Back Exercises for Men and Women – Personal Trainer Guide

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Last updated on February 12, 2023

When it comes to working the back, there are probably more exercise options than any other body part. But not all of them are effective. In this article, we identify the 6 best back exercises for men and women to create an awesome, streamlined back.

Should Men and Women Train the Back the Same Way?

Men and women usually have different goals about how they want their back to develop. For most guys, the wider the lats are, the better. They also want as much thickness and definition to the back as humanly possible. Women, on the other hand, are usually more concerned with developing an athletic, fat free back that is streamlined and only slightly defined. Women are often more concerned than men with strengthening the muscles around their spine to prevent lower back injury also.


As a result of these different goals, men and women should train their backs slightly differently. The exercises will generally be the same but the rep scheme will differ somewhat. That’s because the back muscles of men and women are constructed the same way but the rep scheme will affect the outcome.

Best Back Exercises for Men

Some of the traditional back exercises, such as inverted rows, bent over rows, lat pulldowns and cable rows and dumbbell rows are not in this workout. That’s because the following three exercise combinations hit every aspect of your upper body’s back development. It’s all you need!

Pull Up

The Pull Up is a fundamental upper body exercise that develops power while also building width in the latissimus dorsi (or lat) muscle of the back. If you are a guy who wants to develop the classic V taper, then you need to be doing this exercise:


  • Stand below a pull up bar and reach up to grab the bar with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Hang from the bar at full extension.
  • Initiate the upward pull from the scapula and lats as come up to bring your chin over the bar.
  • Lower back down to a dead hang


T-Bar Row


The T-Bar row will add thickness to your lats. This is an exercise that you can go very heavy on so don’t shy away from the plates.



  • Load a 45 pound plate onto a t-bar row bar.
  • Straddle the bar and grab the handle with a close overhand grip.
  • Maintain a light arch in your back as you row the bar up to your ribcage.
  • Lower back to the start position and repeat for the required number of reps.

Dumbbell Shrugs


The dumbbell shrug is an exercise that directly stimulates the trapezius muscle. Mist people just think of the trapezius as the portion of muscle that sits between your neck and shoulders. However, this muscle actually takes up a large area of real estate on your back. It is a kite shaped muscle that makes up the bulk of your upper back. If you neglect to work your traps, you will never develop a complete back.


  • Grab a pair of relatively heavy dumbbells of the dumbbell rack.
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart and the dumbbell held at your sides with your palms facing your thigh.
  • Shrug your shoulders up as high as you can, without bending your elbows. Try to bring your shoulders up to your ears.
  • Return to the start position by lowering your arms straight down


Many people tend to shrug in a circular motion. Don’t do this, as it  will take the stress off the target muscle.


Best Back Exercises for Women

The best back exercises for women are focused on developing a streamlined athletic, strong and muscular look while also strengthening for lumbar spine support.

Lat Pull-In

The Lat Pull-In positions your body to perfectly simulate the natural biomechanical movement of the latissimus dorsi muscle. Concentrate on getting a full extension from way up high to alway the way down to your hip bone.



  • Place a seat with an upright back support about three feet in front of a high cable pulley machine.
  • Set the pulley to the highest cable setting.
  • Grab the handle with your right hand and sit on the bench so that you are side on to it
  • Adjust the seat distance so that, when you’re holding the cable, your arm is at a 30 degree angle.
  • Pull down and into your right hip. Draw your shoulder blades together as you pull down.
  • Complete all reps on the right side and then repeat on the left side.

Seated Cable Shrug

The seated cable shrug is the best exercise to target the middle trapezius muscle. This is different to the standing dumbbell shrug which primarily hits the top of the traps, which is the area that most guys are most interested in developing.


  • Place a seat with an upright back in the middle of a cable crossover machine and about three feet back from it.
  • Set the pulley to the height of your shoulders when you are sitting on the seat.
  • Set a light to moderate weight and grab the handles.
  • Sit on the seat with your arms extended.
  • Shrug your shoulder blades in together, imagining that you are trying to hold a pencil between them.
  • Extend your arms back out.

Seated Back Flexion

The seated back flexion is a fantastic bodyweight exercise that will strengthen the erector spinae muscles of the lower back.


  • Sit lower at the end of a box (or equivalent) with knees wide apart and fists on the floor or sit on the end of a bench with your knees together and your hands clasped together in front of your chest
  • Round your mid back as you bend forward to bring your elbows down to your knees.
  • Arch back upwards to return to the starting position, flexing your lower back muscles as you do so.

The Best Home Back Exercises

Resistance Band Deadlift


  • Stand with a resistance loop band under your feet, which are shoulder width apart, and the other end held behind your neck and across your shoulders.
  • Pivot at the hips to bring your torso down to just short of parallel to the floor and then return to the start position. Maintain an arch in your lower back throughout.

Seated One Arm Row with Resistance Band


  • Sit with your legs extended and slightly apart. Place a resistance loop band around your mid foot and hold it with your right hand in a neutral grip.
  • Maintaining a neutral spine ,row your arm to chest level, squeezing the shoulder blades together as you do so. Return to the start position.



  • Lie face down on an exercise mat with your arms and legs outstretched.
  • Lift your hands and feet from the floor and raise your head.
  • Without bending your knees, pulse up with your body extending your am and legs. Lower and repeat.

Romanian Deadlift


  • In a standing position have your feet slightly shoulder width apart, toes pointed out and a resistance banded looped under both feet. Hold the bands at mid torso level with.
  • Maintaining a neutral spine, hinge at the hips to lower your torso to a parallel positon to the floor.
  • Contract your lower back as you raise back up to the start positon. That is one rep.

Deadlift with Arm Row


  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and a resistance band looped under your feet. Hold the other end of the band in both hands.
  • Maintaining a neutral spine position, hinge at the hips to bring the torso down to a position parallel to the floor.
  • Return to the top position.
  • Pull the bands up to chest level. Lower to the start position. That is one rep.

Men’s Home Beginner Back Workout

  • Resistance Band Deadlift – 3 x 12
  • Seated One Arm Row – 3 x 12
  • Hyperextension – 3 x 15

Men’s Home Intermediate Back 

  • Resistance Band Sumo Deadlift (Wide Stance) – 4 x 15
  • Pull Ups – Set a target of 30 reps and do them in as few sets as possible.
  • Hyperextension – 4 x 15

 Men’s Gym Beginner Back Workout

  • Pull Ups – 3 x 8-10 reps
  • T-Bar Row – 3 x 8-10 reps
  • Lat Pull-In – 3 x 8-10 reps

Men’s Gym Intermediate Workout

  • Pull Ups – Set a target of 30 reps and do them in as few sets as possible.
  • Lat Pull-In – 4 x 15/10/8/6
  • Dumbbell Shrugs – 3 x 12
  • T-Bar Row – 3 x 8-12

Women’s Home Beginner Back Workout

  • Romanian Deadlift – 3 x 15
  • Seated One Arm Row – 3 x 12 
  • Seated Back Flexion – 3 x 20

Women’s Home Intermediate Back Workout

  • Pull Ups – set a target of 20 reps and do them in as few sets as possible
  • Resistance Band Deadlift – 4 x 15 
  • Hyperextension – 3 x 15
  • Seated One Arm Row – 3 x 12

Women’s Gym Beginner Back Workout

  • Lat Pull-In: 5 x 30/20/15/10/8/8
  • Seated cable Shrug: 5 x 30/20/5/10/8/8
  • Seated Back Flexion: 3 x 20

Note: Increase the weight with each rep drop.

Women’s Gym Intermediate Back Workout

  • Pull Ups – 5 x 12/10//8//6/6
  • T-Bar Row: 5 x 12/10/8/6/6
  • Dumbbell Shrugs: 4 x 30/20/15/10

Note: Increase the weight with each rep drop.

In Summary

If you are looking for back exercises for women or back exercises for men that are smart you have the workouts. Implement them and let us know how you get on.

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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