back strengthening exercises for seniors

Here are 6 amazing back strengthening exercises for seniors and older adults that can be done at home.

Last updated January 2023

Hi - I'm Ollie 🙂

I'm glad you found me. I've been providing evidence based fitness and nutrition advice to older adults and seniors for many years.

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Muscles of the back 

Before I show you some of the best back exercises you can do from home, let me quickly show you what the back muscles actually are.

It's really helpful to know what muscles you're actually working during a given exercise.

Generally speaking, the back muscles are important for pulling movements and are often neglected because they are harder to train than frontal muscles (that are important for pushing). Pulling movements include opening doors and picking things up from the floor.

The picture below gives you an idea of the major back muscles. You don't need to know the anatomical names for each muscle but it's important to understand that all muscle tissue requires a stimulus in order to adapt at grow stronger.

Our muscles all work together to give us strength, mobility, balance, postural control, agility etc. It's extremely important to keep them in prime condition. And we do that via exercise.

back strengthening exercises for seniors - The back muscles

Back strengthening exercises for seniors and older adults

Let's get straight into my list of back strengthening exercises for seniors. I'll include a video demonstration with each one of my recommended exercises.

All these exercises will either require resistance bands, dumbbells or just your body weight. Some of the exercises can be done using any of the suggested equipment whilst others will require a specific piece of equipment.


You can purchase resistance bands or dumbbells from the links provided below if you want to.


  • The flat resistance band

Click here to see flat resistance bands on amazon


  • Dumbbells

Oypla 12kg Vinyl Hand Dumbbell Workout Weight Set Including Stand


Banded pull aparts 

This exercise requires a flat resistance band. This is a great exercise for your upper back muscles and back of the shoulders. You can do it either standing up or sitting down making it suitable for all fitness levels.

(If you can't see the video click HERE to view on Youtube)

Bent over row 

This exercise requires a flat band  or dumbbells

It can be done from standing or whilst sitting down. It's really effective for the lats (latissumus dorsi) that are the big muscles running down the side of the back.

(If you can't see the video click HERE to view on Youtube)


This a combination exercise that is really effective at hitting the muscles of the upper back. I often use it with clients as a mobility option and for creating better posture.

I recommend doing this one using just bodyweight but as you get stronger you can hold light dumbbells for this exercise as well.



Dumbbell fly 

As the name suggests this exercise requires dumbbells. It can be done whilst sitting or standing.

It's an excellent exercise for targeting the back of the shoulder (rear deltoids).

(If you can't see the video click HERE to view on Youtube)


Single arm row 

This exercise requires a dumbbell (just 1) and is done using either a support base, from kneeling or from standing. (I'll explain all in the video)

It's similar to the bent over row I showed you earlier but as the name suggests, you do 1 arm at a time with this exercise.

Using 1 arm at a time is excellent for adding some more tension to the core muscles and also helps to minimise imbalances.

(If you can't see the video click HERE to view on Youtube)


Banded face pulls 

Banded face pulls can be done with the flat resistance band. The banded face pull is highly effective at helping to strengthen the shoulders and upper back muscles.

They're also fantastic for maintaining good upright posture.

(If you can't see the video click HERE to view on Youtube)


What is the best exercise for strengthening my posture as senior/older adult?

There is no one best exercise for developing or maintaining a good posture as a senior.

A well balanced exercise programme that includes a variety of resistance based exercises for all the muscles of the body will be required for optimal postural results.

Having had a look at some of the other top rated sites on Google for back strengthening exercises for seniors and older adults its alarming how many of them are not actually prescribing back exercises.

Instead most of them are promoting lower body exercises or core exercises. These are very important for over overall strength and mobility as an older adult, but actual back exercises that target the back muscles need to be done.

If you do come across an article that proclaims the "best" exercise you should dismiss it.

We've worked with hundreds of clients and exercises that work well for some will not work for others.

We all have different anatomies, levels of strength, levels of mobility, injuries, pain etc.


What exercises should seniors avoid for their back health? 

There is no specific list of exercises that a senior or older adult should avoid.

It needs to be individualised.

Instead we utilise portable and affordable equipment such as resistance bands and lighter dumbbells.

If a certain back exercise causes pain then it probably should be avoided. Whether an exercise causes pain will be individualised from person to person.

Often a simple tweaking of technique will stop any pain and allow a client to perform an exercise pain free.

This is the benefit of working with exercise professionals.

Don't forget, discomfort and minimal pain is normal if you have arthritis at the specific joint you are exercising. You can read more about exercising with arthritis here

How often should seniors perform back strengthening exercises? 

In general you should do between 2 and 4 exercise sessions per week depending on a few factors such as personal schedule, current level of fitness and preference.

It's one of those "it depends" questions.

1 session is too few but it's still better than 0 sessions.

2 sessions is better than 1.

3 sessions is better than 2.

4 sessions might be better that 3 but only if it is set up correctly.

5 sessions might be too much but more experienced people could do 5.

My advice is to stick to 3 sessions per week if you can. (that's optimal)

Don't let anyone tell you there's a magic number because there isn't.

If you truly want to experience the benefit of resistance training you should really do at least 2 workouts per week consistently.


Benefits of Back Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

Of course back strengthening exercises should be done in conjunction with all the muscles in the body.

It's no good only strengthening 1 set of muscles.

The human body is a systemic organism that requires balance and that includes the muscles.

Lots of people fall victim to only training certain muscle groups which then causes imbalances which can ultimately result in pain and posture problems.

Training the back muscles (in conjunction with the rest of the body) will be hugely beneficial for general mobility and health.



  • Back strengthening exercises are crucial for long lasting mobility or to regain some lost mobility.
  • There are no specific back strengthening exercises that seniors need to avoid. Doing easier to perform exercises might be a wise option.
  • Back strengthening exercises should be done in conjunction all the muscles in the body.
  • Seniors should do 2-5 strength sessions per week (that all include back strengthening exercises)


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