Just because we do not often see our back in the mirror, does not mean it is not important. Back is one of the most crucial parts of the human anatomy. It connects the neck, hips and limbs and provides a fundamental support to many body functions. While we love smashing our glutes and legs at the gym, we often neglect about the upper half of our backside.

Women have smaller muscle fibers in the upper body.  

While our lower body strength is comparable to men, we generally have about half the strength men have in our upper body due to the significantly smaller muscle fibres we have in our upper body.

Kelsey Wells: " There are 3.5 years between these photos. 3.5 years of doing nothing extraordinary, nothing drastic, and NOTHING perfect." Consistency is the key!

Yes, back exercises give us a strong and sexy back, but that is not all – a strong back is also hugely beneficial to our health in various ways. Here are the reasons why you should be doing back exercises for more than just a backless dress:

1.      Fixes a slouchy posture

Back muscles play a major role in keeping our body upright and maintaining proper posture. An underdeveloped back can cause shoulders to rotate internally which can lead to neck and shoulder pain. If you are suffering from any neck and shoulder pain, here are the 15 yoga poses that can help relieve the strain.

2.      Corrects muscle imbalance

Remember, muscle balance is required between opposing muscles to keep the bones centred while we move. Even if you have a steel-hard six-pack, not training your back to keep up with the abs muscles can possibly cause problems to the disc in your lower spine.

3.      Prevents back pain during pregnancy

Back pain is a universal problem most pregnant women experience, especially after passing the first trimester. This can be prevented by doing back exercises to increase your flexibility and strengthen your back muscles.

4.      Don’t even get me started on the bra bulge…

Most women of every shape and size have that. It peeks out through a sleeveless top and shows through a tight shirt. It makes a cute outfit look bad and causes discomfort, and the list goes on. Back exercises can banish the bra bulge and tighten the muscles in that area.

5.      Gives you an hourglass figure

Crunches will NOT give you a tiny waist. However, you can create an illusion of a tiny waist by growing your lats – also known as V-taper. Other than that, you also need to incorporate glute exercises into your workout to achieve that hourglass curve on the waist. Are you still squatting for a rounder butt? Try these effective glute-focused exercises instead.

6.      Gets you stronger overall

A strong back provides a solid base for stabilization while you are performing heavy lifting. If you are training hard but still hitting the lifting plateau (whatever exercise it is), that might be an indication of lacking a strong back.

7.      Increases your metabolic rate

As we gain more muscles, our body metabolic rate increases because we need to burn more calories to maintain those muscles. (YUP, MORE FOOD!) Good thing is, our back is one of the easiest parts of the body to put on muscles (the other one being legs). Well, that does not mean it is easy at all. So, read on…

Back muscle anatomy:

A brief understanding of your back muscles anatomy will help a lot with the mind-muscle connection as you will have an idea of what muscles are being used and engage them more during each different exercise.

To strengthen your back, all kinds of exercises are equally important – including heavy compound exercises, isolation exercises and even warm-up. Here are some of the main back exercises you need to do:

Pull ups

Pull ups are a fundamental compound exercise in gaining strength. It targets multiple muscle groups in the upper back, mainly on the lats and traps. Pull-up has so many variations that anyone at any fitness level can practice it. If you are not able to do an unassisted pull up, resistance band is a good tool to help you progress towards your first unassisted pull up.

Chin ups

Chin ups have similar movements as pull ups that work your lats and traps, but they are done with an underhand grip – palms facing you. Chin ups also have more contraction in the biceps which makes them a great bicep exercise. Similar to pull ups, there are a few progression exercises for chin ups including band assisted chin ups, jumping chin ups, negative chin ups and a dead hang.

Wide-grip pull ups

Wide-grip pull ups are performed with your hands placed on the bar a few inches outside the width of your shoulders. It is a challenging exercise because it activates the lats more than a regular pull up and recruits less biceps. Other than the progression exercises mentioned above, it can also be improved through supplementary exercises like wide-grip lat pulldown and one-arm dumbbell row.

Lat pulldown

Lat pulldown is a great back exercise that hits several muscle groups effectively. It targets heavily on lats and also uses rhomboids, biceps and triceps as stabilizing muscles. Lat pulldown may seem like a simple exercise but it can be pretty tricky to get the right form. Here are some tips on how to perform a lat pulldown properly:

1.      Use a wider grip for a higher lats engagement.

2.      Slightly lean back but do not hyper-extend the back.

3.      Avoid using momentum – this reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and increases the chance of injury. Reduce the weight if you cannot pull down without swinging.

4.      Concentrate on squeezing your scapular (shoulder blades) together.

5.      Develop a better mind muscle connection by using your elbows to drive the pull.

Straight-arm lat pulldown

Straight-arm lat pulldown is an isolation exercise that works the back muscles heavily without emphasizing much on other muscle groups.

To perform a straight-arm pulldown, stand in front of the machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees soft (do not lock your knees) and slightly bend your torso forward. You can put one foot in front of another for stability. With double overhand grip, pull the bar down to your thighs with your arms straight and elbows slightly flexed as you breathe out. Go back to the starting position in a controlled manner while breathing in. Tips:

1.      Keeping your elbow angle constant can help minimize arm muscles involvement.

2.      Lean forward further to increase the range of motion.

Bent-over barbell row

Bent-over barbell row is a back exercise with compound movements that target a variety of muscles including the lats, rhomboids, delts and traps. Here are a few tips on how to perform a barbell row effectively:

1.      Start with a shoulder-width stance, make sure your knees don’t go past the toes. You can do that by keeping your shins perpendicular to the floor.

2.      Bend forward so that your torso is almost horizontal

3.      Keep your spine neutral by embracing your core/abs. Rounding or over-arching your back may cause serious lower back injury.

4.      Bend your knees slightly and put your weight on the heels to avoid falling forward.

Pendlay row

Pendlay Row is very similar to bent-over barbell row except the bar has to return to the floor on every rep of Pendlay Row. Starting with your torso parallel to the floor, pull the weight to your lower chest. Try to avoid momentum from the hip as you can. Warm up with a lightweight and work your way up.

One-arm dumbbell row

One-arm dumbbell rows offer a bigger range of motion compared to barbell rows. To do it, start from placing your left palm and left knee on a flat bench so that your body is almost parallel to the bench. With a dumbbell in another hand, pull it towards your hip and lower it to the starting position along the same path. Complete your set and switch side. A few things to take notice while doing dumbbell rows:

1.      Neutral spine allows your back muscles to work – do this by engaging your core.

2.      Keep your elbow close to your body throughout the movement.

3.      Pull the weight towards your hip. This is worth mentioning twice – do not pull towards your chest or waist.

4.      You can slightly rotate your torso to retract your scapular (imagine moving your shoulder blade towards the spine).

TRX row/Ring row

TRX row and ring row mainly work the arms and upper back muscles but also require some core strength to keep the body aligned. They are great back exercises for beginners as the difficulty level can be easily adjusted by changing the angle of your body. To perform a TRX row or ring row properly, make sure you:

1.      Keep your head, spine and hips aligned throughout the movement – you can do it by flexing your abs and glutes.

2.      Drive your elbows back while you pull the rings to your lower chest – try to squeeze your shoulder blades together.

3.      Return to straight arm position in a slow controlled manner before the next rep.

4.      Increase the difficulty by going more parallel to the floor.

Seated cable row

Seated cable row is a compound exercise that emphasizes on a handful of back muscles including the traps, lats, the erector spinae, delts and even the biceps. To do it correctly, make sure that you:

1.      Keep your legs slightly bent and your back upright.

2.      Squeeze your shoulder blades as you pull the bar towards your midsection.

3.      Avoid using momentum to swing your torso back and forth.

Wide-grip cable row

In comparison with the normal-grip cable row, wide-grip cable row uses less lats and focuses more on other muscles on the inner-back like traps and rhomboids. Weight used for the wide-grip cable row is usually lower than the normal-grip.


Deadlift is a popular back exercise that has benefits on tons of muscle groups including glutes, quads, hamstrings and lower back. Although everyone might know how to perform a deadlift, not a lot know how to execute it in a proper form. Proper form in deadlift is crucial, a crappy form can put your spine at a great risk. A good deadlift form will include:

1.      A hip-width stance with an overhand grip outside your legs.

2.      A neutral spine throughout the movement – no rounding or arching.

3.      Lats flexed and elbow locked.

4.      The bar should stay close to your legs throughout the motion.

5.      At the top of the deadlift, do not arch or lean back. Keep your core and glutes flexed instead.

6.      After setting up, inhale and hold your breath while you lift the bar until it is back on the floor. Exhale then repeat.

Good morning

If you want to strengthen your posterior chain, you should be doing good mornings. Starting from a squat stance (shoulder-width), rack the bar across your shoulder and keep your back tight by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hinge your hips towards the wall behind you while keeping your shoulder blades pinched together. Extend your hips back to the starting position along the same path.

1.      Look up and arch your back slightly.

2.      Bend your knees a little so your torso can go lower.

3.      The optimal rep range for good mornings is relatively high, so you want to do it with a weight you are comfortable with.

4.      Practice the movement with a pipe or a resistance band by stepping on the band and put it around your neck. 

Recent Posts

Let's keep in touch

Get 10% off your order and receive latest updates.