Cobra Back Workout Exercises (Stronger & Leaner Back)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 27, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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As a certified personal trainer and bodybuilding coach, I’m always surprised at how many people don’t pay enough attention to their back muscles. And anyone who has neglected this muscle group can significantly benefit from Cobra back workouts.

To help you better plan this exercise, I got together with four other personal trainers and tested out a new approach.

And seven clients who went through this program completely transformed their bodies with these targeted exercises. It’s all about lower weights, the ideal range of motion, and getting to failure.

Let me explain.

Quick Summary

  • The Cobra back exercise routine involves high volumes of reps with a strict focus on quality movements like different types of rows and pulldowns.
  • The routine includes various types of rows and pulldowns, focusing on quality movements and full range of motion.
  • A study in the National Library of Medicine shows that incorporating targeted back exercises can increase back strength by up to 30%.
  • In my experience, consistent and focused back workouts, like the Cobra routine, are essential for a balanced and strong upper body.

5 Most Effective Cobra Exercises For Back Muscles

Doing cobra back workout for the back

You’re going to be doing a ridiculous amount of reps, so don’t choose your regular weight load for these exercises.

Seated Cable Rows

Set up the cable machine and seat so that you feel comfortable and are fully supported.

From my experience, jotting down the weights for different sets helps maintain focus and intensity. I also advise keeping resting time under 45 seconds, a strategy that significantly boosted my workout efficiency when I first implemented it.

  • Set 1: Pick a lighter weight and do 20 reps while focusing on doing the full movement correctly and try to engage your abs.
  • Set 2: Add a few pounds and complete 15 reps, with the last ones hurting.
  • Set 3–7: Gradually move the weight stack pin by one position for these five sets and lower the reps from 15 down to 10.

Related: How to Do Cable Upright Row

Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

Wide grip lat pulldown workout

For this exercise, it’s all about the lats, and you want to take a similar approach as the first one.

You can also switch grips to make the effect of pulling slightly different during the workout, as according to a study in the National Library of Medicine, variety will help your body build more mass [1].

Here’s what it looks like: 

  • Set 1: Choose a lower weight and do 20 reps to feel your lats and shoulders warming up.
  • Set 2: Increase the weight so that you can only complete 12 reps.
  • Set 3: Increase the weight again and aim to be able to only complete 10 reps.
  • Set 4: Now you’re down to just eight reps with another load increase.
  • Set 5: Use the same weight from the previous set, but once you get to eight reps, switch to a different grip and try to do two more.

“Strengthening your back obviously has aesthetic benefits, but, more importantly, it’s imperative for better daily function, including posture and preventing injury.”

- Daniel Bubnis, M.S., NASM-CPT


Barbell Rows

You want to use overhand grips for this exercise to work better on your shoulders.

Here is the breakdown of the workout sets:

  • Set 1: Warm up with 20 reps and a lighter load
  • Set 2: Aim to reach failure after a maximum of 15 reps.
  • Set 3: Increase the load and reach failure after 12 reps.
  • Set 4: Now you’re heading further towards completing only eight reps.
  • Set 5: Complete eight reps with the same load as the previous set, drop a bit of weight, and do another three reps.


Performing chin ups

When I incorporated chin-ups into my routine, not only did my back strengthen, but my arms also gained significant definition.

This workout will give you an overall better upper-body physique.

Here are the sets broken down:

  • Set 1–3: Do as many reps as you can as long as you perform them properly.
  • Set 4–6: If you used an underhand grip in the first sets, then switch to an overhand grip in these.
  • Set 7–9: Complete as many chin-ups as possible for speed.

Cable Bar Rows

I switched to a straight bar early in my training for its flexibility and wider grip options. It was a small change that made a big difference in my workouts, allowing for a greater range of motion and muscle engagement.

  • Set 1: Grip the bar as wide as possible and complete 20 reps to warm up and feel the difference while flexing your elbows.
  • Set 2–8: Choose a weight that will allow you to complete 12–15 reps and do seven back-to-back sets with as little rest time as possible to increase the intensity [2].

Injury Prevention and Recovery

While this workout is effective for developing back muscles, it's crucial to integrate injury prevention and recovery strategies to maintain back health and ensure the longevity of your training.

Injury prevention techniques:

  • Warm-up and stretching: Begin your cobra back workout with dynamic warm-ups and stretches. This step is vital to prevent strains during intense exercises like deadlifts or pull-ups.
  • Core strengthening for back support: Strengthen your core with exercises like planks and leg raises to provide better support and stability to your spine during these workouts.
  • Focus on proper technique: Ensure your back is straight and movements are controlled to avoid undue strain on your back muscles.

These are the recovery strategies for post-cobra back workouts:

  • Rest and gentle movement: After an intense cobra back session, give your muscles time to recover. Engage in light activities like walking or gentle yoga poses, which can help in stretching and relaxing the back muscles.
  • Modified exercises for recovery: If you're recovering from a back injury, modify your cobra back exercises. Opt for lighter weights and focus on the range of motion rather than intensity.


How Do You Train a Cobra Muscle?

You train the cobra muscle with highly targeted movements that activate the lats and shoulders. It’s also best to do a high volume of reps, with each set bringing you to failure.

Is Cobra Back Good?

Yes, cobra back is a good way to strengthen your muscles. Many bodybuilders who neglect their backs or have hit a plateau in bulking will find that this approach will transform their physique.


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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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