Best Back Exercises for Women

The Best Back Exercises for Women You Should Add to Your Workout

10 min read


03 Nov 2020

Feeling stuck in your workout? Not giving your back muscles enough attention? Try the following back workouts for women.

Your back is one of those glory muscles that you might not think twice about because you can’t see it without a bit of effort. Not only does a strong and muscular back look incredible, but it also serves several practical purposes for health and wellness including contributing to a strong core and healthy posture.

If you’ve been slacking in your back workouts or if you’re looking to upgrade your back exercises, we have you covered. Let’s take a look at why your back workouts are so important along with fifteen back exercises for women.

What is the Function of Your Back?

Have you ever noticed that your back is involved in every movement that you make? Whether you’re lifting an arm above your head or twisting from side to side, your back makes it possible. In other words, a strong back equates to strong movement patterns, which has important implications for long-term health and maintaining your independence well into old age.

Think of your back muscles like a support column for your spine. Back muscles keep you upright, but they also allow you to twist, turn, and move around without limitations. Here is a breakdown of your back muscles. Familiarizing yourself with back musculature is important since it will help solidify the mind-to-muscle connection needed for next-level results.

  • Latissimus Dorsi: More commonly referred to as your lats or the wings of the back, the latissimus dorsi begins at your hips, works its way up, then fans out underneath the armpits. Focusing on the lats is what can produce that wide upper body while making your waist look smaller.
  • Teres Major: Also known as the little lat, the teres major is found underneath of the latissimus dorsi and it makes it possible for you to rotate your arm. Without the teres major, all of the back workouts for women we cover below would be impossible.
  • Trapezius: The trapezius or trap muscles are the bridge between your shoulders and your neck. While most people focus their trap exercises in this area, the traps extend all the way down to your lower back in a diamond-like fashion. Knowing this, you can achieve greater activation of the muscle.
  • Rhomboid: Found beneath the trapezius muscle and next to your shoulder blades, the rhomboid muscle assists with contracting your shoulders and middle back.
  • Erector Spinae: The erector spinae muscles or spinal erectors are the literal column of your female back muscles. They are primarily responsible for helping you maintain proper posture since they line up with and are attached to the length of your spine.

Benefits of Back Workouts for Women

woman doing back workout

What is the benefit of having a strong back? Is there any real-world purpose to focusing on back exercises? There are three key benefits of back workouts for women that can improve your health and day-to-day functioning:

  • Posture: Your back is involved in all movement with an emphasis on your posture. Think about it: when you catch yourself slouching, what is the first thing you do to improve your posture? You straighten your back! A strong back can support posture and functional movement patterns such as twisting and bending. What’s more, studies have shown that back exercises can help reduce lower back pain.
  • Reduce Risk of Pain and Injury: Continuing with the point above, studies show a strong back helps you avoid common postural distortions and pains. The most common problem areas with posture are the shoulders, neck, and lower back. If you consistently have poor posture, a slouch can become permanent and increase your risk for strain and injury. What’s more, bad posture can promote overcompensation between muscle groups, which can also result in a strain or serious injury.
  • Aesthetics: Function aside, having a strong and well-developed back looks great, and it’s going to turn heads. A wider back at the top will also give you the appearance of a smaller waist. Above all, a strong back and good posture can make you feel and look more confident in your own skin.

Beginner Back Exercises for Women

Now that you can identify all of the major muscle groups in your back and you know the benefits of having a strong back, let’s provide you with the best back exercises for women who are just starting on their fitness journey.

1. Pull-Ups

The classic back exercise, pull-ups are ideal for beginners because they target all of the major muscle groups of the back. What’s more, they are one of the few back exercises for women at home; no special equipment needed.

  • Place your hands at shoulder width or just outside of shoulder width on a pull-up bar
  • Contract your back muscles before you let yourself hang
  • Letting your back muscles do the work, lift your chest towards the pull-up bar
  • Slowly descend to the starting position

2. Back Extensions

Back extensions are a great lower back exercise for women. If you’re a beginner, there’s no need to use additional weight. Add five to ten pounds in a few weeks.

  • Brace the back of your ankles against the padding of an extension bench
  • Keeping a completely straight back, bend at the hips
  • Lower your upper body towards the ground
  • Pause and return to the starting position

3. Inverted Rows

The best way to perform inverted rows is with a Smith machine. You can also use a standard barbell in a squat rack.

  • Lie down beneath a locked Smith machine barbell
  • Place your hands at shoulder width on the barbell
  • Pull your chest to the bar while maintaining a flat back
  • Pause and return to the starting position

4. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

A great way to build width in the back, lat pulldowns require either a lat pulldown machine or a cable machine where you can kneel in between the pulleys.

  • Take a wide grip on a lat pulldown
  • Contract the back muscles before beginning
  • Focusing on the latissimus dorsi, pull the bar to your chest
  • Pause and return the bar to the starting position

5. Straight Arm Pushdown

One of the few exercises that can isolate the back muscles, the straight arm pulldown directly targets the lat muscles.

  • In a standing position, place your arms on a lat pulldown bar at shoulder-width
  • Bend slightly at the knees while bending slightly forward at the hips
  • In a sweeping motion, bring the barbell down to your hips
  • Pause and return the bar to the starting position

Intermediate Back Exercises for Women

Once you’ve graduated from using the list of exercises above, give these back exercises for women a try:

1. One-Arm Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row is a great way to ensure balanced strength levels across the back musculature. If you’re working out at home, you can use a milk jug in place of a dumbbell.

  • Place your knee and hand on a bench or set of chairs
  • Straighten your back and keep a neutral gaze
  • Pull the dumbbell up and back, leading with your elbow
  • Pause and return the dumbbell to the starting position

2. Barbell Bent Over Rows

To build total body strength, barbell bent over rows are one of the go-to exercises. This exercise is one of the best for defining back muscles.

  • Hold a barbell at a shoulder-width grip
  • Bend forward at the hips, keeping your back straight
  • Pull the barbell up towards your rib cage
  • Pause and return the bar to the starting position

3. Medicine Ball Slam

A medicine ball slam can help you develop raw power, which is the ability to generate maximum power in the shortest distance.

  • Hold a weighted medicine ball with both hands
  • Raise the ball above your head
  • Slam it down to the ground using an overhand swooping motion
  • Let the ball bounce, catch it, and repeat

4. Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row targets the middle and lower back muscles. Moving slowly, you can focus on both strength and muscle building.

  • Brace your feet against the pads on a seated cable row machine
  • Sit up straight and hold on to a close-grip bar
  • Contract the back muscles as you pull the bar in towards your rib cage
  • Pause and return the bar to the starting position

5. Barbell Deadlift

Considered one of the most important foundation exercises in weightlifting, the barbell deadlift is one of the must-do lower back exercises for women.

  • Step into the center of a barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Kick your hips back and lower your upper body
  • Grab hold of the bar and slowly stand up straight
  • Drive your hips forward after the bar passes your knees, pause, and lower the bar

Advanced Back Exercises for Women

If this isn’t your first rodeo, step up to these advanced back exercises for women:

1. Cable Rear Deltoid Fly

Although the rear deltoids are technically a part of your shoulders, they are an important part of achieving that fully developed back look.

  • Grab the cable handles of a pulley machine so that your left hand has the right handle and vice versa
  • Stand up tall and brace your core
  • Pull the handles down and to the sides of your body by the hips
  • Pause and slowly return to the starting position

2. T-Bar Row

The T-bar row should be a part of any serious back workout for women as it challenges muscle strength, endurance, and stability.

  • Stand on a T-bar platform and brace your core
  • Reach down and secure a grip on the handles
  • Straighten your back before lifting the bar up towards your chest
  • Pause and slowly return the bar to the starting position, but don’t let it drop

3. Turkish Getup

This one movement hits all of your major muscle groups with an emphasis on your back.

  • Lying on the ground, hold a dumbbell in your left hand above your head
  • Move the left foot in towards your butt
  • Push yourself up with your right hand
  • Swing the right foot around and behind you
  • Stand up tall keeping the dumbbell above your head
  • Reverse the movement

4. Landmine One-Arm Row

This exercise is a combination of the dumbbell row with the barbell row, allowing for a deeper range of motion.

  • Place an end of a barbell into the corner of a wall
  • Hold the other end in your hand
  • Bend at the knees and slightly forward at the hips
  • Pull the barbell back, leading with your elbow
  • Pause and return to the starting position

5. Deadlift with Row

You’ll want to use a lighter weight for this exercise, but get ready to feel the burn in your back.

  • Step into the center of a barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Kick your hips back and lower your upper body
  • Grab hold of the bar and slowly stand up straight
  • Drive your hips forward after the bar passes your knees
  • As you are lowering the bar back to the starting position, pause and pull the barbell towards your rib cage


If you’re a woman who wants to build more muscle and strength in your back, we recommend moving through the exercises based on your experience level. Give yourself at least a month to become familiar with the exercises listed above before advancing to the next category.

Most importantly, be consistent in your workouts. All of the best back exercises for women won’t matter if you don’t put them to use. Aim for at least one back workout per week, preferably two if you want to see real results.

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