When it comes to your back, it’s not just about ‘looking good’. With strength comes longevity along with improved capacity to engage with lifting and bending tasks. This can be achieved by performing back strengthening exercises and in this article, we will be discussing the 10 best exercises that you can perform to strengthen and grow your back.

The primary muscles of the back

When training it is helpful for us to know the regions/areas of the back. You may know of the different regions of the back - those being the upper, middle and lower back. Let’s explore some of the muscles that make up the resilient structure that is the human back:


  • The Lats (Latissimus Dorsi) - originate just below your armpit and extend along the side of your torso to the lower area of your back.
  • Traps (Trapezius) - these are at the top of your neck and run down to the mid-back.
  • Rhomboids are also part of the upper back and are located underneath the traps.
  • The erector spinae are located along the spine and allow it to extend and rotate.

Warm Up


Before starting the main phase of the workout, you should begin with the warmup phase of the workout. This can be 5-20 minutes long, depending on the specificity of the sport or workout.


The warmup phase should include some exercises that will get the blood pumping around the body and into the muscles. This will prepare you for the workout ahead. Check out our article ‘5 Warmup Exercises to Help Boost Your Workout’ to read more about the benefits, types and examples of different warm up exercises.


Create your back workout! (Mix and Match with the choice of exercises, reps and sets)


  1. The pull-up (show variations)**


  • Use an overhand grip on the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Wrap all your fingers around the bar for maximum grip.
  • Hang freely under the bar. If your feet can still touch the ground, cross them behind you. Tighten your core to prevent your body from swinging.
  • Retract your shoulder blades, as if you are pinching a pencil between them in the centre of your back.
  • Drive your elbows down and back and pull your chest up toward the bar. Keep your core engaged to prevent you from swinging under the bar.
  • Pause for a moment at the top - with your chin over the bar - and then slowly and controlled lower back to the start position.


  1. The Deadlift


  • Stand behind the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your chest high, begin to hinge at the hips and slowly bend your knees, reaching down to pick up the barbell. Keep your back straight and grasp the bar with both palms facing you in an overhand grip.
  • Push back up, keeping your feet flat on the floor, back into the starting position. Your back should remain straight throughout the movement. Your shoulders should be down and back.
  • Return to the starting position, pushing your hips back and bending your knees until you bring the barbell back to the ground.


  1. The barbell bent over row


  • Hinge at your hips until your upper body is 45° angle to the floor,
  • Keep your back straight and your shoulder blades rolled back, engaging your legs to hold your balance.
  • Row a barbell up to your tummy, keeping your elbows close to your body.


  1. Single arm row


  • Similar to number 3, bend at your hips until your torso is 45° angle to the floor
  • Keep your back straight and your shoulder blades rolled back, engaging your legs to hold your balance.
  • Row the dumbbell up to your side, keeping your elbow close to your body.


  1. Back Extensions


  • Lie down on an exercise ball with your abdomen on the centre of the ball.
  • Press the balls of your feet into the ground to stay balanced.
  • Extend your arms forward. Bending at your waist, slowly raise your upper body toward the sky. Be sure to engage your core and glutes. Keep your feet on the floor.
  • Pause for a moment when at the top, then slowly lower down.


  1. Lat Pulldown - machine


  • Set the pad so it sits snugly on your thighs to minimise movement.
  • Grasp the bar with a wide grip, looking forward with your torso upright.
  • Retract your shoulder blades and pull the bar down in front of you to your upper chest.
  • Squeeze your lats at the bottom of the movement.




  1. Low Row - machine


  • Set the pulley (attachment) at the lowest rung on the machine.
  • Place your feet on the pads available, if there are no pads, find a step and place that in front of the machine before placing your feet on it.
  • Begin by having your arms completely outstretched as this move targets the lats and this position best engages the area.
  • Keep your head, back and spine neutrally aligned, with your chest elevated and core engaged.
  • With a small bend in your knees, pull the attachment in towards your body to just below the naval, initiating the move by driving your elbows towards your hips, keeping the elbows in.
  • As the attachment reaches your torso, squeeze your lats and shoulder blades, holding the contraction for 1-2sec.
  • Reverse to the start and repeat for the desired number of reps.


  1. Reverse Flyes


  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, hinge forward at the waist until your torso forms a 45-degree angle with the ground, allowing the dumbbells to hang in front of you, palms facing each other.
  • Have a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Engaging your core, lift your arms up and out, squeezing your shoulder blades at the top.


  1. Chest supported rows


  • Set an incline bench at 45 degrees.
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and approach the bench with your chest toward the angled pad, then lean onto it.
  • Plant your feet firmly on the floor, and let your arms hang straight down, palms facing each other. This is the starting position.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and drive your elbows toward the ceiling, bringing the dumbbells to your ribcage.


  1. T-Bar Row


  • Place the end of an empty barbell into the corner of a room. Rest a heavy dumbbell or some weight plates on it to hold it down.
  • Load the opposite end of the bar with plates and straddle it.
  • Bend over at the hips until your torso is about a 45-degree angle to the floor with arms extended.
  • Hook a V-grip handle (the kind you see at a cable station) under the bar and hold with both hands.
  • Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar until the plates touch your chest.


Bonus tip:

To make the most of your back workout, try to make use of all types of muscle contractions. Concentric muscle action is shortening under load. Eccentric muscle action is lengthening under load. For example: when performing a Lat Pulldown, try to return the weight back to its starting position slowly (eccentrically). The ‘slowing down’ of the return phase of the movement will make you work much harder. This extra contraction phase in each rep will allow you to gain more strength over time. 

The Takeaway

Remember - it is all about progress. Leave the ego at the door and spend the time listening and bringing awareness to your body’s movements and muscles as they work.  By performing the exercises correctly, with good form and using the principle of progressive overload and consistency, you will make a big difference in your strength, muscle mass, tone and load tolerance.


The common exclamation of ‘watch your back’ or ‘mind your back’ when lifting objects at home, at work or in the community will no longer be a concern. Put in the work to become a strong and capable lifter.