Our back muscles often get neglected when it comes to working out. Give them the attention they deserve with the best back exercises for women, each designed to strengthen your back muscles and improve your posture…
Working on your back muscles can give you the sculpted shoulders of your dreams. But the benefits don’t stop there: taking the time to strengthen your back has been shown to improve posture and prevent injury in a range of different sports and activities.
If you’re looking to tone and strengthen your back muscles, but don’t know where to start, we’ve rounded up the best back exercises for women to help you on your way. We’ve got your back (literally!)…
Best back exercises for women
1. Dumbbell bent-over row
Benefits: Great for the sets of muscles that criss-cross your upper back.
- Dumbbells in hands, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping a bend in your knees. Bend forwards from the hips, letting your arms hang down beneath your shoulders, palms facing in (A).
- Holding your torso still, take a deep breath in and pull the dumbbells up to chest height, keeping your elbows close to your body and making sure they don’t flail outwards (B). Pause briefly before returning to the start. Try to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Bend forwards from the hips, not the waist.
2. Dumbbell bent-over flye
Benefits: Target your back by taking arm strength out of the equation.
- Dumbbells in hands, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Bend forwards at the hips, focusing on the floor, and bring the weights together, palms facing in (A).
- Smoothly raise your arms out to the sides until they’re level with your shoulders, keeping the slight bend in your elbows. Squeeze your shoulder blades slowly together (B), then lower your arms. Try to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Keep your upper body still – avoid bouncing as you raise the weights.
3. Four-point box
Benefits: Fabulous for your deep core and the stabilising muscles around your spine.
- Kneel on all fours, looking at the floor. Your hands should be positioned under your shoulders, knees under your hips and your spine straight (A).
- Switching on your core muscles, extend your right arm and left leg out to the same height. Avoid shifting to one side or raising your head as you move (B).
- Hold and return to the start position, then swap sides and repeat. Aim to do four to six reps on each side.
Quick tip: During the extension, keep your body in a straight line from foot to fingertips.
4. Dorsal raise with shoulder rotation
Benefits: This move will strengthen your lower back and increase flexibility in your shoulders, back and chest.
- Lie face-down on a mat, looking down but with your chin in line with your spine, rather than tucked in. Extend your arms to the sides so they’re in line with your shoulders, palms facing down, hovering just above the floor (A).
- Engage your abdominals and lift your upper body gently from the mat, turning your palms out.
- When you’ve reached your full range, twist your hands back so your thumbs point towards the ceiling and squeeze your shoulder blades together (B). Hold and return to the start. Aim to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: As you rise up, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Benefits: This Pilates-style exercise works all your posterior muscles from your shoulders to your hamstrings.
- Lie face-down on a mat with your arms stretched out in front of you, hands in line with your shoulders, and your toes pointed.
- Keeping your pubic bone pressed down and your bum squeezed, gently lift your upper back, head and legs slightly off the mat.
- Keeping your focus forwards, simultaneously extend your right arm and left leg a little
- Alternate arms and legs slowly in a swimming motion (B). Aim to do six to 10 reps on each side.
Quick tip: To prevent compression in your spine, avoid lifting yourself too high off the mat.
6. Prone press on gym ball
Benefits: A great multi-tasker for your upper back, shoulders, arms and abdominals.
- Take your dumbbells and support your navel and hips on a gym ball, wedging your feet flat against a wall. Your legs should be extended, with a slight bend in the knees. Hold the dumbbells in line with your ears, your elbows bent at a 90° angle, palms facing forwards (A).
- Keeping your upper body in a straight line, power your arms out in line with your eyes, keeping your palms facing the floor and maintaining the gap between the dumbbells – don’t let them touch as you extend (B).
- Bring your arms back in to the starting position. Aim to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Keep your head still throughout the exercise.
7. Gym ball back extension with twist
Benefits: Brilliant for your obliques (the muscles on either side of your stomach, lower back and chest).
- Lie over a gym ball with your feet wedged against a wall, knees slightly bent, focusing on the floor. Place your fingers on your temples and point your elbows out to the side, avoiding hunching your shoulders (A).
- Breathe in and, as you exhale, raise your upper body and twist to the right, making sure you keep your spine and head aligned as you move (B).
- Don’t over-extend your spine.
- Hold for a second before lowering slowly.
- Alternate twisting to each side, aiming to do six to eight reps on each side.
Quick tip: Keep your legs strong and your bum squeezed throughout the exercise.
8. Resistance band seated row
Benefits: A dynamic move to work your upper arms, abdominals and back.
- Loop your resistance band round a door handle or similar. Secure it so it’s at chest height when you sit down, with no slack.
- Sit up straight on your mat, knees bent at 90°, feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Hold the handles of the band at arm’s length in line with your shoulders (A).
- Keeping your elbows tight to your body, pull your arms back. Keep looking forwards (B).
- Return to the starting position. Aim to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Engage the muscles between your shoulder blades as you row.