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8 Best Exercises to Tone Your Back Muscles

Woman stretching her back in a red set.
Karla Tafra

Strengthening your back muscles improves your posture and keeps your spine healthy and functional for years to come. Don’t neglect these big muscle groups as they’re here to support all other exercises and help you perform them properly.

Even though most compound movements include your back muscles, it’s beneficial to include some isolated moves into your workouts and strengthen all areas that might be a bit weaker than others. These eight moves are bound to transform your back muscles and can be easily added to your leg day, upper body day, or even a full-body workout.

Bent Over Rows

Find a sturdy bench or something to lean on and take a dumbbell. Try to take a medium-heavy dumbbell so you can finish all of your reps. Take the dumbbell in one hand and lean on the bench with the other. Bend over the bench and tighten your core.

Let the arm holding the dumbbell extend fully towards the floor and on your inhale, pull the dumbbell up, squeezing your back muscles and bringing your elbow close to your body. Relax and extend, pull and squeeze. Avoid any jerking movement and repeat 12-15 times. Do the same on the other side.


The perfect addition to your home gym.

Face Pulls

Stand in front of the cable machine and use the triceps attachment. Place it in line with your chin and grab the handles. Inhale and pull the pulley towards you, squeezing your upper back muscles. Exhale and relax. Your elbows will go out as you pull the cable, so make sure they’re not too high and that you really feel it in your upper back. Repeat 12-15 times.

Triceps attachment.

Upgrade your home gym.

Seated Row

Sit on a bench or on the floor in front of the cable machine and grab the row attachment. Bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the floor. Activate your core muscles and straighten your spine. Inhale and pull the cable towards you, elbows close to your body, really squeezing your back muscles as you do so.

Exhale and slowly, with control, extend your arms and relax the row attachment. Repeat 12-15 times, squeezing hard every time you pull.

Seated row attachment

Never wonder about whether your gym has a seated row attachment or not.

Lat Pulldown

Sit on a bench in front of the cable machine and grab the lat pulldown attachment. Let your arms fully extend over your head as you firmly grab the edges of the attachment. Inhale and pull the cable down, bringing the pulley in front of your body, right above your clavicle. Exhale and gently extend your arms back up.

Make sure your shoulders are far away from your ears and you’re truly isolating your upper back muscles as you pull the cable down. Keep your core muscles fully engaged throughout the exercise and avoid slouching. Repeat 12-15 times.

Lat Pulldown Attachment

Bring your own and strengthen those back muscles.


Lie on the mat, belly face down. Extend your legs down on the mat and bring your arms over your head. Send shoulders away from your ears and activate your core. Inhale and lift all four limbs off the floor as high as they will go, squeezing your glutes and lower back muscles. Exhale and relax everything on the floor. Repeat 12-15 times.

Alternatively, if you want to have some fun with it, you can try lifting one arm and one leg, and then adding the other two a bit later while you still hold the first two in the air. This can be quite challenging, but also helps strengthen the weaker side of your body.

Stanley Water Bottle

Keeps your water cool throughout your entire workout.

Renegade Row

Grab a set of lighter dumbbells and come into a plank position, bracing your core muscles and placing the dumbbells right next to your palms. Inhale and grab a dumbbell with your right hand, lift it up and pull it close to your body with your elbow closed. Exhale and bring it back down. Inhale and lift the left dumbbell, exhale and bring it down. Alternate like this for 20 repetitions.

Adjustable dumbbell set

Adjust your weight as you shift from exercise to exercise.

Vinyasa Yoga

Come into a plank position and brace your core muscles. Inhale and move your body forward, exhale and bend your elbows, lowering down into a half-push-up. Inhale and push your hips forward, rolling your feet over to the tops, and pulling your upper body through your extended arms. Push your palms into the floor and gaze up or backward if it feels good in your body.

Exhale and gently lift your hips up and back, sending them diagonally into the sky. Extend your legs and push the ground away from you through your palms. Keep your spine extended and elongated, relax your shoulders, and feel your heels reaching toward the floor. Inhale, gaze forward, and drop your hips until you find yourself in a plank position. Repeat the whole thing five times.

Yoga Mat

Super soft and comfy to bring to any gym.

Standing Backbend

Come into a standing position, feet separated hip-width or a bit narrower. Inhale and lift your arms into the sky, exhale and bend your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Inhale extend, exhale squeeze. Repeat this three times. After your last exhale, inhale your arms back up and on your exhale, gently push your hips forward and look further behind you, getting into a back bend.

Exit the back bend with control and repeat the whole thing three times. If this feels comfortable, for the next series, clasp your palms together and on your exhale, send your hips forward and arms over your head and back. Go as far as it feels comfortable for your back muscles and stop if you feel any tension. Repeat three times.

Gym Towel

Helps you stay sweat-free.

After a session like this, your back muscles will be in need of some TLC. Follow up with this stretching routine and lower the chances of being sore the next day.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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