30-Minute Strength: Strong Back

A small amount of strength and mobilization work can reduce your risk of injury—and increase speed.


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Swimming, cycling, and even desk jockeying can lead to a combination of tight chest muscles, rounded shoulders, and a weak back. But just a small amount of strength and mobilization work can reduce your risk of injury—and increase speed. We asked Kathryn Taylor, a USAT Level 1 coach and personal trainer, for three of her favorite exercises to create a bombproof back. Shoot for two sessions per week.

Pull Up

Considered the king of exercises, the pull-up requires total back and core engagement. If you can add one exercise to the mix, a properly performed pull-up is ideal. Work up to five sets of five.

Try It

Most people need to start with support from a band, a pull-up machine, or by jumping up to the bar and lowering themselves with control (a negative). Place your hands about shoulder width apart, hold with a firm grip on the pull-up bar, then tighten your core and lock your shoulders in as you think about pulling your elbows to the ground and your chin up and over the bar. Lower with control.


The row can counteract tight chest muscles while helping an athlete to develop a stronger swim pull and better posture. Work up to five sets of five to eight reps.

Try It

From a lunge, rest the arm of your forward leg on your thigh. Place the weight by your forward foot, square your shoulders to the ground, and pull with your back muscles. Pull straight up and lower straight down, don’t open your shoulder at the top of the row.


The superman is a subtle yet powerful exercise to strengthen muscles in the low back and stave off injury. Do three to five sets of eight reps.

Try It

Lie flat on the ground on your stomach with your arms above your head. Raise your arms and legs off the ground at the same time without overextending. The key is to lower your arms and legs with control.

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