Back Exercises Review

You can strengthen and develop your back not only in the gym, but also at homeYou can strengthen and develop your back not only in the gym, but also at home


Muscle Structure

The human back is a rather vulnerable part of the body. Many people experience muscle stiffness and tightness from the age of 30, which may cause various diseases.

You need to work out your back to transfer the load from the spine to the muscular corset.

Those who regularly pay attention to the muscles of this body part can improve their health and get rid of pain in the back area. But before you start working out, you need to consult a doctor and examine your spine.

Before you learn the proper system of development of the back muscles, let’s discuss their structure, functions, and the movements they are responsible for:

Splenius capitis Responsible for rotation, turning, and tilting of the head.
Trapezius Allows lifting and lowering the shoulder blades and squeezing them towards the midline.
Rhomboid major and rhomboid minor Participate in the movements of the shoulder blades.
Deltoid Raises the arm to the horizontal position and provides rotation of the arm.
Teres minor and teres major Provides supination of the shoulder and pulls the arm back and down, respectively.
Erector spinae Keeps the body in a vertical position and participates at bending it forward.
Serratus posterior inferior Responsible for moving the ribs down while breathing.
Latissimus dorsi Along with other muscles, it provides the movement of the humerus and draws the shoulders back.
Thoracolumbar fascia It is the major participant in contralateral movements.

So, we have learnt the muscle structure. Now, let’s proceed to the warm-up that should be performed before any exercise.

Warm-up and Stretching of the Spine

The muscles of the back are no different from other muscles, so you should properly warm up your body before starting exercising. To avoid pinched nerves and unpleasant consequences, you should stretch your spine before working out:

  1. Lie on your belly and place your hands at the level of your chest. Press your hands against the floor and pull your shoulders back as far as possible. You will feel your vertebrae stretch, one by one. It is advisable to repeat the exercise 7–10 times.
  2. A more difficult exercise: bend your knees and try to reach them with your forehead. Thus, the tension is removed from the back.
  3. Stand face to the wall at a half-step distance, extend your arms up towards the ceiling and look at your hands. It helps stretch every vertebra of the spine. Then place your extended arms on the wall while keeping your legs straight. Touch your chest and chin to the wall. You should feel your spine stretching. If you don’t, you need to step away from the wall and repeat the exercise. Hold this position. Then turn your head to the right to touch the wall with your left cheek. Then do the same with your right cheek.
  4. Stretching of the shoulder girdle. You need to stand with your right side close to the wall and extend your right arm back along the wall. Slowly turn your body towards the right arm. You should feel the tension in your arm and your right shoulder. Hold this position. Next, repeat that on the other side.
  5. You should hang down from the wall bars or a pull-up bar for a couple of minutes. During the exercise, you need to focus on stretching the vertebrae.
  6. In a sitting position, lower your head down and draw your arms under your bent knees. Now lock your hands and pull your shoulder blades towards the ceiling.
  7. After a short rest, you should try to pull up on the bar, then arch your back, and bend your knees. You should perform all movements smoothly and focus on your back muscles.

Beside the fact that stretching is the basis for preparing the muscles for any kind of activity, it is useful for women who want to lose weight at home.

If You Have Scoliosis

It is a common spinal disorder that involves curvature of the posture. It occurs when a person does not control the position of his ̸ her back during the day, does not sit properly, and hunches. The older you get, the harder it is to deal with scoliosis, so you need to maintain a proper posture from childhood.

Before you start to treat scoliosis, you should consult an orthopedic surgeonBefore you start to treat scoliosis, you should consult an orthopedic surgeon

  • Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend forward and backward. Try to do it with the maximum range of motion. Do it slowly and try to feel the movements of the spine.
  • Doctors recommend swimming to those who have scoliosis. At home, you can simulate swimming movements. Stand up straight and perform such movements with your arms, as if you are swimming breaststroke and like a frog. Keep your back straight.
  • Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, lift your arms above your head and lock your hands. Slowly bend to the right and to the left. Repeat the movement 10 times in each direction.
  • Get on your knees, place your hands on the floor, and perform the "cat" pose – first arch your spine, then round it upward. Repeat this exercise 10–15 times.

You should exercise every day to improve your posture and strengthen your back. To get rid of back pain, you need to build the so-called strong muscular corset around the spine. For this, you should just regularly perform a set of simple back exercises at home.

Strength Exercises for the Spine

  1. Lie face down on your stomach, put your legs together, place your left hand behind your head, and extend your right arm out to the side. Pull your head up towards the ceiling while lifting your upper body. Do not lift your feet off the floor. Repeat 15–20 times. Do the same for the opposite side after a short rest.
  2. A more difficult variation of the previous exercise. Press your legs to the floor and place both hands on the back of your head. Try to lift your upper body up as high as possible. 10 times is enough for the beginning, but then increase the number of reps to 15–20 times. The first and second exercises should be performed without rest.
  3. Get on all fours. Bring your right knee to your left elbow and round your back on an exhale. Then, on an inhale, extend your leg and arm and arch your back. You need to try to keep balance by tensing your back muscles. Alternate your leg and arm. Repeat no more than 10 times
  4. The following exercise is performed by lying face down on a couch or bench. Your upper body should lie on the couch, and your legs and pelvis should flare out. Hold the sides of the couch for support, and lift your legs very slowly, until the line of your legs and torso is parallel to the floor. Keep your legs in the air for 4–5 seconds. Slowly lower them down. Repeat 8 times.

Complex Exercises

"Strong Back"

This exercise helps strengthen the back muscles and prevent spine diseases. Lie down on a mat and put a flat roller under your lower back. Slightly bend your knees and place your feet pelvis width apart. Then, you need to force your toes towards you, while pressing your heels against the floor. Slightly bend your elbows, strain your wrists, and turn them towards your shoulders.

Lift your head off the floor and pull your chin to your chest as hard as you can. You should feel your neck and back muscles stretching. Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax.

The Development of the Back and Abdominal Muscles

You need a body bar with two 1 kg weight plates. Sit down on the floor, with your feet on it and your knees bent. Take the body bar, bend your elbows, and hold it at the level of your chest. Then slowly lean back until you feel tension in the abdominal area.

You should turn the bar so that its right end passes the right knee and is at the level of your right thigh. This movement should resemble rowing. Do the same on the other side.

Strengthening the Back, Chest, and Shoulders

Lie on your back on a gym ball and hold a pair of dumbbells in front of you. Your feet should rest on the floor and your knees should be bent at a right angle, your hips slightly raised. Slowly move your arms out to the sides and bring them together again.

Exercises with a Barbell and Dumbbells

Dumbbell Exercises

These simple exercises can be done at home. You need to prepare adjustable dumbbells and a gym ball.

  • Start by lying on your stomach on the floor, with your arms extended forward, and your hands holding the dumbbells. Slightly lift them off the floor and move them back, as in swimming. Slightly lift your feet off the floor. Return your arms back to the starting position. Repeat 10–15 times.
  • Stand straight. Bend your body forward until it is parallel to the floor. Holding the dumbbells in hands, slightly bend your elbows. Now you need to swing your arms out to the sides. You should feel your shoulder blades working. Your elbows should remain slightly bent during the exercise. This exercise helps strengthen the interscapular region.
  • The exercise is similar to the previous one, but with the difference that it is performed with alternating arms. You should use a chair or a bench as a support. Lean against the bench with your hand and knee. Hold a dumbbell in your other hand. Pull it to your shoulder, but avoid flaring your elbow. Thus, you work out your latissimus dorsi and middle back muscles.
  • Start by standing straight with the dumbbells in your hands. Slowly lift your shoulders up and slowly lower them down. Do not tense your arms or lift them. Only your neck and back muscles should work.
  • The most effective exercise can be performed at home using a gym ball. Place the ball close to the wall, lie on your stomach on it, and push your feet against the wall. Lift and lower your upper body, as in hyperextension. Your lower back muscles should not relax. To complicate the exercise, you can place your feet higher. Along with the back muscles, the glutes and the back of the thighs work during this exercise.

Barbell Hardcore

Barbell exercises are as effective for working the back muscles, as dumbbell workouts. However, you should remember about safety precautions. You should start with small weights and gradually increase the load.

Before exercise, you should warm up and stretch your muscles. For this, you can hang down from a pull-up bar, perform squats, and run for a while.

Standing Barbell Row Stand straight and slightly bend your knees. Pull the barbell to your stomach, while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then slowly lower the barbell down. Repeat 10 times for the beginning, and then perform 15 reps.
Deadlift Start by standing straight with a barbell in your hands. Slowly lean your body forward until it is parallel to the floor, while keeping your back straight, and then return to the starting position. Your knees should be bent. You should avoid rounding your lower back.
Good Morning Exercise Stand straight, with the barbell resting on the back of your shoulders. Support it with your hands. Lean forward and slowly return to your starting position, while keeping your back straight. Do not round your lower back. If it happens, you should not lean forward very low.

Outdoor Workouts

You can work your back muscles outdoors, namely, in a sports stadium. All you need is a pull-up bar. In our previous article, we already talked about how to do pull-ups with proper form.

What about Scientific Research?

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) study was conducted among 19 young men aged 18 to 25 years. The test was conducted on 8 popular exercises. Let's see the results:

  1. The most effective exercises for the middle trapezius are: bent-over row, pull-ups on a low crossbar, IYT-lifts, seated cable row;
  2. The lower trapezius is better worked by IYT-lifts and bent-over row;
  3. The latissimus dorsi muscles are worked out during overhand pull-ups and bent-over row;
  4. Infraspinatus muscles are better involved during IYT-lifts and pull-ups on a low crossbar;
  5. The extensors of the back are affected by the barbell bent-over row.

The studies have shown that there is no single exercise that can affect all the back muscles with equal effectiveness. Besides, depending on the genetic characteristics and individual body structures, the same exercises can differently involve muscles at different people. Therefore, you should choose 2–3 exercises that are the best ones for you to develop your back muscles.


  • You can develop your back muscles in the gym, at home, and outdoors as well.
  • You should warm up your body before any workout.
  • If you have scoliosis, you should consult a doctor first, and then begin to exercise.
  • There is no best or worst exercise, because each one has its own peculiarities and target muscle part or muscle group.
Shalukhin Alexander
Shalukhin Alexander
Personal trainer, sports doctor, physical therapist
  • Builds individualized exercise programs and leads personal training sessions;
  • Specializes in sports traumatology and physiotherapy;
  • Provides classic therapeutic and sports massage sessions;
  • Conducts research studies on new exercise and recovery techniques;
  • Chief website editor. Writes articles on sports injuries and sports supplements reviews.


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