Back workouts | The best back exercises for building muscle and strength

The back is one of the largest sections of muscle and bone in the human body. Because of its size, the back is more prone to injury and damage than other areas, which makes strengthening the muscles in the area vital.

We’ve put all our favourite back workouts in one place to help you build muscle and strength in your back using weighted and bodyweight exercises. No matter what your experience or ability, we have something for you to incorporate into your own routine or to follow along with.

The importance of strengthening your back

A strong back promotes good posture and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal problems like back and neck pain developing. For those already experiencing discomfort in the back, strengthening the muscles in this area can help alleviate pain by lessening muscle imbalances which can cause soreness, disc compression, and even nerve damage.

Having a strong back is an integral part of building core strength. With so many muscle groups in the back, the area is involved in everything from stability and balance to lifting and strength focused training. 

The best exercises for strengthening your back

Whether it’s improved athletic performance and aesthetics you’re after, or you’re simply looking to maintain a pain-free and active lifestyle, incorporating back-strengthening exercises like rows and deadlifts into your fitness routine is invaluable.

How often should I train my back?

Depending on your ability and fitness level, you may want to train your back two or three times a week. There is no downside to doing this, and providing you prioritise recovery after working out, you will see major benefits.

If you’re new to working out, we recommend training your back once a week as part of a wider exercise program. Most workout plans will follow this advice and dedicate a single day to the back. This advice can be adjusted based on what works best for you. Consider working one to one with a personal trainer for more tailored advice on the best way to achieve your fitness goals.

How a personal trainer can help

If you already know what exercises work for you, then jump right in. If you don’t, working with a personal trainer is a great way to assess your ability and goals to create a unique workout that’s specifically for you.

If you’re injured or living with chronic pain, visiting a physiotherapist before you start any new routine is a must. A qualified physio can help diagnose issues and provide recommendations about posture, form, and how to exercise without aggravating your body. 

All our back workouts in one place

At Nuffield Health, we have a wide range of personal trainer led exercise classes for you to follow along with at home. We’ve put all our favourite back-strengthening classes in one place to save you time and effort.

Class #1: The back fit workout

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Duration: 10 minutes
  • What you’ll need: dumbbells, mat, stepper

This 8-step workout uses your bodyweight to mobilise the upper back, shoulders, and abdomen. Simple repetitions of squats and bridges help you build strength and stability in your back so you can continue to maintain an active and pain-free lifestyle.

How to perform the exercises


  • 15 x Depth jump (2 sets, rest 30 seconds per set)
  • 15 x Arm Circles (2 sets, rest 10 seconds per set)
  • 15 x Cat camel (2 sets, rest 10 seconds per set)

Main workout

  • 15 x Squat (3 sets, rest 10 seconds per set)
  • 15 x Sit up (3 sets, rest 10 seconds per set)
  • 15 x Side Plank Lift (3 sets, rest 10 seconds per set)
  • 15 x Kneeling Superman (3 sets, rest 10 seconds per set)

Cool down

  • Thoracic Rotation (30 secs)
  • Cat camel (30 secs)
  • Hamstring stretch (30 secs)
  • Lying glute stretch (30 secs)
  • Side Hip and Quad Stretch (30 secs)
  • Straight-leg Calf Stretch (30 secs)
  • Standing IT Band Stretch (30 secs)

Class #2: Revitalise your spine

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • What you’ll need: A mat

If you're plagued with back pain or simply aiming to maintain a strong and healthy spine, this slow-pace class is tailor-made for you. 

Featuring mobility-focused movements and stretches, this back workout for pain-relief is our favourite class for improving flexibility and stretching out painful and sore areas in and around your back.

How to perform the exercises

Warm up

  • March on the spot
  • Cervical flexion
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Lumbar spine side flexion
  • Spinal roll down

Block 1 

  • Sit to stand
  • Static lunge
  • Deadlift

Block 2 

  • Hip extension
  • Box push up
  • Cat cow

Block 3 

  • Thoracic rotation
  • Glute bridge
  • Alternate leg lifts

Cool down

  • Knee hugs

  • Knee rolls
  • Glute stretches
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Hip flexor stretch
  • Quad stretch

Class #3: Get strong back muscles with Zahra's core workout!

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Duration: 20 minutes
  • What you’ll need: A mat

How to perform the exercises

Warm up

  • Shoulder rolls
  • Squats
  • Reach ups
  • Squat reach over
  • Oblique reaches 

Block 1

  • Leg raises
  • Leg raise crunches
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Leg raises
  • Leg raise crunches
  • Bicycle crunches 

Block 2

  • Plank
  • Back extensions 

Block 3

  • High plank
  • Knee drives 
  • Back raises
  • Skydives
  • High plank knee drives

Block 4

  • Side plank hip raises 
  • Glute bridges

I’m in pain during exercise

This could be down to several reasons. You might be lifting weights that are too heavy for you, or you might be performing an exercise that is too advanced for you currently.

Whilst not lifting heavy weights to start might be obvious for all of us, identifying the underlying cause of a painful or sore area requires professional input. If you’re in pain whilst working out and don’t know why, consider booking an appointment with a physiotherapist or GP before continuing.

Last updated Tuesday 3 October 2023

First published on Monday 6 June 2016