The muscles in your back are responsible for some of the most important movements you’ll make throughout the day, including bending, twisting, and lifting. These back muscles will also help you maintain your posture when sitting or standing upright. Additionally, since the back muscles are positioned at the top of your body, they provide protection to your spinal cord and the delicate nerves that run through it.
Deadlifts engage all of your back muscles, helping you work out your entire back with one exercise. Deadlifts are a compound movement, meaning that they engage multiple muscle groups at once. To perform a deadlift, stand in front of a barbell on the floor and grab it with an overhand grip so that your hands are about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your lower back slightly arched and knees slightly bent, lift up by straightening your legs and pulling yourself up by extending through your hips until you’re standing upright. Pause for two seconds before slowly lowering yourself back down to complete one rep.
2) Kettle-bell swings
Kettle-bell swings are an amazing exercise for your posterior chain, including your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. They’re also a fantastic conditioning tool for sports like soccer or football. The primary benefit of kettlebell swings is that they require you to move in every direction from standing up straight. Because of their versatility and their ability to improve mobility while developing strength at a variety of joints, they’re one of my favorite exercises. Here’s how to do them: Start with two kettlebells on either side of your feet. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and squat down slightly so that your knees track over your toes. Grab onto both handles and lift them off the ground by extending your hips and knees. Once you’ve locked out your hips, swing both kettlebells between your legs by bending at your waist until they pass behind you; then reverse directions by forcefully hinging at your hips until you return to standing position. Repeat these movements as quickly as possible without sacrificing form.
3) Good mornings
This exercise targets your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. While holding a barbell across your shoulders in a standing position, step back with one leg until you feel a stretch on that side of your body. Your torso should be parallel to ground throughout. Bend forward at waist until you reach 90 degrees. Return slowly and repeat for 2 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
4) Barbell rows
Barbell rows are excellent for strengthening your middle back muscles. You can perform them at home with a barbell and weight plates, or at a gym using machines designed for barbell rows. To do them, grab a barbell and place it on your thighs while sitting on an exercise bench. Lean forward so that you’re in an overhand position—your torso should be parallel to the floor—and grip the bar with both hands about shoulder-width apart. Next, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull upward on the bar until it reaches your chest; then slowly lower it back down to starting position. This is one repetition. Complete three sets of eight repetitions each day, resting two minutes between sets.
5) Pull ups
The pull-up is one of the most effective exercises you can do for building your back. If you’re unable to do a single pull-up, simply place your knees on an elevated surface (like a chair) and try again. If that’s too easy, place your feet on an elevated surface as well. With enough time and practice, you should be able to perform at least one pull-up!
Planks are one of the best exercises to strengthen your core and improve your posture. Here’s how to do them. Make sure that you hold yourself in a straight line, while avoiding putting too much pressure on your neck. If you feel any pain in your back or neck, stop immediately. Try holding it for as long as possible, working up to 30 seconds at a time.
7) Medicine ball twists
Get on all fours, knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Curl head and shoulders up, keeping core tight. Without moving torso, lift right arm off floor and twist body toward left leg until palm touches outside of thigh; immediately return to starting position. Continue for 30 seconds; switch sides and repeat.
8) Single leg deadlifts
Single leg deadlifts are just like regular deadlifts, but with one key difference: only one leg comes in contact with ground. This is a great way to target your glutes and hamstrings on that side of your body. To perform, stand facing away from a barbell with feet about shoulder-width apart, weight resting on left foot. Bend down and grasp barbell with left hand and keep your back straight throughout entire movement.
9) Chin ups
Chin ups are a great way to strengthen your upper back. With your hands positioned just outside of shoulder width apart, grip an overhead bar and pull yourself up until your chin reaches above it. Lower yourself down slowly until you feel a mild stretch in your back muscles. Try doing three sets of 8-12 repetitions, with 30 seconds rest between each set. This can be a strenuous exercise so don’t overdo it at first—you may need to start off with a few and build from there.
10) Cable lat pull downs
The cable lat pulldown is a more challenging variation of lat pulldowns and is one of my personal favorites. In order to perform it, grab a V-bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart, stand straight and move it in front of you at eye level.
Once there, squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly let them drop while you bring down as far as possible without letting your arms bend forward. Finally, return back up until your arms are fully extended again.