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9 Best Middle Back Exercises At Home To Help Build Strength

middle back exercises at home

Your back muscles enable many movements of the upper body and work with your chest and torso helping to provide stability and protection to the surrounding joints and your spine.  

The muscles of the middle back are made up of the trapezius, a large triangle shaped muscle which sits just under the skin, and the rhomboids, which are two smaller muscles which sit directly beneath the traps.  

All of these upper back muscles attach to the spinal column and the scapula and by improving strength to these muscle groups will help with improving poor posture and reducing common ailments such as lower back pain.

In this article we will discuss middle back exercises at home which require a limited amount of equipment

Benefits Of A Strong Back

Better Posture

Poor posture is common and not just in people who have desk jobs and sit for most of the day.  

If you undertake regular strength training and don’t balance workouts between your chest and back, this could lead to a muscle imbalance in terms of strength and size.  If you’re chest muscles are considerably more developed than the muscles of your back, this may result in poor posture.  

poor posture

Poor posture, whether that’s sitting or standing, causes certain muscles of the back to become weak.  When they become weak, they can also become tight, and this can have a detrimental effect on the vertebrae of the spine making the problem even worse.  

By activating all of your back muscles and increasing lean muscle tissue and strength, they can support your torso and shoulders properly leading to better posture.  

Stronger Spine

Many people suffer from a weak and inflexible spine and the main culprit is spending too much time sitting.  The spine isn’t particularly strong and relies on the strength of the muscles surrounding it.  

Aside from the middle back muscles, this also includes the spinal erectors, latissimus dorsi and spinal extensors.  

If your entire back is strong, the muscles can provide the support and stability that the spine needs to perform correctly.  This limits any potential for injury and allows you to perform common daily activities, such as carrying groceries, with ease.  

Improved Technique for Compound Lifts

When you increase the strength of your back, you’ll notice improvements to the three big lifts

Bench Press

During the bench press you’ll find it easier to retract your shoulder blades and scapula helping you to execute a bench press with good form.  

bench press movement

Squat

When squatting, you can easily perform low bar squats which will improve the leverages as you perform the exercise.  

squat strength training

Deadlift

For a deadlift, you’ll be able to keep the weight load closer to your body as you pull the weight again putting you in an optimal position for heavy lifting.  

stronger deadlift

Essentially, a stronger back will improve your technique and allow you to lift more weight.  

9 Effective Middle Back Exercises At Home

Now that we know the importance of working the muscles of the back, let’s look at some of the best exercises and stretches you can perform either at home or in the gym to target the middle back muscles, which include the largest trapezius muscle along with the smaller rhomboids.  

When performed regularly they will not allow strengthen the mid back muscles but also stretch them out helping to reduce aches and pains.  

It’s best to do the stretches first as this will loosen up the muscles and get the blood flowing helping to warm them up.  

Rhomboid Stretch

The rhomboid stretch is a great exercise for stretching out your mid and upper back muscle, helping to loosen them up.  

Whilst it’s best to do this exercise with your legs outstretched, if it feels a little uncomfortable at your hip joints, you can easily perform it whilst sitting at a chair.

upper back muscle stretch

How To Perform A Rhomboid Stretch:

  1. Start by sitting down with your legs straight out in front of you. 
  2. Hold your arms out so they are parallel to the floor and clasp your hands together, interlocking your fingers.
  3. Extend your arms out as much as possible whilst tucking in your chin. 
  4. Your back should be arching so that your feel a stretch to your mid and upper back muscles.  
  5. Hold this position for 30 seconds and perform 3 times.  

Thoracic Side Bend

Focus on form so that you can feel a nice stretch along the spine and the mid back muscles and make sure to breathe normally.  

When performed correctly, you’ll also feel the stretch across your rear delts.  Avoid the temptation to crunch down but rather raise your elbow up.  

How To Perform A Thoracic Side Bend:

  1. Adopt a seated position with feet shoulder-width apart.  
  2. Keep your back straight with head and chest up. 
  3. Place your hands behind your head and interlock the fingers. 
  4. Keeping your elbows out to the sides, slowly raise one elbow towards the ceiling.
  5. Look up towards the elevated elbow and this helps to keep your back straight. 
  6. Hold for 15 seconds and then repeat so that you do 3 on each side.  

Thoracic Rotation

This stretch is another great way of stretching out the back muscles.  As with the side bend, avoid crunching down and engaging your abs.  

How To Perform A Thoracic Rotation:

  1. Start this stretch in the same way as the side bend, seated with hands behind your head. 
  2. From this starting position, slowly rotate your upper body so that your left elbow moves towards your right knee. 
  3. Don’t bend over too much, instead focus on rotating round until your feel your muscles stretching out.  
  4. Pause for 15 to 20 seconds and then carefully go back to the start. 
  5. Repeat on the other side, completing 3 reps on each side.  

Once you’re performed the above stretch and warmed up the muscles you can now move on to the strength exercises.

Whilst you won’t need much in the way of equipment to perform the below movements, having a set of resistance bands and a pair of dumbbells would be helpful.  

Unilateral Band Row

For this exercise, you’ll need to have a resistance band and anchor it securely at just below chest height.  The higher the resistance on the band, the more challenging the movement.  

mid row band exercise 1

How To Perform A Unilateral Band Row:

  1. Once the band is secure, take hold of it with one hand and step back enough to create tension. 
  2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a slight bend to your knees.  
  3. Keep your core engaged with your back straight and head and chest up. 
  4. Hold your arm outstretched and from here, pull the band towards you whilst keeping your elbow tucked in.  
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.  
  6. Perform this exercise for 2 sets of 10 reps on each side.  

Lat Pull With Band

The lat pulldown exercise is pivotal to a good back workout.  As its name suggests, the primary muscle worked are the lats.  However, when squeezing the shoulders together throughout the exercise, you’ll also activate those mid back muscles.  

How To Perform A Lat Pull With Band:

  1. Securely anchor an open-ended resistance band to the top of a door. 
  2. Take hold of either end of the band and take a couple of steps back from the door. 
  3. Kneel on the ground so that tension is created in the band.  
  4. Lean your torso forwards slightly and keep your back in a neutral position.  
  5. Keeping your chest and head up, pull the back down until your hands reach your shoulders. 
  6. Squeeze your shoulders together at the bottom and return back to the start. 
  7. Repeat for 10 repetitions and 3 sets.  

Resistance Band Reverse Fly

The reverse will strengthen multiple muscles including the upper and lower traps, posterior deltoids and the rhomboids.  

Whilst this version is making use of a band, you can also perform it with a pair of dumbbells if you prefer. If so, stick to light weights to ensure proper form.  

How To Perform A Resistance Band Reverse Fly:

  1. Start by anchoring your band to around shoulder height. 
  2. Take hold of band handles and take a small step backwards.  Don’t go too far back as this may limit your range of movement
  3. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. 
  4. Hold your arms extended out in front of you and keep your elbows up with a bend to the elbow joints. 
  5. From here pull your arms out and around to your knees, always keeping the elbows up.
  6. Complete 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions. 

Banded Upright Row

Uprights rows when performed with a resistance band can put less stress on the neck and biceps making it a good alternative to using a loaded barbell or dumbbells.  It’s an easy exercise which will isolate the medial delts and the traps.  

banded upright row

How To Perform A Banded Upright Row:

  1. Place a resistance band under both feet and adopt a feet shoulder width stance. 
  2. Hold the band with both hands with palms facing you and arms down and just in front of you.  
  3. Keeping your shoulders relaxed pull your hands up towards your chin, your elbows should flare out as you go. 
  4. Be sure to keep your hands close to your body throughout the exercise. 
  5. Extend your arms back down to the starting position and repeat for 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. 

Prone Back Extension

The prone back extension is a body weight exercise that can be performed either on an exercise ball or by lying on the floor.  It will target multiple muscles including those of the mid back, lower back muscles, rear shoulders, and triceps.  

How To Perform A Prone Back Extension:

  1. Lie on the ground in a prone position. 
  2. Place your arms with palms face down out to your sides and rest them on the ground. Also place your forehead on the ground
  3. From here, rotate your shoulders and arms back so that your thumbs face the ceiling.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and raise your head and upper chest up off the ground.  
  5. Rise up as high as is comfortable without straining your lower back.  
  6. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and perform 3 times.  

Renegade Row

You’ll need a pair of dumbbells to perform this exercise.  Whilst it’s a great movement to work your core muscles, it will also help to build strong back muscles making it a worthwhile addition to your back training.  

To make this exercise easier, place your feet wider apart.  Conversely, to make it a little more difficult, place them closer together.  

How To Perform A Renegade Row:

  1. Start in a high plank position with one hand flat on the ground and positioned directly under your shoulder. 
  2. Take hold of a dumbbell with your other hand, your palm should be facing inwards.  Start with it placed on the ground.
  3. Keep your back in a neutral position and engage your glutes.  This is your start position. 
  4. Now, row the dumbbell up and towards your chest.
  5. Make sure you don’t flare out your elbow or allow your hips to drop.  
  6. Pause briefly at the top before lowering the dumbbell back to the floor. 
  7. Perform 15 reps and then switch sides.  

Conclusion

With regular at-home back exercises you can improve your strength and increase muscle mass.  This will provide better support to the shoulders and spine, even helping with your posture and low back pain problems.  

​ When adding new exercises into your routine always make sure to consider any pre-existing injuries or problems and perform movements slowly, with control and a full range of motion. 

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