The back exercises I show here work the large muscle groups of the back, the latissimus dorsi (lats) and the mid trapezius (traps).

Scroll to the bottom of the page for a written version.Feel free to print out the page for your reference!

The latissimus dorsi (lats) are big muscles that run from your arm pit to your lower back on both sides. These muscles pull your arm back and down.


From Gray’s Anatomy (

The trapezius (traps) run from your middle and upper spine to your rear shoulder. They help to hold your shoulder blades down and back, pull your shoulder back, and assist in good posture.


From Gray’s Anatomy (http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/File:Trapezius_Gray409.PNG)


Why Strengthen Your Back? In short, these muscles are working whenever you’re pulling an object towards you. We use these muscles when we’re doing things like:

  • opening a door
  • picking a box off the floor or a shelf
  • picking your baby out of the crib
  • pulling yourself forward from down-dog to plank
  • lowering yourself down from a push-up or into a yoga chatteranga
  • swimming
  • rowing
  • pulling yourself up a rope
  • setting up and executing a takedown in judo/wrestling/bjj/mma
  • pulling your significant other in for a kiss

Obviously maintaining strong back muscles is super-important to performing countless, daily tasks with ease.  

Not to mention they’re key to upper body support and your ability to stand and sit upright and maintain good posture.

Strengthening your back muscles can help deter osteoporosis of the spine and help prevent back pain. And, when they’re toned, you look better in your shirts and dresses, not to mention backless clothing and swimsuits!

Since these muscles are your pull muscles, you’ll need to pull on something in order to exercise them properly.  You can use weights, or an exercise band or tube which you can purchase at almost any sports store, or on my site.  (Don’t underestimate the power of an exercise band. You can get an intense workout with one that’s strong enough.) The great thing about these bands is that they’re inexpensive, and you can pack them in a small bag and bring them anywhere.

To get the most out of the exercises in the video above:

  • Pull slowly through your entire range of motion to create maximum tension
  • Hold it for a second at the end of the movement and contract your muscles for more intensity

To get the strength and tone that you’re looking for:

  • Use a weight or band that allows you to do no more than 20 repetitions.
  • If you can do 20 or more repetitions, it’s time to increase the weight or the tension.
  • If you’re looking to build more muscle / gain more strength, aim to do 8-12 repetitions max.

Descriptions for Exercises in Video Above 

(You can print this for your reference.)

Standing Rows with a band

  • Tie a knot into the middle of a band.
  • Place the knot behind the top of a door and close it firmly.
  • Stand tall with abdomen slightly in and shoulders back and down.

Exercise 1) Pull the band back with your elbows close to your sides for lats.

Exercise 2) Pull the band back with your elbows out to the side for traps. 

Bent Over Rows with Weight

  • With weight in one hand, place the opposite hand and knee onto a bench or couch.
  • Pull the abdomen slightly in and bring shoulders back and down.

Exercise 3) Pull the weight back with your elbow close to your side for lats.

Exercise 4) Pull the weight back with your elbow out to the side for traps.   

Standing One Leg Bent Over Rows with Weight

Do only if you have good balance, core strength, and are proficient at the Rows above

  • With weight in one hand, lean forward from the hip joint, keeping the knee straight but soft.
  • Lift the opposite leg off the floor to hip height (less high if you’re not feeling balanced)
  • Pull the abdomen slightly in and bring shoulders back and down.
  • Lengthen the spine by reaching the top of the head forward.

Exercise 5)  Pull the weight back with your elbow close to your side for lats.

Exercise 6) Pull the weight back with your elbow out to the side for traps.

Don’t forget: It’s recommended that you talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. This is basic exercise information for the general public. If you have injuries or other physical limitations, this exercise may not be appropriate.

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