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Back Exercises for Women: 21 Ways to Get Stronger

Holly Smith

By: Holly Smith, M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

back exercises for women

With back exercises for women, you will be well on your way to toned, strong back muscles, along with improved fitness and health.

Effective back exercises are essential in any workout plan.

And not just because having a strong, toned back looks great!

Having strong back muscles allows you to perform a variety of other exercises and day-to-day activities.

The back is composed of large muscle groups, and by increasing lean body mass you will be increasing your metabolic rate and be able to burn more calories on a daily basis.

The back is made up of several large muscle groups, including the trapezius (traps), latissimus dorsi (lats), teres minor, and rhomboids.

Strengthening these muscles is important for several reasons.

A strong back will give you a better posture when both sitting and walking.

If you think about all of the time we spend sitting, hunched over computers, driving, carrying bags, and lifting during our everyday activities, you can see how important it is to have a strong back and good posture.

Additionally, strong back muscles will protect your middle spine, neck, and lower back.

We've all heard the horror stories of people developing neck, back, and shoulder problems later in life.

Doing back exercises now to strengthen these muscles will help you to avoid these issues down the road.

Get started today with these 21 back exercises for women!

While you're working on your back, try these butt workouts and build a better behind!

Why Are Back Exercises Important?

Strengthening the back is important for muscular balance throughout the body.

If you ignore these muscles you will set yourself up for muscle imbalances and increase your risk of injury.

Like I mentioned earlier, having toned back muscles looks amazing and will allow you to burn more calories through an increase in lean body mass.

Having strong back muscles will add to and enhance the overall fitness goals that you have been working towards.

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What Types of Back Exercises Should Women Do?

There are a number of back exercises for women that are great for strengthening and toning these important muscles.

Being able to use different equipment to perform these exercises will allow you to keep your workouts varied and never get bored.

You should be focusing on the back muscles at least 1-2 days a week.

On a day that you designate to do your back exercises, just choose three exercises from the list below, and aim for three sets of 8-12 reps each.

Warm Up Back Exercises for Women

Cat/Cow

  • Kneel on a mat and position yourself on your hands and knees.
  • Round your back and breathe out through your mouth.
  • Then, arch your back and inhale through your nose.
  • Perform 10 reps.

Toe Touch with Overhead Reach

  • Stand tall with your arms by your waist.
  • Bend down to touch your toes.
  • Go as far down as possible with your knees straight, and then stand up tall, reaching your arms up overhead and bending back slightly.
  • Repeat slowly, giving your back time to stretch and get warm.

Main Set — Choose Three

You can mix and match these exercises so that you never have to do the same workout.

Most of these back exercises can be completed with machines, free weights, elastic bands, and body weight so that the workouts never get monotonous.

Bent-Over Dumbbell/Barbell Rows

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs.
  • Hinge forward from your hips at least 45 degrees and as much as 90 degrees.
  • Draw your elbows by your ribs as you pull the weights to the side of your lower abdomen.
  • Focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together.

Single Arm Dumbbell Rows with Bench for Support

  • Stand with your left side facing a workout bench.
  • Hold a dumbbell in the right hand.
  • Place your left hand and left knee on the bench and bend forward until your back is about parallel to the floor.
  • Let the right arm hang toward the floor and then pull the arm up, drawing the right arm next to your trunk and squeezing your shoulder blade back.
  • Release to a straight arm and repeat for the desired reps.

Good Mornings

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands behind your head.
  • Inhale and hinge forwards from your hips, not your waist, allowing a slight bend in your knees but keeping your back flat.
  • Lean forwards until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings then exhale and reverse the move to stand up straight.

Bent-Over Fly

  • Sit on the edge of a workout bench with your feet on the floor in front of you.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging down towards the floor.
  • Bend over from your hips to move your chest toward your thighs at about a 45-degree angle.
  • Open your arms out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together. This will work the rhomboids and traps.
  • Keep your elbows slightly bent so that you are feeling the tension in the back muscles and not the shoulder muscles.
  • Bring the arms back down for one rep.

Lat Pull Downs

  • Sit at the lat pulldown machine and grab the bar with both hands using an overhand grip.
  • Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Place your knees under the pad to secure your upper body.
  • While maintaining a neutral spine draw your shoulder blades down and together.
  • Keep your chest lifted throughout the movement.
  • Your elbows should come down to the sides.
  • Pause at the bottom as you feel the squeeze through your lats.
  • Slowly return to the start position, feeling for a full stretch through the back muscles

Learn how to strengthen back muscles at home with these targeted exercises and stretches!

Bent Over Barbell Rows — Underhand

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hold a barbell in front of your thighs with palms facing forward.
  • Hinge forward from your hips at least 45 degrees and as much as 90 degrees.
  • Draw your elbows up to your ribs as you pull the bar up towards your lower ribs/upper abdomen.
  • Focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together.
  • By holding the bar in an underhand position you will be focusing more on your lats.

Bent Over Barbell Rows — Overhand

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hold a barbell in front of your thighs with palms facing back.
  • Hinge forward from your hips at least 45 degrees and as much as 90 degrees.
  • Draw your elbows by your ribs as you pull the bar up to your lower ribs/upper abdomen.
  • Focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together.
  • By holding the bar in an overhand position you will be focusing more on your traps and rhomboids.

Seated Rows with Machine

  • Attach a V-handle to the low pulley row machine, and sit holding it with your palms facing inward, arms extended.
  • Place your feet on the platform and sit up tall with your knees slightly bent and your shoulders back.
  • Pull your elbows back to pull the handle in toward your abdomen, pausing a moment.
  • Slowly return to the start.

Behind the Head Band Pulls

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold an exercise band above your head with your arms stretched out to make a “V” shape.
  • Slowly pull the band apart as you pull your shoulder blades together, allowing the band to come down to shoulder height with the band behind your head.
  • Release tension and return to the starting position.

Band Pull Aparts

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping a slight bend in the knees.
  • With straight arms, hold an exercise band in front of you with your hands slightly lower than your shoulders.
  • Open your arms out to the sides, focusing on the shoulder blades moving together as you exhale. Inhale as you slowly return your arms back to starting position.
  • Try to engage your abs while you do this to avoid arching your back.

Romanian Deadlifts

  • Holding a barbell (or two dumbbells at your side), keep your arms straight and knees slightly bent.
  • Slowly bend at your hips (not your waist)  and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back.
  • Looking forward, not at the ground, will help you avoid rounding your back.
  • Keep the weights close to your legs.
  • Squeeze your glutes to slowly pull yourself up.
  • Be sure not to round your spine during this move.

Supermans

  • This is a great upper and lower back exercise for women, and will also work the glutes as well.
  • Lie flat on your stomach on a mat, feet hip-width apart and arms extended past your head, and palms facing each other.
  • Squeeze your glutes and lift your legs and chest off the ground while reaching your arms overhead.
  • Pause, then slowly lower back to the ground.

Learn how to strengthen your back muscles at home with YTWs!

Back Exercises for Cool Downs

Seated Back Twists

  • Sit on a mat and extend both legs in front of you.
  • Bend your right knee and cross it over the left thigh.
  • Take your left elbow and place it on the outside of your right knee, then place your right hand on the floor behind you, looking over your right shoulder.
  • Hold and inhale deeply for 15 to 30 seconds, then release.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Mermaid Stretch

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent underneath you to your left.
  • With your left hand, hold on to your ankles.
  • Raise your right arm and inhale.
  • Extend and reach that arm over your head, and exhale as you reach to the left.
  • You should feel the stretch along the right side of your torso.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

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Back Exercise Tips and Tricks

Focus on the Back

Whenever you are performing a back exercise, make sure you are focusing on engaging the back muscles.

Try to avoid using your arms or shoulders to make the exercise “easier.”

This will only defeat the purpose of the movement.

If you cannot complete the full number of reps, then move down in weight rather than compromising form.

Squeeze the Back Muscles

At the end of a movement, take a second to hold your muscles in a contracted state.

For example, at the end of the seated row, make sure you are squeezing your rhomboids together as your shoulder blades come together.

Start Light

For exercises that utilize weight, start at the lighter end until you perfect your form.

You will not gain strength in the back by using heavier weights if your form is not correct.

Plus, this will put you at risk for injury.

Go Slow

This kind of goes along with starting with light weights.

Perform your back exercises slowly, concentrating on form.

Rushing through the movements is another good way to injure yourself.

Incorporate Variety

Choosing from a variety of different back exercises will work the back at different angles and allow you to work on each muscle group.

Plus, variety will help to avoid your workouts becoming boring or repetitive.

Warm-Up and Cool Down

As with any workout routine, back exercises for women should include a warm-up and cool down.

The warm-up will get the blood flowing to your back muscles and better prepared for a productive workout.

Additionally, this will help to avoid injury.

A good cool down and stretch will help your muscles recover after a hard workout and prepare you for your next session.

Put Your Back Into It

By incorporating these back exercises for women into your fitness routine, you will be well on your way to toned, strong back muscles, along with improved fitness and health.

Strong back muscles will give you improved posture and the ability to lift and carry objects while protecting your spine and low back.

Adding variety through changing up your back exercises and utilizing different equipment will keep your workouts fresh so that you never become bored with your routine.

So what are you waiting for?

Try out some of these great back exercises for women today and continue on your road to improved fitness!

Holly Smith
Holly Smith

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on back exercises for women.

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