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11 Exercises for Your Best Back Workout

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Many people focus on building their “mirror muscles” (think: chest, shoulders, arms, and abs). But to create a well-rounded physique, you don’t want to skimp on back workouts to sculpt the other side of your body, too.

Whether you’re wearing a bathing suit, a tank top, or a backless dress, a well-built back shows the world you’ve got it where it counts. Physically and aesthetically, there’s no substitute for a strong, muscular back, which is why you should include back workouts into your regularly scheduled routine. To help you get started, here are some of the best back exercises found on Beachbody On Demand.

The Back Muscles

Across the rugged topography of your back are over a dozen different muscles. Some of them — like the trees minor — stabilize movement at your shoulder girdle; others — including the erector spine — extend your spine, helping to keep you upright.

But the primary focus of back workouts are usually the two largest muscle groups in your back: the trapezius and latissimus dorsi muscles.

Trapezius Anatomy

This is a kite-shaped muscle which extends from the back of your neck, to your shoulder blades, and down to your mid-back. Your traps are responsible for moving your shoulder blades upwards (as in a shrugging movement) and inwards (as in a rowing movement). When they’re well developed, the traps keep your posture in check and give your mid-back depth and detail.

Many people, guys especially, focus exclusively on the upper portion of this muscle — the bands of muscle that give gymnasts and football players that thick-necked look. But that can be a mistake, says Beachbody fitness expert Cody Braun. “When improperly trained, the traps can round your shoulders, which causes a postural dysfunction and a higher likelihood of injury.” Solve the problem by focusing on mid-and-lower trap exercises instead, using movements that emphasize retracting the shoulder blades.

Latissimus Dorsi Anatomy

Often shortened to “lats,” this fan-shaped muscle originates at your mid and lower back and attaches to your upper arms. It pulls your arms downwards and behind your body, (as in a pull-up movement), and directly backward (as in a rowing movement). The lats are your primary “pulling” muscles, and when they’re developed, they give you that unmistakeable “V” shape when your visible from behind.

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The lats, Braun explains, are often underdeveloped and tight. Strengthening and stretching the muscle is key for good posture and full mobility — particularly in the shoulder joint, he says.

How do you exercise your back?

Most back movements are variations on rowing (pulling your own bodyweight or an object toward your torso), or chinning (pulling your bodyweight upward and over a bar or other stationary object). That’s the case with the 11 back exercises below, all culled from Beachbody On Demand’s huge selection of fitness programs. Together, they’ll work all the back muscles — large and small — to ensure complete functional and athletic back development. And the best part is that you can do them all at home! All you need is some dumbbells, a resistance band, and a pull-up bar (or a door attachment).

11 of the Best Exercises for Back Workouts

 

1. Balance row pistol squat

Appears in: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel – Chisel Balance

Benefits: This move is an intense, total-body challenge. It works the traps, lats, and scapular retractors in the upper body, and the glutes, hamstrings, and quads in the lower body, all while testing your balance.

Stand holding two medium-weight dumbbells at your sides. Lift your right foot slightly off the floor. Keeping your back flat and your shoulders pulled back, hinge forward extending your right leg behind you. Let your arms hang straight down. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring the weights up to the outside of your ribs while keeping your elbows close to your sides. Lower the weights back down and return to the standing position. Try not to let your right foot touch the ground. Keeping your knees close together, extend your right leg forward. Bending at your hip and knee, squat as deeply as possible on your left leg. Return to standing and repeat. Do equal reps on both sides.

2. Dumbbell reverse grip row

Appears in: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel – Total Body Chisel

Benefits: This move can help improve posture by challenging the upper and lower back simultaneously.

• Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, holding two medium to heavy dumbbells in front of your body, palms facing forward.

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• With your shoulder blades pulled back, hinge forward at the hips until your upper body forms about a 45 degree angle to the floor.

• Keeping your palms turned forward, squeeze your shoulder blades together and bend your elbows, pulling the weights up toward your ribcage.

• Reverse the move and repeat.

3. Renegade Row

Appears in: SHIFT SHOP – Strength :25

Benefits: Challenge your upper back and lats while you also work your core and shoulder stabilizers.

• Assume a push-up position with your hands just outside your shoulder-width, gripping two light dumbbells. Your feet should be in line with your hands.

• Lift the dumbbell in your right hand off the floor, bringing your hand to the outside of your ribs while keeping your right elbow close to your side. Resist rotation of the body.

• Lower the right dumbbell to the floor and repeat with your left arm, alternating sides.

4. Alternating row and lunge

Appears in: Autumn’s BOD Exclusives – Kill Cupcake

Benefits: This move works multiple parts of the upper back (lats, traps, and scapular retractors) with light weights, challenging the muscle fibers responsible for endurance.

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• Stand holding two medium to light dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in toward your body.

• Take a big step forward with your left leg, bending it to assume a deep lunge position, keeping your right leg straight.

• Bend forward at your hip, attempting to lay your torso on top of your left thigh. Let your arms hang straight down to the sides of your left leg.

• Bring the dumbbell in your right hand up to the outside of your ribs while keeping your elbow close to your side.

• Reverse the move and repeat with your left arm, alternating sides.

5. EZ bar row

Appears in: Body Beast – Build: Back/Bis

Benefits: This move challenges the large muscles of the upper back to move a heavy load, while the lower back stabilizes and protects the spine.

• Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, holding an EZ bar in front of your body with a wide grip, palms facing forward.

• Keeping your lower back in its natural arch and your shoulder blades pulled back, hinge forward at the hips until your upper body forms about a 45 degree angle to the floor, and the bar is near your knees.

• Squeeze your shoulder blades together and bend your elbows, pulling the bar up until it contacts your lower abdomen.

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• Reverse the move and repeat.

6. Chin-up

Appears in: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel – Iso Speed Hammer

Benefits: This classic move is great to way to widen and shape your lats, creating that wide V-shape in your upper back.

• Take an underhand grip on a pull-up bar.

• Pull yourself upward until your chin clears the bar, keeping your back straight and core tight as you pull yourself up.

• Lower yourself until your arms straight, and repeat.

• Too tough? Use a chin-up assist band to make it easier.

7. Core crunch chin-up

Appears in: P90X2 – Chest, Back, and Balance

Benefits: After you’ve master the classic chin-up, try this variation to strengthen and shape your lats, while also challenging your abs and hip flexors.

• Take an underhand grip on a pull-up bar with about 12 inches between your hands.

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• Pull yourself upward until your chin clears the bar, keeping your back straight and core tight, simultaneously pulling your knees up to the bar.

• Lower your knees, straighten your arms, and repeat.

• Too tough? Use a chin-up assist band to make it easier.

8. Track star pull-up

Appears in: 22 Minute Hard Corps – Deluxe Resistance

Benefits: This variation of a standard pull-up widens and shapes the lats, creating a V-taper in your back, while also challenging your abs and obliques.

• Take an overhand grip on a pull-up bar.

• Pull yourself upward until your chin clears the bar, keeping your back straight and core tight as you pull yourself up.

• Lower yourself until your arms straight.

• Keeping your left leg straight, lift your right knee as high as possible as you twist your hips to the left.

• Repeat with your left leg. That’s one rep.

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• Too tough? Use a pull-up assist band to make it easier.

9. Close-grip oblique twist

Appears in: INSANITY: THE ASYLUM Volume 2 – Back & 6 Pack

Benefits: This move widens and shapes the lats and it adds an isometric challenge for the upper back and a challenge to obliques and core.

• Take an overhand on a pull-up bar.

• Pull yourself upward until your chin clears the bar, keeping your back straight and core tight as you pull yourself up.

• Holding the top position of the pullup, lift your knees toward your chest as high as possible.

• Keeping your knees drawn up and squeezed together, contract the obliques on your right side, as if trying to touch the outside of your right hip to your right elbow.

• Repeat on your left side.

• Lower your knees, straighten your arms, return to the starting position, and repeat.

10. Lunge twist pull

Appears in: 22 Minute Hard Corps – Resistance 2 (as “Punch Pull”)

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Benefits: This move works your lats and upper traps in conjunction with your lateral and rear deltoids. The lunge movement also fires up the muscles in your lower body.

• Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a medium-weight dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder height.

• Pivot to the left on the balls of your feet, bend both knees into a lunge, and punch toward your left foot on the floor with your right hand.

• As you return to the standing position, place your left hand on the dumbbell and forcefully drive your right elbow backward, pivoting and rotating your torso to the right.

• Repeat on your left side, and do equal reps on both sides.

11. Superman lat pull

Appears in: THE 20s – Megan: Pyreshape

Benefits: Using a resistance band, this move strengthens your entire back, from your waistline to the back of your neck.

• Holding a light resistance band, lie on your stomach with your arms extended overhead, chest and arms lifted off the floor, and palms facing down. This is your starting position.

• Keeping both arms straight, trace a half-circle with your right arm, extending it directly out to the side and down toward your right thigh. Your left arm should remain straight overhead.

• Reverse the move, slowly returning to the starting position.

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• Repeat with your left arm, and do equal reps on both sides.

How do you build a better back?

To ensure that you get the most out of your back workouts, it’s essential to consider not just what you do in the gym, but what you do outside of it as well. That includes stress management, sleep, stretching, and diet. When you’re doing challenging back workouts (or any strength workouts), you need to keep an eye on your protein and calorie intake, making sure you eat enough to help your muscles grow and repair. For more information on pre- and post-workout supplements, the Beachbody Performance line is a great place to start.

Exercise at Home

10 Moves That Feel Amazing for Tech Neck

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Spending hours every day looking down at your phone and laptop might get you caught up on work and social media, but it can be so tough on your neck and shoulders that it's prompted the rise of a new term: Tech neck.

The phrase describes that slight forward tilt to your head that becomes problematic when you're in that position for too long, according to Carol Mack, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist and strength coach at CLE Sports PT & Performance in Cleveland. The neck muscles lengthen in the back, creating strain, while shortening in the front, causing your shoulders to round, creating a hunch or “lump” in the area where the top of the back meets the neck.

“That position, in particular, can cause decreased shoulder and neck mobility, sometimes to a significant degree,” she tells SELF. “At some point, range of motion can become limited, to the point where dynamic movement is challenging.”

If that happens, even a beneficial activity like strength training can exacerbate the issue, she adds, because the smaller range of motion will keep your shoulders rounded and your neck jutting forward. If you're doing work targeting muscles on the frontside of the body, like your chest or pectoral muscles, you could be worsening the strain on the upper back, neck, and shoulders.

Plus, no matter what your activity, you'll likely experience pain along with the stiffness and decreased mobility. In a 2019 study published in PLoS One, researchers found a strong association between time spent on a smartphone and duration and severity of neck pain. There can be a ripple effect as well, including more tension in the upper back, numbness in the hands, recurring headaches, and rotator cuff tendonitis, according to Mack.

One long-term fix is to change your positioning so your computer is at eye level, she suggests, and to be sure to take breaks frequently so you're not stuck in the same position for an extended period of time. As for devices like tablets and cell phones that you tend to hold in your lap or at your chest, ideally the best option is to sit in a chair or on a couch where you can rest your head on the back of it, and bring your phone or tablet up to eye level. If that's not feasible (or if you find yourself reverting to your initial, head-down position), pencil in regular move breaks to make sure you're changing up your position.

Those are all ways to prevent tech neck, but what about if it's already reared up? The good news is, there are some things you can do to alleviate the tightness and discomfort.

And stretching is a major one—the right stretches can feel amazing for easing that tension. Tech neck stretches can help in a variety of ways, such as by gently lengthening the muscles in the front of the neck or providing some relief for overstretched muscles in the back of the neck. Because your neck muscles also attach to those in your shoulders, chest, and upper back, stretching those related muscles can be beneficial, too.

Here are 10 stretches Mack suggests for getting back into alignment. Pick three to four, and start out by holding each for 30 seconds, though you can try to hold them for up to a minute for additional relief. (Of course, if you're experiencing shooting pain, have severe headaches you think are related to neck tension, or stretches like these aren't helping, be sure to see a physical therapist or doctor.)

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Yoga Exercises For Beginners

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The following article will discuss the different poses that beginners can practice. These include Cow Face, Fish Pose, and Plank Pose. You will also learn how to breathe through challenging poses like Utkatasana. These poses are perfect for beginners to practice opening the body and breathing through challenging positions. For more information, check out the article. And stay tuned for more articles about yoga poses for beginners! Enjoy! Here's a quick overview of the most popular poses.

Table of Contents

Fish Pose

If you have limited neck strength or mobility, you may need a head support while in the Fish Pose. A thick, folded blanket placed under the head will help keep it from collapsing and straining. Another option for a beginner is to keep the head upright and stretch the neck, not the shoulders. You can also modify the pose by lowering the chest and lifting the arms away from the body. Then, slowly lower the head.

Cow Face

If you have not tried Cow Face Yoga Exercises yet, now is a good time to do so. This pose stretches the shoulders and stimulates good posture. Especially good for people who spend much time sitting in front of a computer, Cow Face is a great way to release tension in your shoulders, upper back, and middle back. To begin this yoga exercise, start by bending your elbows. Next, extend your right arm and left elbow over your head. Your hands should be clasped together in between your shoulder blades.

Plank Pose

If you're looking for an easy yoga exercise for beginners, plank pose might be the right one for you. This pose works the entire body, not just your legs. As with any yoga exercise, plank pose requires a lot of focus and positive self-talk in order to succeed. In fact, a man who held the world record for the longest time in plank is Daniel Scali. He held the pose for nine hours, thirty minutes and one second in 2021. Even a minute in a plank can be hard, but the longer you hold it the more likely you are to become strong and fitter.

Utkatasana

This backbend poses gently stretches the spine and arms while the torso remains stable. It is a good yoga exercise for beginners because it requires a shift in weight from front to back. You also have to lift your chin and lengthen your ribcage, which are essential to achieve the correct alignment. Try this yoga exercise for beginners and you'll soon feel the benefits! Once you have mastered this yoga exercise, you can advance to more challenging versions of this classic pose.

Trikonasana

One of the most basic poses in yoga is the trikonasana. It can be a good warm-up exercise. It strengthens the chest, hips, and lower back. It can also relieve lower back pain. You should hold this posture for twenty to twenty-five seconds before releasing. This yoga exercise is beneficial for beginners and experienced yoga practitioners alike. To learn how to perform this pose, follow these instructions.

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8 Reasons to Try Indoor Rowing

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As outdoor workouts become relegated to the weekend and your body requires a reprieve from repeated long rides or runs, a fresh training method could become a welcome change to your training schedule. Enter: indoor rowing.

As the heir apparent to the reigning king of group fitness classes, indoor cycling, indoor rowing is poised to become the country’s newest workout obsession, as rowing studios continue to pop up throughout the country.

If you’re looking to supplement your training regime, consider this full-body workout. Here are eight reasons you should try indoor rowing:

1. It Burns a High Amount of Calories

Harvard Medical School states that a 155-pound person rowing at a vigorous pace can burn more than 600 calories per hour. This is on par with mountain and BMX biking.

2. Rowing Removes Muscular Failings

“Endurance runners and cyclists tend to have many muscular deficiencies that lead to repetitive stress injuries,” says Richard Butler, a UCanRow2 Concept2 indoor rowing coach at Mecka Fitness in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He believes rowing can offset this propensity. “When we row, we use more than 86% of our muscles. [It’s] tough to have deficient muscles using that many muscles.”

3. Rowing Circumvents Compensation

“While running and cycling, it is also very easy to become quad-dominant (overusing your anterior muscles),” says Dustin Hogue, interval studio director of Studio Three in Chicago. “Rowing counteracts this by engaging the posterior muscles of your body: the hamstrings, glutes and back. This helps avoid compensations.”

4. It Burns Fat

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In a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, which compared fat oxidation in rowing to cycling across a range of variables — including exercise intensity, mode and recruited muscle mass — rowing beat out cycling. This was specifically due to the greater recruitment of larger muscle mass on the ergometer.

5. It’s a Two-For-One Workout

Rowing works both the upper and lower extremities in synchronicity. “It’s one of the true full-body workouts,” says Butler. He says when done properly, in one continuous movement, athletes use their back, arms, legs and core.

READ MORE > SPINNING 101 AND THE ANATOMY OF A SPIN BIKE [INFOGRAPHIC]

6. There’s a Meditative Component

According to UCanRow2, an organization with a mission to bring rowing to people across the U.S., rowing indoors keeps the mind centered and helps relieve stress as you get into a rhythm with each stroke.  

7. Classes Teach You Proper Technique

Most people have either never rowed or row with incorrect, gawky posture — curtailing rowing’s proper returns. But participating in indoor rowing classes diminishes the inelegance and instructors help you perfect your position. “That awkward feeling of not knowing how to do a move is minimized,” says Butler.

8. It Decreases the Risk of Injuries

For those who recently suffered an injury and feel a little apprehensive getting back into high-impact sports (like running), but feel ready to get back into cardiovascular shape, rowing is a favorable alternative. “Running causes a great deal of stress on the leg joints, so rowing is perfect for avoiding injury while endurance training,” says Butler.

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As with any group fitness class, rowing classes vary by studio and instructor. “A typical rowing class at Studio Three pairs bursts of short, anaerobic exercises, with active recovery periods and weighted resistance training,” says Hogue. “Athletes perform a series, or distance or timed pushes on the rower along with multi-joint strength movements off of the rower.” At ROWFit by Mecka Fitness, Butler teaches authentic, crew rowing techniques to increase endurance and train all major muscles. At the popular Row House NYC in New York City instructors encourage participants to row in sync with each other, simulating a real crew team.  

Whatever class you choose, all indoor rowing classes focus on providing low-impact, high-energy workouts, helping you elevate your heart rate and building strength as a complement to any endurance training regime.    

If you’re interested in indoor rowing, you can find a certified instructor at UCanRow2 and even become certified yourself.  

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