7 Essential Back Exercises to Build Strength, Muscle and Power for Crossfitters

It is difficult to think of a functional exercise where having a strong back will not give you an advantage. In Crossfit, a powerful back will help you to:

  • Control and execute gymnastic movements such as muscle ups
  • Improve the pulling phases of the Olympic Lifts
  • Help stabilise all overhead pressing and balancing movements
  • Support your spine and protect you from injury
  • Maintain good posture
  • Enable you to lift more (and thus get stronger) on the most important basic strength exercises
  • Work with your core to control and stabilise movements


Whether you choose to train with several exercises that specifically target your back together (a “back day” so to speak), or you want to add a few of the following into a workout, make sure you warm up with movements that mimic those that you are about to perform. 

Upper back muscles

A decent warm up should always include (at minimum) some kind of work to elevate your heart rate and involve movements that are specific to what you will do in your workout. For example, if you about to work on strict presses and overhead strength, it makes sense to select warm up exercises that will mirror these movements. Your back is comprised of many large muscle groups, and is a powerful part of your body, so take the time to warm up properly when you know it will be stressed and worked hard in a training session. Learn more about your thoracic spine and posterior chain to understand how these function together.

It is also important to think about your scapula and shoulders when warming up for training your back. Try these exercises to get prepped for these types of workouts:

Scapular Health: 4 Banded Mobility Exercises to Bulletproof Your Shoulders

If you still aren’t sure about exactly where to start, your coach should be the first point of contact. This banded drill from Sam Dancer is also an excellent starting point.


“Stay smooth, always push out against band and keep band off your back. Did it for about 2-3min. Loved the rotation of the scap, activation of pec and lat, and a surprising amount of stability involved in both trunk and shoulder.. nothing quite like it from my experience. Some relatives might be like a contralateral carry or TGU but there isn’t anything as dynamic with tension.”


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Once you are warmed up properly, get into your workout! The following seven exercises are all excellent ways to strengthen your back and improve your performance for Crossfit, life and general long-term health.


“This is an easy way to set this up if you don’t have a proper Prone Row and bent bar set up. Great way to teach upper back pulling. Widen the grip to remove even more of the arm flexors.”


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