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Think of a nice, toned body and you'll often think of strong tight abs, defined arms, and a tight butt. But what about your back? You know you need to work your back muscles, but it can be hard to know where to start, and even harder to stick with a routine for back workouts at home.
Check out these 8 at-home exercises that will help you build a stronger upper and lower back. We'll also explain why it's important to have a strong back, show you which muscles to focus on, and teach you everything you'll need to know to get started.
Because these exercises can be done anywhere, you can fit them into your busy schedule with ease.
Sure, a strong and trim back looks amazing in a backless dress, but it also plays a major role in preventing pain and injury in the future.
For those who work at a desk all day, you may notice that your shoulders have begun to slouch and hunch. This is due to the fact that when you sit, your hip flexors tighten and round your shoulders.
This poor posture can cause back pain over time, as well as headaches and neck pain. Regular back workouts help prevent this by stretching your tight muscles and strengthening the muscles that support your spine.
You've probably heard about or experienced the pain that comes with having larger boobs. The added weight to your upper body can shift your center of gravity, and over time this can bring poor posture and awful back pain.
Back workouts are one of the best ways to fend off gravity's pain.
The flip side to this though, is working out can be stressful on your boobs if you don't have the right performance gear; and that starts with a high-impact sports bra made for the job.
The "off-the-shelf" kind of bra won’t cut it; you need one that’sbuilt just for your body.
Head over to SHEFIT's Virtual Fitting, and get a tailored bra that has the support and comfort your specific body deserves. A SHEFIT Fit Expert will walk you through the process, it's painless, and one of the best time investments you can make for your workouts.
"Back" is such a broad term for the back muscle group. Your back is home to some of the larger muscles in your body, and it's often difficult to know which muscles you're working on when you're doing back exercises.
When most people think of back exercises, they focus on the upper body, like the trapezius - the large, triangular muscle that extends from the base of your neck to the middle of your back.
However, the back is composed of many muscles, and there are four main groups.
When you're doing back exercises at home, it's important to target all of these muscle groups for a well-rounded routine.
The eight exercises in the workout below hit all of the four major back muscle groups - and since the muscles of the back are tied to other muscle groups, you'll find these exercises are also great for toning your arms, hamstrings, and abs.
Oh, and it also hits your glutes. If that's a focus area for you, look to add the 5 Awesome Glute Workouts to your schedule. It was built to shape, lift, and firm.
Let's shift gears and look at what it will take for you to complete this full-back workout.
The frequency of your back workout depends on your fitness level and goals.That said, if you're just starting, aim for two to three times per week. As you get stronger, you can increase your back workout frequency to four or five times per week.
For each exercise, complete 3 sets of 15 reps. You'll complete each exercise as a straight set, completing all moves before moving to the next.
You’ll want to limit your rest between moves, but between sets, you should rest a couple of minutes.
If 15 reps aren't challenging by the end, increase the weight or slow down the tempo to create more time under tension. If it’s too challenging, decrease the weight. You can always add more weight as you get stronger and more familiar with the exercises.
Always listen to your body - if something feels too difficult or causes pain, stop or modify the exercise.
To do this back workout, all you need is a mat and dumbbells. Try to use a weight (8-20 lbs. dumbbells) that is just heavy enough that you can perform no more than 15 reps with proper form.
Like any workout routine, be sure to warm up before you get started. A few minutes of light cardio and dynamic stretching will do the trick.
One reason this is such a great workout is that there are dynamic stretches built into it the exercises - like Superman and Back Extensions.
But it's still a great idea to start with simple back stretches such as Downward Dog or Toe Touches.
Let's get started!
Make sure you stand up straight and pull your shoulder blades back - you want your spine, neck, and head to be in a straight line. Inhale when you lower and exhale when you come up. When you start to stand up, focus your energy on your heels.
Step 1:Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand - using an overhand grip.(Don't forget to keep your shoulder blades back!)
Step 2: Bend your knees slightly and hinge at the hips to lower the weights towards the floor.
Step 3: Keep your back flat, and don’t let your knees go past your toes.
Step 4: Once the weights are at shin level, raise back up to the starting position.
The deadlift upright row is great for your upper back (trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi.) It also hits those muscles you love to tone, like the glutes and hamstrings.
No need for dumbbells on this one; your body, and a motivated mind are all you'll need. The key here is to keep your spine in a position that doesn't shift while keeping your shoulders square and relaxed. You'll breathe in when you lift, and breathe out when you lower.
Your focus should be on the supporting arm and leg, as opposed to the lifting arm and leg.
Step 1: Start on all fours with your spine and shoulders neutral.
Step 2: Keeping your core engaged, extend your right arm and left leg out, forming a straight line between the two.
Step 3: Hold for 5-10 seconds before slowly returning to a start position.
Step 4: Alternate to your left arm and right leg, and continue repeating through your set.
Feel that in your middle to lower back? How about your core? That's the bird dog barking.
This move is all about control and using your back muscles to raise the weights. Remember to exhale when you lift the dumbbells and inhale as you lower them back down. Be sure to engage the core to avoid bouncing while performing this movement.
Step 1: Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.
Step 2:Bend at the hips and lean forward and lower your weights toward the floor as your starting position.
Step 3: Keep your back flat, don’t let your knees go past your toes, and raise your arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the floor.
Step 4: Lower your arms to the starting position and repeat.
This is another great exercise for your upper back, specifically your shoulder (posterior deltoid), and also hits your chest, arms, and core.
Concentrate on moving slowly and with purpose, and maintaining control of your body, which includes breathing slowly.
Step 1: Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended straight out from your body.
Step 2:Raise your arms and legs a few inches off the ground and begin pedaling them as if you were swimming.
Step 3: Continue for 30-60 seconds.
Pilates swimming is great for your lower back muscles, specifically your erector spinae. It also touches your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
Keeping your back straight, relaxing your shoulders, and making slow but purposeful movements is the key to success. And of course, breathe. Inhale when lowering, exhale when raising.Notice a theme?
Step 1: Start in a low squat position with your feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.(You want your chest parallel to the floor at the start.)
Step 2: Twist your torso to one side, and slowly lower your arm on the opposite side down.(Whichever arm is not being lowered, tuck the dumbbell as close to your shoulder level as possible.)
Step 3: Alternate sides and repeat.
The primary target of the Bow & Arrow Pull is on your lats and lower back.
You want to move slowly and control your entire movement, trying to not arch your back as much as possible. When you get to the top of the extension, really squeeze your back muscles and push your hips into the mat.
Step 1: Grab a mat and lie down on your stomach.
Step 2:Position yourself so that your stomach and hips are resting on the surface with your legs extending in a straight line behind you.
Step 3:Place your elbows (beginners) or palms facing down on the mat, while lifting your upper back.
Step 4:Hold this for 30-45 seconds.
Step 5: Lower to your starting position.
Gravity is at work on this one, you'll get a great lower back workout, and some nice resistance on your shoulders, all while toning your butt and hips.
Avoid locking your joints here and keep your shoulders pulled back. Look forward and try to maintain a straight line down your back, keeping your elbows tight to your body when rowing up.
Step 1:Place your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in.
Step 2:Bend at the hips and slightly lean forward and lower your weights toward the floor, letting them hang at arm's length from your shoulders.
Step 3: Bend your elbows and row the dumbbells up to your torso, tight on the waistline, and hold for a second.(Try to squeeze your shoulder blades when lifting up)
Step 4:Slowly lower your arms to the starting position and repeat.
This exercise is awesome for working your lats, and middle and lower traps.
You want to move slowly and with control. If you arch your back here, you defeat the purpose of the exercise. The moment your arms and legs leave the ground, begin your inhale.
Step 1:Lie face down on a mat with your arms extended straight out in front of you and your legs extended straight out behind you.
Step 2: Raise your arms and legs a few inches off the ground and hold for 2 seconds.
Step 3: Lower your arms and legs back to the starting position and repeat.
Superman is great for targeting your erector spinae (lower back) muscles as well as your abs.
Often overlooked, but just as important as the warm-up, the cool-down is your time to bring your heart rate back to normal and center yourself.
Stretching is key during the cool-down period. The Knees to Chest stretch is incredibly effective for cooling down after a back workout.
And a bit funny to look at, but worth the funny looks your family might give you.
Step 1: Grab your mat and lie on your back.
Step 2:Pull your knees to your chest and put your hands just below your knees to hold them in place.
Step 3: Hold this position for 30 seconds, then lower your legs to the mat.
Step 4: Repeat this a few more times.
Incorporate these 8 back exercises into your home workouts, wear the right bra, grab your dumbbells, and you'll be on your way to a stronger, healthier back in no time.
It can be challenging to stay motivated, especially when it's not time for your New Years' Resolution, or during colder months. Home workouts can present their own challenges, including accountability.
So if you need an extra voice of encouragement, join the SHEFIT Nation and the Jump Start January Challenge. The key is to stick with your routine, and you don't have to wait until January to get your workout on.