Staci Alden by Staci Alden

Consistent, and progressive muscular training is the best way to increase muscle size(also known as hypertrophy) and strength). It’s also important to understand that building and sustaining muscle requires energy. Your body will not build additional muscle mass unless your caloric intake can sustain more muscle mass. If you are committed to increasing muscle mass, it is worth considering working with a registered dietitian to review the number of calories and distribution of macronutrients in your diet. Adequate nutrition combined with muscular training will help you build and maintain more muscle.

The following back-exercise recommendations are divided into three general sections of muscle groups: upper, middle and lower. No group is more important than the other, so be sure to include exercises for each group. Increasing muscle size through progressive muscular training means stronger back muscles with an increased work capacity.

Upper-back and Mid-back Muscles

Muscle Action
Upper trapezius Elevates shoulders
Rhomboid minor Elevates and brings shoulder blades together
Levator scapulae Elevates the shoulders
Mid-low trapezius Draws shoulder blades together and down
Rhomboid major Puuls SHoulder blades together
Latissimus dorsi Pulls arms down and toward the body


Low-back Muscles

Muscle Action
Erector spinae Extends the spine
Quadratus lumborum Bends the spine from side to side


Recommended Exercises

Upper and mid-back:

  • Lat pull-down (wide hand position targets latissimus dorsi; narrow hand position increases biceps engagement)


  • Birddog single-arm row



  • Cable face-pull


Mid-back and low-back:

  • Suspension trainer row

Woman performing a trainer row on a suspension cable.


  • Supine bar row


  • Supine pull-over



  • Stability ball back extension


  • Plank row with extension


Recommended Repetition Scheme

Since the goal here is to build muscle, the repetition scheme should be at least six to 12 reps of three to six sets of each exercise. It’s a good idea to start with lighter weights and fewer sets and work up to more sets using heavier weights over time. Be sure to plan one week of movement recovery or “de-load” every five to six weeks to ensure you can continue to see improvement in your strength and muscle hypertrophy. Going all out for too long can cause overtraining, overuse, staleness, and plateaus.

How to Add These Exercises to Your Current Routine


The goal of a healthy muscular training routine should be to strengthen the whole body. Some people like to divide their days into specific body parts, while others like to work the entire body every workout. No matter what your preference may be, take an exercise from each part of the back sections shared above and incorporate them into your routine. If you focus on the back for one day, add as many of these exercises as possible to one session per week. If you prefer to work your full body each session, make sure you are sprinkling in one or two of these exercises each time you work out.

When adding new exercises to your fitness routine, consider consulting a personal trainer for a session to observe your form. Now get moving and enjoy incorporating these exercises into your workouts to build a strong back that you can count on to support your posture and prevent injury.

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