Strength training: 5 of the best exercises for a stronger back

Strength training: 5 of the best exercises for a stronger back

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Pull your way to better posture, less back pain and a stronger upper body with these strength training moves. 

When your back is sore from hunching over a desk, you might think that putting it under load is the last thing you should be doing. But strengthening your back is actually the best place to start if you want to improve the bad posture and reduce the pain that comes from sitting at your computer all day. 

When we talk about our back, we are referring to the latissimus dorsi (or lats, the muscles on the outer sides of the back) the rear delts (the back of the shoulders), the rhomboids (the middle of the upper back) and the trapezius (running from the neck to the mid back). 

According to researchers, exercise increases blood flow to the lower back area, which may reduce stiffness and speed up the healing process. Back can also be one of the most enjoyable areas of your body to train, whether you’re at the gym or still working out from home

While pushing movements trains the chest, we use pulling actions to engage of the muscles in the back. 

Remember that for strengthening we should be working with low reps and high weight, and for muscle building we should be working in the hypertrophy range of eight-12 reps. 

The best exercises you can do for a stronger back


As well as your hamstrings and glutes, this compound exercise involves significant activity in the upper body. In the deadlift, you should be engaging between your shoulder blades to work the upper back as well as recruiting the lower back muscles as you pull the bar up off the floor.

Bent over rows

These are another compound moves that works almost all of the muscles in the upper body, including the lats, delts and traps. 

1. To perform a standard bent over row, hold a barbell in both hands or dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand.

2. Hinge at the hips and send the bum backwards so your chest is almost parallel to the floor. 

3. Maintaining a straight back and neck, engage through the back and pull the weights up towards your chest so that your arms skim the side of your body. 

4. Squeeze at the top, then lower to the starting position. 

Woman peforming bent over rows
Bent over rows are a great back building exericse when strength training.

Single arm rows

Rows can also be performed as a single arm movement which will further engage the core as you stabilise. 

1. To do this, place a bench or chair to the right side of you and rest your right knee and palm on the surface.

 2. Take the left leg into a wider stance and holding the dumbbell in your left hand, row as before.

Lat pull downs

Typically performed on the pull down machine in gyms, these can be done at home with a resistance band. Pulling the band from a secure surface above you as you keep the shoulders down and back will work the lats (the muscles on the outer sides of the back).

Pull ups

The “ultimate” strength exercise for your back, according to fitness trainer Alice Miller. These require a lot of strength through the entire back as well as your biceps and wrists, so if you’re not quite there then use a resistance band to help. 

1. Loop it around the bar and place the foot in the bottom of the band to support you. 

2. Holding the bar, pull the shoulders back, tuck the ribs under and begin to pull up through the lats while squeezing the middle of the shoulder blades. 

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Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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