Back exercises

There are four different muscles in your back that you can distinguish. The lower back is defined by the quadratus lumborum muscle. The upper back consists of the trapezius at the top, the latissimus dorsi on the sides and the rhomboidus that is located in the middle of your back.

 

Trapezius: upper back muscle

Latissimus dorsi: side back muscle

Rhomboidus: central back muscle

Quadratus lumborum: lower back muscle

 

In the overview below you see which exercise focuses on which part of the back muscle:

 

overview back exercises
overview back exercises deadlift pull up lat pull down dumbbell row

 

These muscles can be targeted one by one via isolation exercises or all at the same time via compound exercises. All back exercises can be divided into 3 different types of exercises: barbell, dumbbell, machine & bodyweight exercises. 

overview back exercises deadlift pull up lat pull down dumbbell row

 

Each exercise below contains a full description, an overview of the muscles that you target and the level of difficulty to perform the exercise. Difficulty: level of complexity regarding the performance and technique of the exercise.

 

Beginner

●○○○○ & ●●○○○

Intermediate

●●●○○ & ●●●●○

Expert

●●●●●

 

Exercises

back exercises deadlift

1. Deadlift

Place your feet at hip width, grab the bar via an underhand grip and stretch to an upright position. Bring your hips and buttocks backwards and bend your knees, as if you want to sit down. Your back remains straight or slightly hollow in your lower back during the exercise. When the bar almost touches the ground you stretch out from your legs and back to bring yourself back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): upper, side, central & lower back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●●●


back exercises barbell row

2. Bar row

Place your feet at hip width, your knees are bent and your buttocks are sticking out backwards. Your back is straight and your hips tilt backwards. Grab the bar via an underhand grip and pull it towards your body level with your belly button. Keep your elbows next to the body and bring them as close together as possible. When the bar touches your stomach, slowly lower it back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): upper, central & lower back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●●○


back exercises dumbbell deadlift

3. Dumbbell deadlift

Place your feet at hip width, grab the dumbbells with an underhand grip and stretch to an upright position. Bring your hips and buttocks backwards and bend your knees, as if you want to sit down. Your back remains straight into something hollow in your lower back during the exercise. When the dumbbells almost touch the ground, you stretch your legs and back to bring yourself back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): upper, side, central & lower back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●●●


back exercises dumbbell row

4. Dumbbell row

Place your feet at hip width, your knees are bent and your buttocks are sticking out backwards. Your back is straight and your hips tilt backwards. You lean over to the front a little bit. Grab both dumbbells and pull them up along the body next to your hips. Keep your elbows next to the body and bring them as close together as possible. Create tension on the back muscle. When you have fully lifted both dumbbells, slowly lower them back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): upper, central & lower back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●●○


back exercises incline dumbbell row

5. Incline dumbbell row

Put the bench in an incline position at about 45 degrees. Lay on your stomach on the bench with your face towards the floor. Your forefeet keep touching the ground. Grab the dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Keep your elbows next to the body and bring them as close together as possible. Pull the dumbbells up towards the sides of your body. When you have fully lifted both dumbbells, slowly lower them back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): upper and side back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●●○


back exercises 1 arm dumbbell row

6. 1 arm dumbbell row

Put the bench in a horizontal position, stand next to it and place one knee on the bench. Grab the dumbbell in one hand and support yourself by holding the bench with the other hand. Your upper body stays in a horizontal position while you pull the dumbbell towards you. Your elbow flexes and continues to move next to the body during the exercise. When the dumbbell reaches your hip lower it back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): upper, side & central back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●●○


back exercises wide pull up

7. Wide pull up

You perform this exercise on a high bar. Grab the bar as wide as possible with your palms facing forward. Pull yourself up until your chin reaches the same height as the bar. Then slowly lower yourself back to starting position. Just before your arms are completely stretched you pull yourself up again.

Target muscle(s): upper & side back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●○○


back exercises pull up

8. Pull up

You perform this exercise on a high bar. Grab the bar at shoulder width with your palms facing forward. Pull yourself up until your chin reaches the same height as the bar. Keep your elbows close to your body, don’t let them stick out to the side. Then slowly lower yourself back to starting position. Just before your arms are completely stretched you pull yourself up again.

Target muscle(s): upper & side back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●○○


back exercises chin up close grip

9. Chin up close grip

You perform this exercise on a high bar. Grab the bar with an underhand grip so that your palms are facing towards your body. Your hands are positioned right next to each other. Pull yourself up until your chin reaches the same height as the bar. Keep your elbows close to your body, don’t let them stick out to the side. Then slowly lower yourself back to starting position. Just before your arms are completely stretched you pull yourself up again.

Target muscle(s): side back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●○○


back exercises cable row

10. Cable row

Sit down and place your feet on the platform in front of you.

Grab the cable and pull it towards your navel. 

Your back remains straight and you push your chest out.

Your elbows move as close to you body as possible.

Slowly bring the cable back to starting position.


back exercises lower back extension

11. Lower back extension

Take a seat on the machine. Clamp your heels behind the support bar and place your pelvis on the cushion in front of you so that you face forward. You start moving from your lower back. Your legs remain in the same position during the entire exercise and your upper body moves towards the ground and back. To make the exercise more difficult you can use additional weight that you hold in your hand or press against your chest.

Target muscle(s): lower back

Difficulty: ●○○○○


back exercises lat pulldown

12. Lat pull down

Take a seat on the machine. Make sure that your upper legs are in a horizontal position and place them firmly under the support bar. Your back is in a straight position and remains like that during the exercise. Grab the bar at both ends and pull it down towards your neck and upper back, hold it there for a moment and let it slowly get back in starting position. Keep your elbows slightly bent, don’t stretch your arms out completely.

Target muscle(s): upper back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●○○


back exercises lat pulldown front

13. Lat pull down front

Take a seat on the machine. Make sure that your upper legs are in a horizontal position and place them firmly under the support bar. Lean back a little bit. Your back is in a straight position and remains like that during the exercise. Grab the bar at both ends and pull it down towards the upper part chest, hold it there for a moment and let it slowly get back in starting position. Keep your elbows slightly bent, don’t stretch your arms out completely.

Target muscle(s): upper & side back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●○○


back exercises lat pulldown close grip front

14. Lat pull down close grip front

Take a seat on the machine. Make sure that your upper legs are in a horizontal position and place them firmly under the support bar. Lean back a little bit. Your back is in a straight position and remains like that during the exercise. Grab the bar via an underhand grip in the middle of the bar. Your hands are located right next to each other. Pull it down towards the upper part of your chest, hold it there for a moment and let it slowly get back in starting position. Keep your elbows slightly bent, don’t stretch your arms out completely.

Target muscle(s): side & central back muscle

Difficulty: ●●●○○


back exercises machine row

15. Machine row

Take a seat on the machine and put your feet firmly on the ground. Keep your back straight and push your chest forward. Only move your arms during the exercise, your back and legs remain in the same position. Grab both grips and pull them towards your body. Your elbow and forearm move as close to your body as possible. Pull your arms back as far as possible so that you feel the tension on the back muscle.

Target muscle(s): upper, side & central back muscle

Difficulty: ●●○○○


16. Machine pull down

Take a seat on the machine and place your feet firmly on the ground. Keep your back straight and push your chest forward. Only move your arms during the exercise, your back and legs remain in the same position. Grab both grips that are located above you and pull them down towards your shoulders. Pull the grips down as far as possible and then slowly let them move back to starting position.

Target muscle(s): side & central back muscle

Difficulty: ●●○○○

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Exercises per muscle group:

upper leg muscle group exercises
lower leg muscle group exercises
chest muscle group exercises

Chest

 

back muscle group exercises

Back

 


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