How to Get a Stronger Back With These Standing Back Exercises

woman performing suspension trainer row

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A strong and stable back will help reduce your risk of back pain and injury, a common complaint, especially among people who sit for much of the day. To combat the effects of sitting and improve your overall functioning and posture, you can try back exercises. Here are some standing back exercises based on strength training to boost your back strength and stability and prevent injuries and pain.


For this workout, you will need a barbell, rack, dumbbells, suspension trainer, resistance band, and sled. There are alternative pieces of equipment and variations for performing each movement, but most people find utilizing a full gym is the best bet for performing this routine as-is.

You can pick two to three of these standing back exercises to add to your full body or upper body routine or perform the entire workout as a back day routine. If you choose to do this workout in full, you will need to adjust your rep counts and sets to account for the number of exercises. The whole workout will take about 45 minutes, including rests of 1 to 2 minutes between each set and exercise.

If you are doing the workout as part of a full-body or upper-body split, select two to three exercises and perform 2 to 3 sets for each. If you are doing this entire workout as a back-day program, you will perform 1 set of pull-aparts, 2 sets each of pulldowns, suspension rows, and rack pulls. Then do 1 to 2 sets of sled pulls as a finisher.

Warm Up

Warm up using dynamic movements that mimic the type of exercises you will be doing during your workout. This will help activate your central nervous system, prepare you for the work ahead, and help engage your muscles. Try standing back warm-up exercises such as banded rows, wall angels, and arm circles.

The Workout

The following workout includes five targeted standing-back exercises that will improve your stability, strength, and functioning. The number of reps provided below are suggestions only. Adapt the rep ranges to suit your abilities and preferences.

Keep in mind that for small muscle groups, it is better to do more reps with a lower weight so that your form is consistent. With larger muscle groups, using heavier weights will ensure a good rep range before failure without exhausting yourself. Here's how to do each of the moves in this workout.

Banded Pull Apart

Banded pull-aparts are excellent as a starting exercise on back day because they help encourage muscle activation and mind-muscle connection to the back, which is difficult for many people. They also combat the effects of being hunched over from sitting, preparing you to maintain an upright posture for your other exercises.

  1. Hold a resistance band at chest height using an underhand grip.
  2. Pull the band apart at chest height chest, bringing the band to your chest while separating your hands.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down once your hands are fully apart.
  4. Keep a tall posture, with your ribs down (don't hunch your shoulders).
  5. Bring your hands together slowly, releasing with control.
  6. Repeat for a total of 15 to 20 reps.

Straight Arm Pulldown

Straight arm pulldowns are a standing back exercise that targets the lats and middle back with some lower back activation as well. Use a cable machine or resistance bands anchored to a door frame or another fixed point.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, your lower back straight and your core engaged.
  2. Grasp a pulldown bar or resistance band handles with an overhand grip.
  3. Keep your arms straight except for a slight bend in your elbows while you bring the bar down to your hips or thighs.
  4. Exhale and engage your lats throughout.
  5. Pause for a count and return to the start with control, not allowing the weight plates to touch before beginning another rep.
  6. Repeat for a total of 15 to 20 reps.

Suspension Trainer Rows

One way to do a standing row is to use a suspension trainer. This exercise will work your mid back with help from your abdominals, biceps, and shoulders. It's vital to concentrate on using your back muscles to pull yourself upward rather than your arms to receive the most benefit.

  1. Stand facing anchored suspension trainer with the straps above your head and brace your lower back, engaging your core.
  2. Lean back to allow tension in the straps as they hold your weight until your arms are straight.
  3. Pull yourself upward using your back muscles, keeping your core engaged.
  4. Refrain from allowing your back to arch and do not use your biceps.
  5. Contract your back muscles and then reverse the motion slowly.
  6. Repeat for a total of 10 to 15 reps.

Rack Pulls

Rack pulls are similar to deadlifts, but they only include the top portion of the movement as you pull the bar from a racked position instead of off the floor. This exercise primarily targets the lower back, building stability and strength in an area commonly afflicted by tightness and pain. Use a heavy weight for this movement.

  1. Place a barbell in the rack, so it is at knee height.
  2. Bend your knees and hinge your hips, keeping your chest raised.
  3. Grasp the barbell with an overhand or mixed grip.
  4. Stand up, driving your hips forward, keeping your back straight.
  5. Pause for a count, fully locking out your hips and contracting your lower back and glutes before returning the bar to the rack with control.
  6. Repeat for a total of 8 to 10 reps.

Sled Pulls

Sled pulls are a functional strength and power-building exercise often used for athletic training, that is perfect for a back-day finisher. Pulling motions are used in everyday living and are a fundamental human movement pattern.

Performing them as part of a back day will help you eke out more volume and wear out the back muscles sufficiently to increase results. Make sure you maintain perfect form throughout to avoid back strain.

  1. Load the sled with a challenging weight, and lay the rope out straight.
  2. Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart at the end of the rope.
  3. Squat down so your knees are bent a little more than 90 degrees.
  4. Grasp the rope with your dominant arm further in front on the rope, almost fully extended.
  5. Engage your core and pull the rope using your forward, dominant arm toward your body while simultaneously reaching out your other arm to grasp and pull in a smooth motion.
  6. Pull the sled all the way into you before walking backward away from the sled and starting again.
  7. Try pulling for 30 to 60 seconds.

Safety & Precautions

Before you try any of these standing back exercises, ensure you can perform them correctly and that you have chosen an appropriate weight for your abilities. If you are unsure how to perform them, seek the guidance of a personal trainer.

Don't perform any movement that aggravates your joints or muscles in a way that doesn't feel right. Aside from the muscular challenge that comes naturally with strength training, you should not feel any pain or strain. If you have a current injury of any kind, avoid standing back exercises until you are cleared by a healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Back exercises are vital for a strong and stable core, healthy spine, and reduced risk of back injury and strain. Correcting poor postural habits that come from days spent sitting or hunched over is best accomplished by including back-strengthening work through resistance training.

The above standing back exercises will help accomplish this. Remember to see a healthcare provider before trying new exercises and to get clearance if you have back pain or injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which exercises are best for the back?

    The best exercises for the back are those that help build strength and mobility so your back can move without tightness or weakness. Try strength training movements like deadlifts, barbell rows, pullups, pulldowns, and back extensions.

  • How do you strengthen your lower back without getting on the floor?

    To strengthen your lower back without getting on the floor, try deadlifts, good mornings, pullups, cable pulldowns, sled pulls, rack pulls, and other cable, resistance band, or suspension trainer exercises.

  • What is the best exercise for low back pain?

    The best exercises to prevent low back pain include those that help to build strength and torso stiffness including squats and deadlifts. Barbell rows and pullups are also fantastic choices. If you have current low back pain see a physiotherapist for particular exercises to help you.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gordon R, Bloxham S. A systematic review of the effects of exercise and physical activity on non-specific chronic low back painHealthcare. 2016;4(2):22. doi:10.3390%2Fhealthcare4020022

  2. Owen PJ, Miller CT, Mundell NL, et al. Which specific modes of exercise training are most effective for treating low back pain? Network meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2020;54(21):1279-1287. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2019-100886

  3. Winwood PW, Cronin JB, Brown SR, Keogh JWL. A biomechanical analysis of the heavy sprint-style sled pull and comparison with the back squat. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching. 2015;10(5):851-868. doi:10.1260/1747-9541.10.5.851

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.