Co-authored with Meredith Steyer
Looking to improve your posture, stability and overall balance? You may be tempted to think of your “core” as all about those abs, but back that up, as incorporating strength work for your back is equally as important. A strong, sculpted back not only looks great, but can help you stand tall, prevent injury, minimize back strain, and as one of the larger muscle groups, can help create and build lean muscle mass. Anyone who has experienced back pain will tell you, there’s nothing worse, so I asked Meredith Steyer, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and owner of Advancing Fitness, to create a simple and effective back routine to help get you back in shape!
If you cannot maintain proper positioning throughout the movement or feel pain, Steyer cautions, you should stop immediately, readjust your body position and/or lower the weight.
Superman: Perform 15 reps for 2-3 sets and rest 30 – 60 seconds between sets.
To Begin: Lay face down on a mat with your arms outstretched in front of you.
Movement: Inhale and raise your arms and legs off the ground by squeezing your glutes to start the movement. Keep tension in your legs, arms, upper back and abdomen. Pause for two counts with your arms and legs lifted off the ground.
End: Now on a slow and controlled exhale, lower your body back to the starting position.
Advance Challenge: Get a little extra shoulder work by holding 1 or 2 lb. dumbbells in each hand as you perform the movement.
Opposite Arm/Leg Raise: Perform 10 reps on each side for 2-3 sets and rest 30 – 60 seconds between sets.
To Begin: Kneel on a mat with your knees aligned directly under your hips and your hands positioned right under your shoulders.
Movement: Inhale to brace your abdomen and support your spine. DO NOT ARCH YOUR BACK! Raise your right arm and your left leg so that they are stretched reaching apart to lengthen as much as possible. Pause for two breathes in this outstretched position.
End: Exhale and lower to the starting position. Complete all reps on one side before switching sides
Advance Challenge: To make this move more difficult, place a light weight or dowel on your back. An object on your back helps to keep your hips square and prevents you from arching your back.
Bent Over Single Arm Dumbbell Row: Perform 12 reps on each side for 2-3 sets and rest 30 – 60 seconds between sets.
To Begin: Place your left hand on a weight bench directly under your shoulder and your left knee up on the bench directly under your left hip. Place your right foot approximately 1 – 1 ½ feet away from your body while making sure your hips are aligned and keeping a soft bend in the knee. Hold a challenging weight in your right hand, with your palm facing inwards towards your body and let it hang down. Take care to not round your back!
Movement: Brace your core, inhale and pull your elbow straight up toward the ceiling by incorporating your shoulder blade. Pause for two counts with shoulder blade squeezed tight.
End: On a slow, controlled exhale, lower your arm back to the starting position. Repeat all repetitions on one side before switching sides.
Advance Challenge: Put a light weight or dowel on your back to help force your hips to stay in alignment.
Rear Band Fly: Perform 20 reps for 2 sets and rest 30 – 60 seconds between sets.
To Begin: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with a slight bend in your knees and one end of a light resistance band in each hand.
Movement: Tighten your core and glutes and on the exhale, while keeping your shoulders low, pull your arms apart and upward by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then, pause for one breath with your arms extended in a T-Position.
End: Return to the starting position in a slow and controlled motion.
Advance Challenge: Incorporate more muscle groups by standing on one leg throughout the motion.
Cable Row: Perform 12 reps for 2 – 3 sets and rest 30 seconds between sets.
To Begin: Stand in front of the cable row machine with your knees slightly bent, shoulder width apart and yours arms extended straight out in front of you.
Movement: With a soft grip, inhale and pull your hands towards your belly while keeping your shoulders down. On the inhale, start to move your hands towards your belly button. The motion should be coming from your shoulders blades as they are being squeezed towards one another.
End: When you cannot squeeze any more movement from your back, pause for a two count and on the exhale slowly return the starting position.
Advance Challenge: Get a bonus for your legs by performing the movement while in a squatting position!
Dead Hang: Perform for max time for 2- 3 sets with a 60 second rest in between sets.
Begin: Have a stool or bench underneath you to use when getting on and off the bar. Grip the bar and let your legs hang with your arms extended. Hold this position while keeping your shoulders down and tightly squeezing your core and glutes.
End: Step back onto the bench to rest in between sets.
Advance Challenge: Boost the dead hang to a pull up. Grip the bar and let your legs hang with arms extended and pull your body up by squeezing your back muscles down and driving your elbows to the floor. The goal is to perform this action without swinging your body! Lower yourself to the starting position as controlled as possible. Try adding at least one pull up attempt to your back workout. While pull ups may be challenging, they are not impossible. Just be consistent in trying the move as it’s well worth the effort!
Incorporating these few simple back exercises into your workout routines will aid in giving you great posture and overall symmetry and core strength, so don’t hold back!