14 Best Back-Strengthening Exercises, According to Trainers


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Throughout my years as a trainer, I’ve noticed that some people love to train their upper body, whereas others tend to focus more on their lower body. There’s nothing wrong with having a personal preference (I’m a fan of leg day, myself), but it’s important to spend time strengthening all muscles in order to prevent muscular imbalances and injuries. Back muscles are among the most neglected, despite having many crucial benefits, says UFC GYM Long Island Fitness Director Jude Brun. “Back exercises are important for posture, to help strengthen your core, and to prevent injuries,” Brun tells PS. “They’re especially important to incorporate as you age to ensure that you don’t develop a curvature that can make it look like you’re hunched over or slouching.” Thankfully, there are several back exercises you can do to build strength, even if you’re used to skipping back day.

Before jumping into back exercises for the first time, it helps to know which specific muscles you’re targeting. “The back is a very broad muscle group which contains your lats, lower-back, upper-back, and mid-back,” Brun explains, adding that different exercises strengthen different back muscles. “Bent-over-row exercises and pull-ups are best for targeting your lats, while close-grip exercises work the middle of the back, and wide-grip exercises work the outside of the back.” Certain cardio exercises, like running, can also make a big difference in your back muscles, Brun says.

If you’re new to back exercises, Brun suggests stretching and warming up beforehand, then choosing an appropriately challenging weight. “When it comes to picking the best weight, you should be doing sets with a weight that’s at least 65 to 75 percent of your PR (personal record — i.e. the heaviest weight that you have ever lifted) or 1RM (one-rep max — i.e. the heaviest weight that you can lift for a single rep).” For those with any medical issues, including joint pain or a herniated disc, Brun also recommends consulting with a doctor before doing any exercise, regardless of age.

If you’re notorious for training the same few muscle groups, this is your sign to break the habit. To help make the transition easier, we rounded up a few of the best back exercises to incorporate into your next workout. Check out the following back exercises to build muscle, improve your posture, and prevent injury. Your upper-body strength will thank you in the long run.

— Additional reporting by Chandler Plante

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