9 Moves for the Best Back Workout Ever

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Strengthening your back obviously has aesthetic benefits, but, more importantly, it’s imperative for better daily function, including posture and preventing injury. (Because who likes back pain, right?)

If you’re committed to developing a stronger back but aren’t sure what to do or where to begin, we’ve got you covered. Here are six exercises and three stretches to ensure you’re giving those back muscles some TLC.

Strengthening exercises

Complete 3 sets of these strength exercise with 1 to 2 minutes of rest in between. You’ll need a few pieces of equipment, including a resistance band, two sets of light dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds and 8 to 10 pounds should work fine for most), as well as one moderate-weight dumbbell (about 12 pounds).

Remember to breathe throughout each movement. Keep your spine aligned, and focus on your back muscles contracting to establish that mind-muscle connection and get the most out of your workout.

Ready?

1. High rotating plank

Rotating planks are a whole-body move. They’re a great warmup for a back workout.

  1. Assume a high plank position: Form a straight line from head to toe, with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Stack your hands under your shoulders, and keep your neck in a neutral position. Engage your lower back and core.
  2. Starting on your left side, pick your hand up off the ground and extend your arm and open your chest, directing your gaze up. Pause for 1 second, and return your hand to starting position.
  3. Repeat step 2 on the right side.
  4. Continue, alternating sides, for 30 seconds. Complete 3 sets.

 

2. High pulley cable row

Grab a resistance band for this high pulley cable row. Choose a level that challenges you, but not enough to compromise your form. Feel your lats and rhomboids — a key muscle for good posture — working during this movement.

  1. Anchor the band above your head and sit, grabbing it with both hands, arms extended.
  2. Keeping both feet on the ground and your back straight, pull your elbows straight back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release, extending your arms back to start.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

3. Dumbbell pullover

You’ll need a yoga ball or bench for this exercise as well as one moderate-weight dumbbell. Start with 10 or 12 pounds if you’re a beginner. Not only will this dumbbell pullover target your lats, but it’ll also require your core to work overtime.

  1. Hold the dumbbell with both hands. Position yourself on the ball or bench so your upper back is supported on the surface and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Extend your arms over your head so they’re parallel with the ground.
  3. Keeping your arms extended and core engaged, pull the dumbbell up and over your head. When your arms reach perpendicular to the ground, lower them back to start.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

4. Bent-over row

A bent-over row is a must in a back workout since it targets multiple key muscles, including the traps, lats, and rhomboids. Grab a set of light- to moderate-weight dumbbells for this move. For beginners, 8 or 10 pounds will do.

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward at the waist to a 45-degree angle. Keep your core braced, knees soft, and neck neutral.
  2. Bend your arms, pulling your elbows straight up and back, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Pause and return to start.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

 

5. Rear delt fly

The rear deltoid fly targets your upper back, including your traps, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids. You can perform this exercise standing or kneeling. The kneeling version requires more stability through the core. Three or 5-pound dumbbells will work here.

  1. Kneel on a mat, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward at the waist so your upper body forms a 45-degree angle with the ground. Let your arms hang in front of you.
  2. Keeping your neck neutral and core engaged, push the dumbbells up and out from your midline, squeezing your shoulder blades at the top. Pause and lower your arms.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

6. Superman

Work your lower back with a superman. This bodyweight exercise is a challenge, requiring strength and control.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended over your head.
  2. Engaging your core and glutes, lift your upper body and legs off the ground as high as you can go. Pause for 1 second at the top, and return to starting position.
  3. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

Stretch it out

After you’ve completed the strength portion of this routine, don’t forget to stretch. These three back-specific stretches will help restore your muscles and joints and prevent next-day soreness.

1. Child’s Pose

 

  1. Kneel on the floor with your feet underneath your bottom and knees spread as wide as your hips.
  2. Inhale and bend forward, laying your torso between your thighs and extending your arms out overhead.
  3. Place your palms on the floor. Breathe here for 30 seconds to a minute, sinking lower into the torso bend as you go.

2. Twist

  1. Lie on your back and bring your legs to tabletop, arms straight out at your sides.
  2. Engaging your core, allow your knees to slowly drop to one side. Breathe here for 30 seconds.
  3. Engaging your core once more, bring your legs back up to tabletop and drop your knees to the other side. Breathe here again for 30 seconds.

3. Cat-Cow

  1. Start on all fours with a neutral spine. Inhale and look up toward the sky, dropping your torso to the ground.
  2. Exhale and arch your back, bringing your gaze down to the ground.
  3. Repeat this sequence 5 times.

The takeaway

Completing this routine once or twice a week will earn you a stronger back in just a month. Remember to progressively add weight and resistance so you continue to challenge your muscles and increase your strength.

Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.

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