscle mass.

If you want to grow bigger and stronger, the key to fast and consistent gains in strength and muscle is to increase the weight you use in your training or to do more reps. 

It’s almost impossible to keep track of your progress without a workout log. Our app StrengthLog is 100% free to download and use as a workout tracker and general strength training app. All the basic functionality is free – forever.

You’ll also find a bunch of training programs and workouts in the app. Many are free, but our more advanced programs and workouts (such as this one) are for premium users only.

Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.

Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:

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Good luck with your training!

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References

  1. J Hum Kinet. 2022 Feb 10;81:199-210. A Systematic Review of The Effects of Different Resistance Training Volumes on Muscle Hypertrophy.
  2. J Hum Kinet. 2020 Oct; 75: 5–14. Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals.
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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas has over 30 years of training experience and is a highly appreciated writer and educator on exercise, fitness, and nutrition. Few people stay more up to date and have a better grasp of the field of exercise science than Andreas.