Strengthening the back muscles improves posture and keeps the spine healthy and functional for many years. Don’t neglect these large muscle groups, as they are here to support all other exercises and help you perform them correctly.
Although most compound movements include the back muscles, it’s beneficial to include some isolated movements in your workouts and strengthen all areas that may be slightly weaker than others. These eight moves are meant to transform your back muscles and can easily be added to a leg day, upper body day, or even a full body workout.
Find a sturdy bench or something to lean on and grab a dumbbell. Try to take a medium-heavy dumbbell so you can finish all your reps. Grab the dumbbell with one hand and lean on the bench with the other. Lean back on the bench and tighten your core.
Let the arm holding the dumbbell fully extend toward the floor, and as you inhale, pull the dumbbell up, contracting your back muscles and drawing your elbow in toward your body. Relax and extend, pull and squeeze. Avoid any sudden movements and repeat 12-15 times. Do the same on the other side.
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Stand in front of the cable machine and use the triceps attachment. Position it in line with your chin and grab the handles. Inhale and pull the pulley toward you, contracting your upper back muscles. Exhale and relax. Your elbows will come out as you pull on the cable, so make sure they aren’t too high and that you really feel it in your upper back. Repeat 12-15 times.
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Sit on a bench or on the floor in front of the cable machine and grab the row attachment. Bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the floor. Activate your core muscles and straighten your spine. Inhale and pull the cable toward you, keeping your elbows close to your body, squeezing your back muscles as you do so.
Exhale and slowly, with control, extend your arms and relax the rowing attachment. Repeat 12 to 15 times, squeezing hard each time you pull.
Sit on a bench in front of the cable machine and grab the lateral pulley attachment. Let your arms fully extend above your head while holding the edges of the accessory firmly. Inhale and pull the cable down, bringing the cable in front of your body, just above your collarbone. Exhale and gently extend your arms up.
Make sure your shoulders are away from your ears and you’re really isolating your upper back muscles as you pull the cable down. Keep your core muscles fully engaged throughout the exercise and avoid slouching. Repeat 12-15 times.
Lie on the mat, face down on your stomach. Extend your legs down on the mat and bring your arms over your head. Move your shoulders away from your ears and activate your core. Inhale and lift all four limbs off the floor as high as you can, squeezing your glutes and lower back muscles. Exhale and relax everything on the ground. Repeat 12-15 times.
Alternatively, if you want to have a little fun, you can try lifting one arm and one leg, then add the other two a bit later while still holding the first two in the air. This can be quite challenging, but it also helps to strengthen the weaker side of your body.
Grab a lighter set of dumbbells and get into a plank position, strengthening your core muscles and placing the dumbbells right next to your palms. Inhale and take a dumbbell in your right hand, lift it up and bring it closer to your body with your elbow closed. Exhale and come back down. Inhale and raise the left dumbbell, exhale and lower it. Alternate like this for 20 repetitions.
Get into a plank position and strengthen your core muscles. Inhale and move your body forward, exhale and bend your elbows, lowering into a half pushup. Inhale and push your hips forward, turning your feet up and pulling your upper body through your outstretched arms. Push your palms toward the floor and look up or behind you if it feels good on your body.
Exhale and gently lift your hips up and back, sending them diagonally toward the sky. Extend your legs and push the ground away from you through your palms. Keep your spine long and long, relax your shoulders, and feel your heels come closer to the floor. Inhale, look forward, and drop your hips until you are in a plank position. Repeat everything five times.
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Stand tall, with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider. Inhale and raise your arms to the sky, exhale and bend your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades. Inhale extend, exhale squeeze. Repeat this three times. After your last exhale, inhale your arms up and as you exhale, gently push your hips forward and look behind you, leaning back.
Come out of the backbend with control and repeat the whole thing three times. If you feel comfortable, for the next set, bring your palms together and as you exhale, bring your hips forward and arms over your head and back. Go as far as is comfortable for your back muscles, and stop if you feel any tension. Repeat three times.
After a session like this, your back muscles will need some TLC. Continue this stretching routine and reduce your chances of soreness the next day.