Having a strong back is important for everyone, but especially so for weightlifters.
Strong mid-back muscles will keep your shoulders safe and steady when bench pressing, as well as help you manage proper form and heavy weights during deadlifts and squats.
When it comes to the mid-back, some exercises are better than others, particularly if you are focusing on developing muscle size and strength.
If you’re interested in building your middle back muscles, you’ll find 5 of the best mid-back exercises for muscle gain below.
You’ll also find out more about the muscles in the middle back, as well as some of the benefits that come with training them.
Middle Back Muscles
The middle back refers to the muscles that lie between the shoulder blades. These are the rhomboid minor and major, along with the lower and middle trapezius, known as the traps.
These muscles handle scapula and shoulder motion. Keeping these flexible and strong can help keep your upper back and shoulders healthy over time.
Rhomboids are two muscles that lie between the shoulder blades, known as the rhomboid major and the rhomboid minor.
The rhomboid major starts from the thoracic spine vertebrae, from T2 to T5, then finishes on the scapula’s central border.
The rhomboid minor starts from the spine’s C7 and T1 vertebrae, located centrally on the scapula’s spine.
The rhomboid minor and major have three primary functions:
- Scapula elevation – as when carrying out a trap raise
- Inward rotation – rotating downwards following an overhead press
- Scapula adduction – shoulder blades moving towards each other
Lower And Middle Traps
The traps, known as the trapezius muscles, are triangular, flat, and wide muscles found on both halves of the back. These are separated into lower, middle, and upper fibers.
Regarding the middle back, we’re looking at the lower and middle muscle fibers.
The traps’ middle fibers come from both halves of the neck, starting from the seventh cervical on the spinous process and from T1 to T3 thoracic vertebrae.
They are found on the central scapula’s spine.
The lower traps begin from supraspinous ligaments and spinous processes of thoracic vertebrae T4 to T12, entering the scapular spine’s central end.
The primary responsibilities of the lower and middle traps are:
- Scapula depression – lower
- Scapula outwards rotation
- Scapular adduction
- Scapula elevation
The lower and middle traps have similar jobs to the rhomboids.
The traps are a larger muscle that covers most of the rhomboid muscles, but the rhomboids are still significant. As they share a lot of the same functions, the mid-back exercises below will involve both sets of muscles.
Benefits Of Training The Mid Back
A built mid-back can look great, but other than for appearance’s sake, there are a few reasons why it is important to work out the middle back.
If the middle back muscles are strong, active, and flexible, they can help support a neutral spine when performing deadlifts and squats.
The mid-back muscles help keep a barbell near you during pull movements, as well as prevent a good morning movement when performing a squat.
You’ll also need to use your middle back muscles during a bench press, as this maintains safe shoulders and an improved bar course.
You may have heard the advice to ‘keep the shoulders down and back’ during bench press, which is your mid back muscles’ primary job.
If you don’t have strong mid-back muscles, you won’t be able to lift heavy weights and may risk shoulder safety.
The modern world has led to a decrease in activity levels. People are sitting down more, moving less, and hunching their shoulders over staring at screens.
This can lead to rounded shoulders and a forward-leaning head, leading to stretched, weak mid-back muscles.
Each inch the ears are forward from the shoulders adds an extra ten pounds of weight to the spine.
This can cause the mid-back muscles to become even weaker, leading to back and shoulder injuries if this isn’t addressed.
Better Pull Movements
A strong middle back means that you can pull heavier weights, particularly with exercises like T-bar rows, single-arm dumbbell rows, and bent-over rows.
You won’t compensate for a weak mid-back by using your arms, meaning you can optimize hypertrophy for other muscles in the back.
The Best Mid-Back Exercises
Now that you understand why it’s important to train your mid-back, we can get into the best exercises to work out these muscles.
1. Bent Over Barbell Row
This is the best exercise on this list that can work out the mid-back muscles. The movement makes the biceps, posterior delts, upper, and middle back stronger.
The hinge movement also strengthens your glutes, erector spinae, and hamstrings, so it’s ideal for improving your deadlift records.
Here’s how to perform a Bent Over Barbell Row:
- Load your barbell and position it close to the shins.
- Make a hinge movement at your hips, then grip the bar with a wide grip, positioning the hands a little more than shoulder-width apart. Use either an overhand or underhand grip.
- Keep your chest up, shoulders back and down, then move the bar towards the stomach.
- Hold the elbows at a 45° angle as you perform the movement.
- Pause for a second, then slowly return to the starting position.
Ideal repetition range: 6-12, mid to heavy weights
2. Meadows Row
This is a more complex single-arm row movement. It lets you handle heavy weights to target imbalances, adding muscle to the biceps, forearms, and mid-back.
The exercise also targets the lower traps for additional back strength.
Here’s how to perform a Meadow’s Row:
- Stand in a staggered position, with your forward foot side onto the bar. Move the hip nearest to the bar upwards.
- Lean the upper body forward, then use an overhand grip to hold the end of your bar.
- Rest the inactive arm on your front leg.
- Pull by focusing on moving your elbow behind, retracting your shoulder blade as you do so.
- Pull in the direction of the rear hip, as far as the elbow is level with the torso.
- Carefully lower back down so the arm becomes straight once more. Repeat for the intended rep range.
Ideal repetition range: 6-12, mid to heavy weights
3. Yates Row
This is similar to the bent-over row, but with an underhand grip and a different stance. The upper body will be stationed around halfway between completely horizontal and completely vertical.
The Yates Row is a good move as you can lift more weight. It will target your rhomboids and middle traps at a different angle too.
Here’s how to perform the Yates Row:
- Position a loaded bar close to the shins.
- Perform a hinge movement at the hips, then use an underhand grip to hold the bar. Keep your hands a little wider than hip distance apart.
- Raise the bar to a standing position, then move your glutes backward, pivoting at the hip so you’re leaning forward slightly.
- Keep your chest up, spine, straight, and shoulders back and down. Move the bar towards your lower abdomen with force.
- Carefully move the bar back to the start, then repeat for the desired rep range.
- Remember to keep your elbows tucked during the exercise.
Ideal repetition range: 6-15, heavier weight
4. Seated Chest Supported Row
You can perform this exercise with a chest-focused row machine, or on an incline bench with a cable machine.
The movement is the same with both options, as your chest will remain fastened to the pad during the movement.
Restricting momentum and assistance lets you target the mid-back muscles for additional strength and size.
Here’s how to perform the Chest Supported Row:
- Sit down and adjust the pad and seat. The chest should be stuck to the pad while your arms are completely extended as you hold the handles.
- Ensure your feet are steady, then keep your chest up and shoulders down for the whole exercise.
- Press your shoulder blades together, then move your elbows behind as far as possible.
- Slowly straighten the arms again, then repeat for the desired rep range.
Ideal repetition range: 8-15, mid to heavier weight
5. Half-Kneeling Lat Pulldown
This is a lat movement, but the lats do take up space on the middle of your back. This movement also targets the lower trapezius muscles well.
The movement will work your middle back at a different angle, as well as simultaneously strengthen the core and glutes.
You’ll also know if your form is right, as using momentum will lead to a loss of balance.
Here’s how to perform the Half Kneeling Lat Pulldown:
- Set the cable machine to the highest position, then hold the handle with a single hand.
- In a half kneeling position, keep your ankle straight under your knee and knee under your hip. Keep your ribs down and your glutes active.
- The knee which is on the floor will be the side which you are working.
- With your chest up and shoulder down, pull the elbow towards the hips.
- Extend the arm back to the machine so it straightens once more.
- Repeat for the desired rep range.
Ideal repetition range: 8-16, light to medium weight
A strong middle back is important for maintaining healthy shoulders, good posture, and maximizing your lifts.
The exercises above will help strengthen the mid-back by working out the muscles in this area.
Remember to keep proper form at all times and allow yourself enough rest to rebuild the muscles. We hope you enjoy performing some of these mid-back exercises!