Back Exercise

Everyone knows of at least one back exercise. Our back is so very important. One of the biggest complaints I hear from my personal training clients is a bad back! They, and maybe you, are very aware of how a bad back can ruin almost anything at anytime.

How can we strengthen the back (also known as latissimus dorsi or lats) totally, but safely? Use the following back exercises to guide you into a safe back strength training routine.

What’s Your Favorite Back Exercise?

Shrugs

Start- Stand with your feet under your hips and knees slightly bent. Hold a free weight in each hand, palms facing your sides.

Go For It- Keep your arms relaxed and elbows extended. Pull your shoulders up to your ears. Pause for one second and lower back to start.

Tips and Techniques-

– Exhale as you bring shoulders to the ears. Inhale as you lower back to start.

– You should feel this back exercise in the trapezius. That muscle is located at the bottom of the neck.

– The actual motion is sort of like you are shrugging to someone as you say, “I dunno!”

Bent Over Row

Start- Stand with your feet under your hips and knees slightly bent. Hold a free weight in each hand, palms facing each other, arms relaxed. Bend forward from your hips and keep your back as flat as possible. Your head and neck are in line with your spine.

Go For It- As you pull the free weights up, bend your elbows and keep them close to your sides. Lift the elbows up to the sky. Pause for one second and lower back to start.

Tips and Techniques-

– Exhale as you bend the elbows and lift them to the sky. Inhale as you lower back to start.

– You should feel this back exercise in the lats. The lats are located along both sides of the spine.

– It is very important to keep your elbows close to your sides.

– Sometimes this exercise is easier to execute when you use a straight bar.

Deadlift

Start- Stand with your feet under your hips and knees slightly bent. Hold a free weight in each hand, palms facing your shins. Bend forward from your hips and keep your back as flat as possible. Look directly at the floor so your neck is in aligned with your spine.

Go For It- Keep your arms relaxed and elbows extended. Very slowly lift your upper body to a standing position. Pause for one second and lower back down to start.

Tips and Techniques-

– Exhale as your lift the upper body to standing. Inhale as you lower back to start.

– You should feel this back exercise in the lower back and possibly the back of the thighs.

– It is important to keep your back flat and lift and lower slowly.

– You are only moving and pivoting from your hips. Everything else is stabilized.

Back Extensions

Start- Begin by leaning on either a bench or a stability ball. Allow your upper body to relax over the top part of the bench or ball. Your feet are at the 4 and 8 o’clock position.

Go For It- Place your hands where they are most comfortable. Slowly begin to lift your upper body by extending from your lower back and hips. Pause for one second at the top (as shown in the above picture) and then relax back to start.

Tips and Techniques-

– Exhale as you lift the upper body. Inhale as you lower back to start.

– Try to keep your back as flat or straight as possible.

– Imagine your lower back muscles pulling your entire upper body up.

Reverse Fly

Start- Allow the upper body to lay on a stability ball. Place your feet at the 4 and 8 o’clock position. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other.

Go For It- Begin to pull the arms out and up. You want to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Try to pause slightly at the top before lowering back to start.

Tips and Techniques-

– Exhale as you bring the arms up. Inhale as you lower back to start.

– You should feel this back exercise in the middle to upper back. If you are squeezing those shoulder blades together, you should feel it in that general area.

– The motion is sort of like a reverse bear hug. It’s the exact opposite of the ball chest fly.


Strong back muscles start with excellent back exercises. Each back exercise should be safe and effective. It should also build your back to become a strong support for your body.

The back stabilizes your spine and creates strength in your powerhouse! Anyone that has played athletics is well aware that almost every movement starts at the core. A strong and healthy back supports basic functions. A great way to erase pain in your back, is you strengthen is safely. Switch your back exercise regularly.

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Comments

  1. SANDRA says:

    MY BACK HURTS ALL THE TIME,SOME DAY WORSE THEN OTHERS.I FEEL STIFF.PLEASE HELP ME

    • Hi, Sandra.

      Unfortunately not much I can do from cyber-space. If you’re in pain, a doctor is your best answer. They can see where you are, and what you need to do to release the pain safely.

  2. I have reL bad ortho with compression fractors I was told to.do strength exercises but don’t bend over and not to pick up anything? How does this work under the circumstance?

    • Hi, Terry.

      Your best bet is to talk with your doctor about this. Anytime there is an injury involved… you want to be sure you are doing the most effective movements possible.

  3. Jenna Gravy says:

    I have no injury or pain just wanted to let you know I started searching through this site for arm strength exercises (as a woman) … my arms already look awesome from the dairy work I’ve been doing (and function quite well in opening jars etc) but I have quit that job now and want to keep them looking great and being useful :) Also I am about to get into a ski resort job and not looking at snowboarding professionally or anything but want my quads to be functional for weekend runs on the mount. I just keep finding awesome tips and new exercises like these back exercises that I am stoked on! I have very active parents and older neighbours always complaining about their backs and shoulders/neck but never really knew the practical way towards prevention. Somehow I assumed it was yoga-like stretches but now I know it is more than that. Thanks so much!!! I don’t have a specific question but if you want to throw in some type of advice or favourite workouts feel free to reply to this post.

    • Hi, Jenna.

      Thanks for the compliments! My best advice is that functional movements are always preferred. So for working those quads.. do exercises/movements that mimic what you’ll be doing while skiing. This is one of the reasons you were so strong at the dairy job… you weren’t “working out” per se… but instead doing functional movements (lifting things, squatting down to pick things up, sitting, standing, etc).

      So my advice is to follow a routine that includes as many real-life movements as you can :)

  4. Lousantiag says:

    I have had a bad back since I was thrown across a room by a student with aspergers. I can’t stand for long periods of time and when I am sitting and then stand I am in tremendous pain. Before this I use to walk 3 miles at least 3 times a week now If I awl a block my legs get numb and I feel like they will give way. I started the exercise today and it actually felt good. I hope this will help me

    • Glad to hear it felt good to walk :) Remember that with any injury, it’s best to work with your local doctor to see what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Just take it easy and work your way back into being more active. Congrats on taking the first steps though!!

  5. I am just getting ready to start your plan and was wondering what weights you should use -and how many reps of each exercise for a woman. Thanks.

    • Hi Msgivens.

      The amount of weight you should use will vary per person. I tend to start people out doing 3 sets of 12 reps per exercise. So you’ll want to pick a weight size that you can do 12 reps with. It should not be easy as pie, but definitely not so hard that you have bad form.

  6. Jreederinc says:

    not sure about the form on the deadlift. keepimg the head down eyes on the floor ususllu leads to poor form with back. it causes a lack of or difficulty with balance as well. deadlifts are the same as teaching a squat as far as the form. i teach both with head up not down. i will research more to be clear on this one bc no one has all the answers. regardless you may want to update the deadlift where you discuss the movement. you said that only the hips move/pivot. while the knees (knee flexion and extension) have more movement than the hips. the hips are no more primary than the knees even though its the lower back thats being targeted. the quads are an agonist just as the back can be for either squat ot deadlift.

  7. cristina says:

    i like all of them. they seem fine to me, and can do them without hurting myself

  8. MeghanLily says:

    Love all of these I do them all in a circuit with jump rope

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