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Upper & Lower Back Exercises for Women

By Melanie Beach

Building up the muscles in your back can prevent injury and back pain. Lots of simple exercises for women target the muscles in the upper and lower back in order to build strength. Along with increased strength, you will notice your muscles will look toned and firm as they build through these exercises and others like them, which may prompt you to throw on a few more back-baring outfits.


There are different types of rows, but at the most basic level, they involve bringing a weight or resistance in toward your chest with your arms. In order to do this, your shoulder blades pull together and engage your trapezius or upper back muscles. If you are at a gym, this can be done with the cable machines and a two-handled attachment or on a rowing machine that mimics the seat and rowing motion of an actual competitive rowing team. If you don't have access to these machines or a gym, you can do the same exercises at home with a resistance band wrapped around a pole or even around your outstretched feet. Rows can also be done with dumbbell weights by placing the knee and hand of one side onto a knee height platform. Place the other foot on the ground and lift the dumbbell from the ground up to your ribcage. All of these row techniques will target your upper back muscles and make them stronger, leaner and more toned.

Pull-ups, Pull-downs

Pull-ups and pull-downs will also target your upper back, primarily your latisimus dorsi muscles. Pull-ups can be difficult for people who are new to a fitness plan, but most gyms have machines that will assist you to do pull-ups with a weight that is lighter than your entire body. The wider you grip on the pull-up bar, the more you target on the outer edges of the back muscles. Lat pull-downs are a great way to work up to an unassisted pull-up. There are cable machines that allow for you to hold the pull down bar, sit with the tops of your legs secured beneath a cushioned pad, and pull the weighted bar down to your chest with your elbows and upper arms brought down near your sides. This exercise can also be done at home with a resistance band wrapped around a tall tree branch or other tall object.

Lower Back

Most lower back exercises can be done at home with no weights or machines, but one very effective exercise called a lower back extension uses a piece of equipment that is common in gyms. It has a ledge that holds your feet steady, and a slanted cushion to rest your hips on. Bend over at the hips until you are as low as you can comfortably go and keep your back straight. Your lower back muscles will engage as you bring your upper body back up in line with your lower body. Other exercises can be done at home, like back hyperextensions. These are done by laying flat on your stomach on the floor with arms extended straight above your head. Slowly engage your lower back muscles to lift your arms, shoulders and chest off the floor at the same time you lift your legs off the floor. Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds at first and build up to 30 seconds as you get more comfortable with the exercises.

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