The muscles you can’t see in the mirror matter just as much as the ones in front. Here are the exercises to keep you looking good from all angles. Aesthetic benefits aside, a strong back also helps you sit straighter, stand taller, and perform better everywhere.
Sitting at a desk all day forces the frontal body to tighten and shorten while the posterior chain becomes lengthened and weak. When it comes to posture, having strong, engaged back muscles will be your saviour.
Here are what we think, are the best back exercises. Turn these into a complete workout by completing three sets of each move, resting for 30 seconds between each set.
Wide-grip Barbell Partial Deadlift:
Since we are looking to build our back and don’t want to be limited by grip strength, think about using a pair of wrist straps, which will allow you to load the bar up heavier. This goes for any exercise where your goal is to target your back.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width distance.
- Grab onto a barbell using an overhand grip, keeping your arms at a 45-degree angle from the side of your body, with no bend in the elbows.
- Stand tall, squeezing the bar into your thighs and pulling your shoulder blades together—you should feel tension throughout the entire back side of your upper body.
- This is your starting position.
- Hinge at the hips, without letting the bar move away from your body, and lower the bar to just above the knee, counting to five each time.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Do six reps.
Really focus on keeping your arms straight and just moving the shoulder blades together and apart. And most importantly, engage your core. It should be tight, so that you don’t start to arch your lower back.
Equipment: None (no excuses)
- Start in a high plank position.
- Without bending your elbows, slowly push your shoulder blades together, which will lower your body a few inches.
- Return to start position for one rep.
- Do 15 reps.
While using an overhand grip targets your back more—specifically the middle traps—using a neutral grip (with your hands facing each other) or an underhand grip may be more comfortable. Try out one of these variations if you are new to pull-ups, or if going overhand bothers your wrists or elbows.
Equipment: A bar
- Hang using an overhand grip, and then pull your shoulder blades down towards the floor—imagine moving your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Continue until the bar is just below your chin, and hold that position for three seconds.
- Take a full five seconds to return to the hanging position.
- Do six reps.
Move slowly and keep your shoulders engaged. In other words, don’t dump the pressure on your neck and traps! And make sure you’re coming down with control, which will prevent you from sliding and falling.
Equipment: A room
- Start in a high plank position with your feet touching a wall.
- Engaging your core, simultaneously walk your feet up the wall while moving your hands closer to the wall.
- Pause when your body is vertical at the top of your handstand.
- Then, move your hands forward and walk down the wall until you reach the bottom again.
- That’s one rep.
- Do eight.
Dumbbell Bent-Over Row:
Make sure you keep your palms facing each other instead of rotating your wrists, and drive your elbows straight behind you. You should really be squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
Equipment: Two heavy dumbbells
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip.
- Bend slightly at your knees, hinge your hips, and lower your chest so that it is almost parallel to the floor.
- Keeping your core tight and your arms close to the body, row both weights up towards your chest, bending at the elbow.
- Do 12 reps.