Common and Effective Back Exercises

The back exercises described here are designed to develop and tone all of the muscles in your back and in the process will also utilize various other muscles.

Various hand grips and placements - ie. wide grip vs. narrow grip, etc can actually have a large effect on different muscles even though the exercises seem basically the same. So be sure to throw in the variations and not stick with just one version.

Because the target muscles are in the back, technique is extremely important to avoid injury.

For more back exercises click here to go to the main exercise index.

Straight Arm Pulldowns

Your latissimus dorsi muscles (called "lats") are the big "V" shaped muscles that sweep from your underarms down across your back. They pull your arms downward against your sides.

Grasp the overhead pulley bar slightly wider than shoulder width and keeping your arms straight, pull down until the bar is against your hips.

This is not only one of the most effective back exercises, but you'll notice that your abs are working hard to stabilize while you're doing this exercise.

Lat Pulldowns

With a wide grip on the overhead pulley bar, pull the bar straight down to near your collarbone.

Don't lean backwards. Instead, simply tilt your head backwards far enough for the bar to clear your chin.

These back exercises are done exactly like chin-ups except the bar comes down instead of your body going up.

This is very good for developing your lats.

Pull Ups

Pull ups are another great exercise for strengthening the lats. Your lats are used in all pulling movements in sports.

Grasp the chin up bar with a forward grip and pull yourself up until your chin touches the bar.

If you can't do at least 8 - 10 regular pullups, then try "modified" pull ups by simply hanging from a low bar (about 3-4 feet from the floor) with your feet on the floor in front of you, and pull yourself upwards until your forehead touches the bar.

Bent Over Lateral Raise

This exercise targets the back part of your shoulders and upper back typically targeting both the lats (while keeping your elbows close to your sides) and the rhomboids and traps (with elbows away from your sides) in addition to the posterior deltoids.

This exercise is done by bending forward, resting your head comfortably on a bench, grasping a dumbbell in each hand and with elbows slightly bent, raising them outward from the body in a flying motion to shoulder height, even with the ears.

Bent Over Barbell Row

Place a barbell on the floor in front of you. With your feet about 18 inches apart, bend down and get a grip on the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

Keep your legs bent and your back parallel to the floor as you inhale and pull the barbell directly up to the lower part of your chest.

Exhale and return to the starting position without touching the floor. Keep your head up and your back straight.

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