Back Attack: How to Properly Train your Back

A strong back is the foundation of an excellent physique. However, back exercises are some of the most neglected workouts around, as a lot of men and women tend to focus on their “mirror muscles”. Your trapezius, terres major, latissimus dorsi and erector spinae all play vital parts in keeping you upright and strong, and need just as much attention as arms, legs or core.

Even if you aren’t looking to build a massive brick-wall back, training your back muscles is vital for maintaining correct posture, preventing lower back pain, and gaining a more balanced overall physique. Below are some of our top back exercises for women and men looking to improve their upper and lower back strength.

Best Back Exercises

Barbell Deadlift

Proper form is always important, but back exercises are especially vital to get right so you don’t damage your spine. The deadlift is a perfect example of a lower back exercise that’s super effective with correct form, but potentially dangerous if done wrong.

  • Stand with your mid-foot under the bar, without your shins touching it. Your feet should be at hip width, toes out at 15°.
  • Grab the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be hanging just outside your legs.
  • Bend your knees until your shins touch the bar.
  • Lift your chest and straighten your back, but don’t move the bar or drop your hips. Make sure your back is neutral and not rounded or arched, and don’t squeeze your shoulder blades.
  • Take a breath, hold it and stand up until you’ve locked your hips and knees, keeping the bar against your legs.
  • Slowly return the bar to the floor, bending from the hips first and legs after the bar passes your knees. Don’t bounce the weight to make your next rep easier; that defeats the purpose!

Barbell Row

The upper back companion to the deadlift, the Barbell Row has a lot of the same principles but targets some different muscles.

  • Stand with your mid-foot beneath the bar, not close enough to touch your shins. Take a medium stance with your toes pointing outward.
  • Use a medium grip width to grab the bar (narrower than a bench press, wider than a deadlift).
  • Bend your knees, keeping them back so the bar won’t hit them.
  • Lift your chest and straighten your back. As with the deadlift, don’t move the bar, drop your hips, or squeeze your shoulder blades.
  • Squeeze your armpits to lock your chest. Take and hold a breath and pull the bar against your lower chest.
  • Slowly return the bar to the floor.

Pullup

A lot of people do this classic back exercise the wrong way, cheating themselves out of their gains. Here’s how to do a pullup right.

  • Grab the bar shoulder-width apart, palms down.
  • Bend your knees and hang from the bar with straight arms.
  • Pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. Keep your elbows pointed down rather than flaring out.
  • Lower until you’re hanging straight again. Breathe and repeat.

Hyperextension

This is one of the best lower back strengthening exercises, and it also targets your glutes and hamstrings.

  • Lie facedown on the hyperextension bench. Tuck your ankles under the footpads.
  • Straighten your body and cross your arms in front of you.
  • From this starting position, inhale and slowly bend forward at the waist while keeping your back straight.
  • Stop when you can’t go further without your back rounding, and inhale again as you return to the starting position.