No More Backaches: 15 Great Exercises for a Stronger Back

Written by Nicole Davis and Katey Davidson

If you’ve ever had back pain, you know just how frustrating it can be — and you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 60–80% of adults in Western countries deal with lower back pain (1Trusted Source).

And because almost every movement your body makes engages your back in some way, this kind of pain can really put a damper on your activities.

Strengthening your back muscles is one way to help manage or even prevent nonspecific back pain and improve range of motion.

But with the plethora of back exercises out there on the internet, you may be a little overwhelmed — especially if you’re a newbie. We’ve taken out the guesswork for you and put together a list of the 15 best back moves you can do for strength and performance.

Which back muscles are we targeting?

When we talk about your back, which muscles are we targeting? Primary muscles in the back include the:

  • latissimus dorsi (lats), which are in the area below your armpits down the sides of your back
  • rhomboids, which are in the mid-upper back
  • trapezius (traps), which run from your neck to your mid-back
  • erector spinae, which run along your spine

All the exercises below target a combination of these muscles and may also target other upper body muscles in your shoulders, chest, and arms.

The warmup

Start with 5–10 minutes of moderate cardio to get your blood pumping and awaken your muscles.

Next, do a 5-minute dynamic stretching sequence to prep your back for targeted exercises. These exercises are a great starting point.

15 best back exercises

If you’re a beginner, choose 3–5 of the exercises below and do 1 set of each, twice a week. Slowly, over the course of a few weeks, work your way up to 3 sets of each.

If you have experience with strength training, choose 3–5 of these exercises and do 3 sets of each, twice a week (or more).

Aim to hit all 15 of these exercises within a 2-week span to ensure your routine is well-rounded.

1. Resistance band pull-apart

Why it’s on the list: A great exercise to kick off your back workout, the resistance band pull-apart is simple but effective. Choose a resistance band that allows you to complete 1–2 sets of 15–20 reps with good form.

Muscles worked: The main movement of this exercise is scapular retraction, which means you’re pulling your shoulder blades together. This helps target upper back muscles such as the rhomboids, rear deltoids, and trapezius.

Retraction exercises also help improve shoulder health by strengthening stabilizer muscles around your shoulders, such as those that make up your rotator cuff.

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