You use your back muscles in almost everything you do — are you giving them enough attention?
Building and maintaining strong back muscles can help relieve and prevent back pain, improve posture, and help you get that toned silhouette that looks fantastic in a sundress. We’ve covered shoulders and arms, now it’s time to get “back” into shape.
1. Plank-to-Row. Get into a push-up position with a weight* in each hand (pick a dumbbell that fits your fitness level). Next, place all of your weight on your left arm, picking up your right arm to your side, holding the dumbbell. Keep your abs engaged the entire time, and make sure your hips are squared to the ground. Go for 10-12 reps before repeating on the other side. As you get stronger, you can use heavier weights.
2. Inverted Modified Row. You’ll need a secure bar that you can hang from, positioned at about chest-height. Grab the bar and walk yourself underneath, so your body is parallel to the floor, your knees at a 90-degree angle, and your feet on the ground. Keeping your core tight, pull up with your arms to lift your chest to the bar, hold for 2, then lower back to start. Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps. As you get stronger, you can try to walk your feet out into a straight line in front of you.
3. Reverse Fly. Try these with a small weight of 2-5 pounds (whichever is most comfortable). Sit on the edge of a chair (or exercise ball, if you have one available) and lean forward from your waist, keeping your back straight. Your arms should be relaxed, palms facing each other, holding the weights. Next, raise your arms up and out until your weights are at shoulder height. Return to start and do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
4. Pull-Ups. Hands down, this is the greatest exercise to strengthen your upper back. Because it’s so challenging, I recommend using a band to assist you. Take a circle resistance band and loop it around the top of your pull-up bar, and wrap it around your feet. Pull yourself up, hold for 2 seconds, then slowly lower yourself back down. Do as many reps as possible. If you can only do one or two, that’s fine. Just increase by one every week, and you’re on your way.
*Bonus Tip: If you’re just starting out and don’t have weights available, full water bottles or cans can be a substitute. The important thing is to get moving!
Jennifer Cohen is a leading fitness authority, TV personality, best-selling author and entrepreneur. With her signature straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The CW’s "Shedding for the Wedding," and she appears regularly on NBC’s "Today" show, "Extra," "The Doctors" and "Good Morning America." Connect with Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and on Pinterest.