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Back Pain Center

Exercises for Back Muscle Imbalances

author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
Exercises for Back Muscle Imbalances
Correct you back muscle imbalances with these exercises. Photo Credit MilanMarkovic/iStock/Getty Images

Most people have a hand that they prefer to write with or a leg that they prefer to lean on, known as the dominant side. Sometimes you can see a difference in muscle size between dominant and non-dominant sides and, often, you can feel the difference in strength.

In your back, you might have one dominant side of muscle or one portion of the back that is stronger than the others. Use exercises that target the weaker muscles or allow each side to move independently to correct these imbalances.

Read More: Muscle Imbalance Correction Exercises

Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes

Certain sections of your back tend to be stronger than others. A physiotherapist from the mid-20th century, Dr. Vladimir Janda, discovered something called the upper and lower-crossed syndromes.

The upper-crossed syndrome is a muscle imbalance in which the upper back is weak and the chest is too tight, pulling the shoulders and head forward. The lower-crossed syndrome occurs because the lower back muscles are too tight and the abdominals are too weak. To correct these imbalances, you should strengthen your upper back muscles and abdominal muscles.

Certain sections of your back are weaker than others and should be strengthened.
Certain sections of your back are weaker than others and should be strengthened. Photo Credit WinThom/iStock/Getty Images

Reverse Crunch

This ab exercise targets the abdominal obliques, the muscles on the side of your trunk that pull in the opposite direction of your lower back muscles, negating some of their power.

How to: Lie on your back with a heavy weight, like a kettlebell, behind your head. Lift your legs in the air with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Hold the weight and press your lower back down into the ground as you roll your hips up off of the ground and back toward your head. Move slowly and with control.

Single-Leg Sit-Up

Work the front of your abs, the rectus abdominis, with this sit-up variation.

How to: Lie on your back with your arms straight up toward the ceiling. One leg should be bent with your foot planted on the ground and the other leg should be straight and flat on the ground. Sit up to your bent leg and keep your arms pointed up toward the ceiling.

Face Pull

You can use either a cable machine or a resistance band for this upper back-strengthening exercise.

How to: Set the cable machine or resistance band a few inches above your head. Grab the handles with your knuckles facing the ceiling. Pull back toward your nose and keep your elbows as high as possible. Don't let your head travel forward, try to keep it right over your shoulders. Pinch your shoulder blades together as you pull back.

Read More: Exercises to Correct Kyphotic Posture


Use high repetitions — up to 20 — with this bodyweight upper back exercise.

How To: Grip the handles of a TRX and lean back from a standing position. You should be facing towards the TRX. Start with your knuckles facing the ceiling. Pull yourself up and stick your chest out. As you pull up, turn your knuckles out to the sides.

Left vs. Right Imbalance

Many people favor one side during day-to-day activities which can make one side of your back stronger than the other. To balance things out, try doing these exercises that let you work one side of your back at a time.

Dumbbell Row

All you need is a dumbbell and a bench to start working on your left vs. right imbalances with this exercise.

How to: Put a dumbbell on the floor in front of a workout bench. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Stick your butt back and lean over to put one hand on the bench. Grab the dumbbell with your free hand. Pull it into your body, lifting your elbow as high up as possible, then lower it back down to the ground.

One-Arm Pulldown

Balance out your left and right lat muscles, the big muscles on the side of your back that help you do pull-ups and chin-ups, with this exercise.

How To: Kneel on the ground with one knee and plant the other foot in front of your body. Reach up and grab the handle of a cable machine or a resistance band that's fixed above your head. Pull the handle down to your shoulder. Perform the desired amount of reps and then switch sides.

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