We focus on abdominal training through crunches and planks, putting the majority of our effort into that area. While abdominal training is beneficial and crucial, we need to put just as much effort into training the back body.
Lower back, as well as upper back exercises, will increase your overall core strength, help to eliminate back pain, as well as aid in postural correction.
While your core helps to hold you upright, one of the biggest benefits of back exercises is the targeted work in the muscle systems that help to stabilize your spine.
These muscles also help to provide increased range of motion as well as flexibility so your body can do simple things like rotate.
Being able to have freedom of movement as well as a strong core, will keep injury free so you can continue to see gains from all of your hard work in your fitness program.
8 Best Back Exercises to Strengthen Muscles and Prevent Injury
1. Barbell Deadlift
This powerful hinge movement is one of the most effective exercises in increasing low back strength. In addition to getting your posterior chain muscles stronger to support your low back (your glutes and hamstrings primarily), it is also an amazing abdominal strengthener as well as shoulder stabilizer exercise.
- Keep your feet narrow with your knees soft, drawing the barbell down the front of your body until you can make a triangle with your arms, spine, and legs, then stand back up.
- Pro Tip: core engagement is huge with a barbell deadlift to keep your hinge strong as well as to keep the work out of your lower back.
The pull-up offers not only great upper back strengthening, but also a lot of shoulder stabilization as well as core work. It is definitely an exercise that gets neglected because of how difficult it can be, but it is essential for increasing upper back strength.
- Have a shoulder width distance, overhand grip on the bar, and use your upper back to pull your chin up to the bar.
- Trainer Tip: Do not let the difficulty intimidate you. Progress the exercise. Start with band assisted kipping pull-ups, move to kipping pull-ups and work your way up to the standard pull-up.
3. Dumbbell Single Arm Row
Dumbbell single arm rows are an effective upper back exercise because it recruits your postural muscles, opens up your chest, and utilizes your core. The additional benefit of this back exercise is the core stabilization it takes to do the exercise correctly.
- Stand with your feet hip width distance apart, hinge forward from the hips and with the palms facing inward, bend one elbow at a time to draw the weight up to your hip. Extend the arm straight and repeat on the other side.
4. Lat Pull Downs
The development of your lat muscles is crucial for the development of your back as a whole. These muscles are some of the largest on your back, forming a large V shape and they are responsible for connecting your back to your arms. Not only do your lats stabilize your spine, but they also support strong postures, and mobility through the shoulders and arms.
- Sit or kneel, drawing engagement through your core, and reach above you to pull the bar or rope down to your collar bone by packing your shoulders in their sockets and pulling them closer together.
5. Kettlebell swings
While this dynamic and ballistic exercise predominately focuses on strengthening your lower back through the development of the muscles that help stabilize your spine, it also an effective full body exercise.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width distance and the kettlebell slightly in front of you on the ground. Bend your knees, engage your core, and like you are hiking a football, draw the bell between your legs and behind you. As you stand, bring the bell up with you to shoulder height, then swing it back between your legs.
- Trainer Tip: If you can comfortably hold the kettlebell or dumbbell with straight arms in front of your chest, you can go heavier.
6. Glute bridge
The versatility of this mat exercise is what makes it one of the best back exercises to develop lower back strength. Its focus on the development on the glutes and hamstrings, as well as its use of core strength makes it a key exercise to help combat low back pain.
- Lay down and bend your knees, placing your feet hip width distance and parallel on to your mat. Engage your glutes and core to lift your hips straight up and lower straight back down.
- Trainer Tip: You should not feel your low back working from a place of pain during a glute bridge. If you do, engage your core more and do not bring your hips down as low.
7. Chest press
Any upper back exercise will prove beneficial in developing the strength in your back as a whole because it will directly impact your posture and shoulder stabilization. Chest press will work to strengthen the muscles in your upper back in between your shoulder blades while also opening and stretching the muscles in your chest.
- Lay down on a mat or a bench with weights in your hands. Engage your core and take the weights up to the ceiling with your palms facing away from you. Bend your elbows to a 45-degree angle until the weights are in alignment with your shoulders and push the weights back up to the ceiling.
8. Arnold press
This upper back exercise is one of my favorite back exercises because of the rotational component. Not only is it increasing the strength of your postural muscles so you can stand up straighter and taller, the additional rotational component will help to target all of your deltoid muscles while also challenging your stabilizing back muscles.
- Standing up tall with your feet hip width distance apart and parallel, keep your knees soft and bring your weights with your palms facing inward to your shoulders. As you push the weights overhead, rotate your palms to face away from you and as the weights draw back down to your shoulders, rotate your palms to face inward again.
While there is plethora of back exercises that will help strengthen your upper as well as lower back, the purpose of incorporating those exercises is to strengthen your back as a component of your core.