8 Best Back Exercises For Women

Did you know your back is the largest muscle in the upper body? This means that your back is a major metabolic muscle. In other words, strength training your back results in you burning calories all day long. Grab a set of dumbbells and do these 8 back exercises for women!

Best back exercises for women

I often get requests for ab workouts, arm workouts, and butt workouts. But ladies I’m here to tell you: it’s time to pay attention to your BACK!

The largest muscle in your upper body is your back; more specifically your lattismus dorsi (commonly known as your lats).

Lats and back muscles in general are often underworked as women tend to focus on the ‘more sexy’ upper body muscles — shoulders, biceps and triceps.

But I’m here to tell you — back exercises are important, especially for women.

Not only are your back muscles a large metabolic muscle, meaning you burn more calories when you strength train your back, but your lats help move your core and arms.

According to NASM your back is the foundation of your thoracic mobility, which is pretty important if you’re a woman carrying a carseat or grocery bags.

Back Exercises with dumbbells

So we are targeting just your back with these 8 best back exercises for women.

These 8 back exercises will strengthen all the muscles along your posterior chain; leaving you with sculpted shoulders, a defined back, and strong arms. And these back exercises can be done at home or at the gym using just a set of dumbbells.

I should note this isn’t an exhaustive list as it’s missing one of my personally favorite back exercises — the pull up. But these back exercises are a great place to start strengthening your back if you are trying to scale up to doing a pull up.

Whether you’re training for everyday life as a mom, or to reduce the risk of back injury, or to achieve a performance-based goal like doing a pull up, these 8 back exercises are a great place to start. 

how to strengthen your back

The Workout: 8 Best Back Exercises For Women

This strength training back workout targets the major muscle groups in your posterior chain. Also known as the muscles along the backside of your body — your lats, traps, rotator cuff, and all muscles along your spine.

Equipment: Medium to heavy set of dumbbells. I recommend anything from 8 lbs to 15 lbs dumbbells.

You can approach this back workout three different ways:

  1. Make it a 20-Minute Back Workout — set a timer for 20-minute. Complete 10 repetitions of each back exercise, taking breaks as needed. Repeat as many rounds as possible, or AMRAP, in 20-minutes.
  2. Make it an 8-Minute EMOM Workout or an ‘every minute on the minute’ workout. Set a timer for 8 minutes. At the start of the first minute complete 15 repetitions of the first back exercise. Then rest for the remaining time left in the minute. At the start of the second minute complete 15 repetitions of the second back exercise. Then rest for the remaining time left in the second minute. Repeat this format for all 8 minutes.
  3. Make it a Burnout Back Workout that you add onto the end of your workout to burnout the back muscles — Complete 12 repetitions of each exercise one time through to ‘burnout’ or fatigue the back muscles at the end of your workout. Burnout workouts are great for building muscle.

Reverse Grip Back Row

reverse grip row back exercise

How to do a reverse grip back row with dumbbells:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing out away from the body.
  3. Hinge forward at the hips till your body is in a straight line, neck in line with your spine, flat back, and belly button pulled back towards your spine. 
  4. Pull the weights back towards your hips. Feel your shoulder blades squeeze together.
  5. Control the dumbbells back down to the starting position. Think up on 1 count, down slow and controlled on a 2 count.

Single Arm Back Row

single arm row back exercise

Note, you can do this single arm dumbbell row from the hinged forward position you see above in the reverse grip row exercise; or you can take a staggered stance like you see pictured above. I prefer the staggered stance to alleviate pressure off the low back. 

How to do a single arm back row with dumbbells:

  1. Take a staggered-stance — left foot forward, right foot back.
  2. Start with the dumbbell in your right hand. 
  3. Hinge forward at the hips till your body is in a straight line, neck in line with your spine, flat back, and belly button pulled back towards your spine.
  4. Hold this staggered position while performing a single arm row on the right side. Pulling your elbow up towards the ceiling, and back towards your right hip while squeezing your back.
  5. Control the dumbbells back down to the starting position. Think up on 1 count, down slow and controlled on a 2 count.
  6. Repeat on the left side of the body.

Wide Back Row

wide row back exercise

How to do a wide back row with dumbbells:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing towards the body.
  3. Hinge forward at the hips till your body is in a straight line, neck in line with your spine, flat back, and belly button pulled back towards your spine. 
  4. Pull your elbows wide towards the ceiling, aiming for elbows line yup with the bottom of your sports bra. Feel your shoulder blades squeeze together.
  5. Control the dumbbells back down to the starting position. Think up on 1 count, down slow and controlled on a 2 count.

Narrow Back Row

bent over row | best back exercises

How to do a bent over row with dumbbells:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing in towards each other.
  3. Hinge forward at the hips till your body is in a straight line, neck in line with your spine, flat back, and belly button pulled back towards your spine. 
  4. Pull the weights back towards your hips, elbows high to the sky. Feel your shoulder blades squeeze together.
  5. Control the dumbbells back down to the starting position. Think up on 1 count, down slow and controlled on a 2 count.

Superman Lat Pull

superman back exercise

How to do a superman lat pull:

  1. Lying on your stomach, stretch your arms and legs out away from your body.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to engage your posterior chain as you lift your legs and arms off the ground.
  3. Hold this position as you pull your elbows back towards your hips, activating your lats.
  4. Extend your arms back overhead, and slowly lower legs and arms back towards the ground. 

Plank and Row or Renegade Row

Renegade Row back exercise

How to do a plank and row or renegade row:

  1. Start in plank position with one hand on each dumbbell. Shoulders stacked over wrists, core pulled tight, heels pressing towards the wall behind you. You can always modify your plank with both knees on the ground.
  2. From this plank position, pull one dumbbell back towards your hip, elbow up towards the ceiling; focus on keeping both hips square to the ground as you perform this row.
  3. Lower the dumbbell back to the ground slow and controlled, and repeat the row on the other side.

Lying Overhead Pulls

lying overhead pulls back exercise

How to do a lying overhead pull:

  1. Lying on your back, with legs bent at 90 degrees, hold one or two dumbbells in your hands with arms extended overhead.
  2. Maintaining straight arms, with a slight bend in the elbows, slowly lower the dumbbells overhead towards the ground. Try to keep your low back pressed into the mat/ground.
  3. Then pull the dumbbells back overhead, engaging the lats, to return back to the starting position.

Bent Over Back Fly

back fly back exercise

How to do a back fly:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing in towards each other.
  3. Hinge forward at the hips till your body is in a straight line, neck in line with your spine, flat back, and belly button pulled back towards your spine. 
  4. Perform a back fly by opening your arms, raising the dumbbells until they come in line with your shoulders as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Control the dumbbells back down to the starting position, trying not to let the dumbbells touch at the bottom. Think up on 1 count, down slow and controlled on a 2 count.

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