My Top Back Exercises

It’s t-shirt and tank top season – which means it’s time to work those back muscles! Working my back is one of my favorite things to do. I always feel really strong while doing back exercises, and it’s a major muscle group which means you’re burning even more calories. I wanted to list out my favorite back exercises, in case you want to add some to your routine. Even if you’re already doing most of these, remember you can switch up your routine bu changing how many sets or reps you do, and increasing the weight you use.

Single Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Row


This is definitely my favorite. I love doing single arm exercises because you can focus on one side, and also strengthen any weaknesses you may have on one side. Start with whatever side you think you’re weaker on. Focus on keeping your core tight and your back flat. Also focus on squeezing your shoulder blade as you pull up…engage that muscle!

T-Bar Row

t-bar_rows copybigSource

I only really started doing T-Bar rows when I started the Get Swole program, but I love them. Talk about a full-body exercise! You’re really working your core and lower back because you’re lifting the weight while in a bent-over position. If you’re lower back hurts as you are pulling up, the weight is too heavy for you. Always remember to keep a flat back and core engaged. A good cue I give people during any exercise is chest up, shoulders back.

Seated Cable Row


Another great back exercise that will have you out of breath. Once again you will be using your core to stabilize yourself. As always, remember, CHEST UP SHOULDERS BACK! ;) Also, make sure your shoulders aren’t up by your ears. Relax your traps. Don’t lean back either as you pull it in. Stay in a neutral position. If you have to lean back, it’s too heavy for you.

Inverted Row


The great thing about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere. You can use the smith machine bar, or any barbell, or you can use a ramp railing (which is what I usually do at the gym). Engage your core and don’t let your hips sag or go up too far (so that you have an arch in your back).


How could I not include this??? Pull-ups are a full body strength exercise, and I’m still working on bringing back my strength so I can do unassisted pull-ups. In the meantime, I’m focusing on the assisted pull-up machine and band assisted pull-ups, which is the picture below:


As you get stronger, you’ll be able to use thinner and thinner bands. Plus, using a band works your core as well because you need to use it in order to not swing forward as you pull up.

Single Arm Cable Pull Down

Single Arm Pull DownSource

We covered a lot of horizontal pull exercises, so we need some vertical pull in here too. I like doing single arm cable pulls because, as I mentioned with the single arm rows, you’re focusing on each arm at a time, which makes it a bit tougher than using both arms on something like a lat pull down. I like to do these sitting or standing. Pull with force, and then slowly  let it go. This exercise will also help you get stronger with your pull ups.

Here re two chest and back workouts using some of the above exercises. I like combining chest and back because they are opposing muscle groups. I prefer body split routines like this as opposed to full body, which I explained in this post about the benefits of both full body routines and body split routines.

Do one of the workouts for 3 weeks, then switch to the other one. This will help avoid plateau, and help you get stronger!

Feel free to change up any of the exercises, or how many sets/reps you do…this just serves as a starting point :)


Let me know if you try it out!

Do you like doing back exercises? Which are your favorite?

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