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7 exercises to tone and strengthen your back

Targeting your back muscles with a strength-training routine can help prevent back pain and combat poor posture.
A strong back is essential for performing twisting and pulling motions with ease.
A strong back is essential for performing twisting and pulling motions with ease.TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Stephanie Mansour

Exercises that strengthen your back are one of the best tools in preventing back pain. Working the back muscles also helps lengthen the spine and combat the effects of poor posture. And keeping your back in tip-top shape is important: We recruit the muscles of the back in almost every movement we perform. A strong back is essential for performing twisting and pulling motions with ease and without injury.

Luckily, all you need is a pair of dumbbells to start targeting your back muscles at home. Here are some of my favorite exercises to tone and strengthen the back.

Plank rows

Plank rows

Starting in a plank position, hold one dumbbell in each hand directly under the shoulders. From here, pull your naval in toward your spine and pull the right dumbbell up into a row. Hug the right elbow in toward your side waist and try to keep your right hip facing down toward the ground rather than turning it outward as you bring the arm up. Then place the right arm down and repeat on the left side. Continue alternating.

T raises exercise

T-raises

Stand with feet hip-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand. Slightly bend the knees and hinge at the waist until the torso is almost parallel to the ground. Bring the weights together in front of the chest and turn the palms to face forward. Lift the weights straight out to the sides up to shoulder height, keeping the arms straight. Then lower them back down.

Plank with lateral arm raise

Plank with lateral arm raise

Start in a plank position, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Engage your abs and keep your hips steady as you lift your right arm out to the right up to shoulder height. Return to center, and then repeat with the other side.

Superman with dumbbells

Superman with dumbbells

Lying face down on your stomach, reach your arms back alongside your body and hold a dumbbell in each hand (with the palms facing up). Tighten your core, pulling your abs in and lift your legs up off of the ground, squeezing the glutes. Slowly lift your head up and look a few inches in front of you to keep your neck in proper alignment as you squeeze the back to lift your upper body off the ground. Then reach the arms up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a moment at the top, then lower back down.

Bent over row

Bent over row

Start standing with your feet as wide as your hips. Hinge forward at your waist and pull your abs in. Reach your torso on a diagonal so that you’re slightly bent over. Let the weights dangle down by your sides, and then hug your elbows in toward your sides and pull the weights up toward your chest. Tighten your upper back and the area in between your shoulder blades. Then, lower the arms down keeping the elbows hugging in toward your sides.

 

Single arm plank row

Single arm plank row

Start in a plank position with one dumbbell under your right hand and your left palm resting on the floor. (If you feel any pain in your wrist, try holding onto a dumbbell under the left hand). Row the right elbow up, pulling the dumbbell toward your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and try to keep the right hip level with the left. Then lower the dumbbell down and tap it on the floor before performing the next rep. Perform 10 reps on the right side before switching to the left.

Rear delt fly

Rear delt fly

Stand with your feet as wide as your hips and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Reach your arms toward the floor as you hinge forward at the hips, leaning your torso forward on a diagonal. Then fly your arms out to the sides as high as the shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and then release down to the starting position.

More exercises to add to your routine:

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