The Best Back Workouts For Women: 6 Back Exercises To Build Strength

Depending on how you structure your strength training workouts, you may or may not get highly specific with the muscles you are training in a given session.

For example, if you do total body resistance training workouts, there will not be much attention on specific regions of your body, let alone specific regions of certain muscle groups.

However, if you take the body part splits training approach that many bodybuilders and serious weightlifters gravitate towards, you will likely hit just one or two major muscle groups per weightlifting session. With this approach, you will likely want to do standalone back workouts.

But, what are the best back exercises for women? How should you structure back workouts for women to improve strength and definition?

In this article, we will discuss how to put together effective back workouts for women and provide step-by-step instructions for the best back exercises for women to build strong, toned, functional back muscles.

Let’s dive in! 

A women's strong back.

What Are the Best Back Exercises for Women?

When many people think about the “best back workouts for women,” they are thinking about back exercises that will increase strength in all of the back muscles without necessarily increasing bulk.

For example, certain back exercises are more beginner friendly, whereas others are for advanced weightlifters who have more experience in strength. There are also back exercises that are better for hypertrophy or gaining mass. 

With that said the goals of the best back workouts for women should be to increase strength and muscle definition in all of the major muscles of the back.

Do not be afraid to use heavier weights with your back exercises.

The Best Back Workout For Women

Here are some of the best back exercises for women:

#1: Lat Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns are a great back exercise to work the lats and an excellent alternative to pull-ups.

You can perform lat pulldowns with various hand spacing or grip types, depending on the specific muscle fibers that you want to target.

Here are the steps to perform this back exercise:

  1. Sit down with good posture at the lat pulldown station with your thighs secured under the pads and feet on the floor.
  2. Reach up and grip the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from your body.
  3. Keep your core tight as you pull the bar down towards your collarbones, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the end range of motion. 
  4. Slowly return the weight to the starting position, resisting the momentum of the weight stack so that you maintain tension in your muscles throughout the duration of the movement.

#2: Straight-Arm Pulldowns

One of the best back exercises for women who want to strengthen the lower lats is the straight arm pulldown. 

Here are the steps to perform this back exercise:

  1. Set the pulley at the highest setting and secure the rope or straight bar attachment.
  2. Step back away from the machine several feet. 
  3. Hinge your hips, lean your torso at a 45° angle relative to the floor, and straighten your arms up. There should already be tension on the cable in this starting position, so step far enough back to do so.
  4. Keep your arms straight as you pull the bar straight down towards the top of your thighs.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position, beginning the next rep before the weight stack can completely touch down.

#3: Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows

Back workouts for women should include some version of a row to strengthen the lats.

Here are the steps to perform this back exercise with dumbbells:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hinge at your hips, keeping your core and glutes tight to maintain a flat, neutral spine.
  3. Pick up the dumbbells with your palms facing one another.
  4. Pull the weights up to the sides of your ribs by bending your elbows and retracting and dropping your shoulder blades, maintaining the hinge at your hips throughout the exercise.
  5. Pause at the top position for a full breath.
  6. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down until your elbows are fully extended.

#4: Dumbbell Reverse Fly

One of the best back exercises for the posterior deltoids, rhomboids, and middle traps is the reverse fly. 

You can perform the exercise standing upright with a resistance band or hinged forward with dumbbells.

Here are the steps for how to perform this back exercise with dumbbells:

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended, with your palms facing your body.
  2. Sit your hips back so that you can hinge your entire torso forward so that it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Think about pressing your chest up even though you are leaning forward. 
  3. Lift your arms out to the sides of your body and back as if flapping your wings like a bird. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as much as possible.
  4. Hold the squeeze at the top position for 2 to 3 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower the weights back down until they meet together under your body, with your arms hanging straight down below your chest.

#5: Incline I’s, Y’s, and T’s

Back workouts for women should include exercises for the traps and posterior deltoids, such as this dumbbell back exercise set.

Here are the steps to this back exercise:

  1. Set an incline bench to a 45° angle. Sit facing the bench with your chest against the back.
  2. Hold a relatively light dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing away).
  3. Begin by forming a giant letter I. Extend both arms upward overhead, and then contract your shoulders and upper back to extend the dumbbells up and back behind you while still keeping your arms straight. 
  4. Then bring the dumbbells back. 
  5. Complete 15 reps.
  6. Now, bring your arms out to a 45° angle from vertical so that you are forming a giant letter Y and repeat the same movement and squeeze for 15 reps.
  7. Finally, bring your arms down so that they are perpendicular to your body for the letter T, and squeeze for 15 reps.
  8. Repeat the same exercise, thinking about retracting your shoulder blades as much as possible and remembering to keep your elbows completely straight.

#6: Bird Dog

Finally, the best back workouts for women should include lower back exercises that strengthen your erector spinae, deep core muscles, and glutes.

Here are the steps to perform this lower back exercise:

  1. Get in a tabletop position by kneeling on all fours with a flat back with wrists stacked underneath your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips. Hold a light dumbbell in one hand.
  2. Engage your core as you lift and extend your opposite arm (with the dumbbell) and leg simultaneously straight out in front of you and straight back behind you, respectively. 
  3. Then, bring the arm and leg all the way under your torso so that your hand and knee touch together underneath your chest.
  4. Then stretch back out again.
  5. Complete 15 reps and then switch sides.

Try to perform 2-3 sets of each exercise. Aim for 2-6 reps using a weight that’s at least 85% of your 1RM if your goal is to increase strength and 8-12 reps using a weight that’s 65-85% of your 1RM if your goal is to build muscle mass.

Looking for more back workouts? Check out our cable machine back workout guide here.

A bird dog.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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