The 5-Minute Sexy Back Workout
Don't ignore the part of your body you can't see. Get a buff back, fast!
It's been said that men only care about toning their bodies from the waist up and women only care about it from the waist down. But one part both sexes tend to neglect is the back: After all, it's harder to appreciate every day than, say, a toned tummy and sleek thighs. But it's a mistake to put your back on the, um, back burner. Why? Well for starters, a well-defined back is pretty sexy. But more important, strong lower back muscles and abdominals (known collectively as your core) literally support your body, allowing you to do all the things you do during your day, such as walking, lifting, pulling and pushing.
Since some 80% of us will end up with a back problem at some point, in part due to weak abs, protecting those core muscles should be a priority. "Injury is often due to weak abdominals, and sometimes people carry stress in their backs so the muscles are very tight," says Tamilee Webb, M.A., author of Tamilee Webb's Defy Gravity Workout. "Whenever you can, do something to relax the muscles, like a massage or sitting in a Jacuzzi or steam."
Webb offers a simple and quick (just 5 minutes!) workout to get your lower back strong and your upper back buff. Do this back program every other day, building up frequency and intensity as you feel ready. "Listen to your body and see how many repetitions of each move you can do," stresses Webb. But don't overdo it more is not necessarily better. "Try to do eight and when that gets easy, do two more and keep building on that." And be sure to stick with a regular cardio plan and healthy eating: Both are essential to removing any fat overlaying the beautiful muscles you're working to tone and sculpt. (And, as with any exercise program, be sure to consult your physician before you begin.)
This tried-and-true move works your chest, lower back, shoulders, arms (triceps) and abdominals, says Webb. Start on all fours, then extend your feet behind you so your body is supported on your hands and feet; keep arms straight but avoid locking your elbows. Pull in your abdominal muscles to support your lower back and bend your arms to lower your body to the ground. Repeat. To modify the move so it's easier, keep your knees on the floor, then lower yourself. If that's too tough, do the same move while standing at a wall.
Standing Back Wall Exercise
Stand with your back against a wall with heels slightly away from the wall. Pull your shoulder blades against the wall (your goal should be to get your shoulders to touch the wall). "This lengthens the spine and contracts the muscles of the upper back," explains Webb. Hold for four counts, then release. Try to pull your shoulder blades together, while pulling in your abdominals (visualize pulling in your belly button to meet your spine). Holding in your abs will help you avoid arching your lower back. Hold again for four counts, repeating for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or 8-10 reps, if you can. "Many of us tend to round our shoulders at a desk," Webb says. "By doing this move, you're strengthening your postural muscles, which makes you look thinner because you stand up taller."
Bent-Over Seated Row
Start by sitting on a chair, bench or step with one dumbbell in each hand. "You can use 2- to 3-pound weights to start," suggests Webb. "Or you can do this move without weight. But when you add resistance, it makes the muscles work harder and you'll get results quicker." Lean slightly forward keeping your back straight and extend your arms toward the floor on either side of your legs. With palms facing into the body, slowly bend your arms and bring your elbows up and back behind your shoulders. Squeeze the shoulder blades together, as you keep your head in line with your spine and your abs contracted. "Don't be afraid of using weight," says Webb. "Many women think it's going to make them look bulky, but it won't." This move works the upper back and the rear shoulders (deltoids).
Prone Arm Lift
Lie on the floor face-down with your arms at shoulder height, bent at right angles, with the whole lower arm on the floor. Lift both arms off the floor, moving elbows up and away while squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold the lift for 2-4 counts, and release. Start with 8 repetitions, adding more reps as you build strength. Be careful not to strain yourself. "If you are fatiguing or it's too hard, don't push it," Webb says. "It shouldn't be painful; it should be a challenge."
Want to really strengthen your core? Abdominal exercises are also key. Check out Tone Your Trunk.