When it comes to sculpting your upper body, it’s easy to give short shrift to the muscles you can’t see. But your back is a workhorse, and strengthening it can improve the way you feel, move, and look.
The back muscles are crucial for lifting heavy objects and performing pushing and pulling motions. Plus, they work together with your abs to stabilize your spine, which is key for proper alignment. That last part may be one of the biggest benefits of sculpting this area. “Better posture can prevent pain and strain, help you move more efficiently, and make you look taller and slimmer,” says Patricia Friberg, a trainer and fitness instructor in the Los Angeles area. Many daily activities—from texting to driving—weaken back muscles, resulting in a forward slump. But with a targeted plan, you can reverse the damage—and that’s where the workout designed by Friberg, comes in.
Build a better back
You’ll need one 8- to 12-pound dumbbell and a mat. Three times a week on nonconsecutive days, perform 1 set of 12 to 15 reps of each exercise in order; then, repeat the entire series twice more.
1. Renegade row
- Get in plank position with left hand holding a dumbbell and right hand on the floor.
- Keep hips parallel to the floor as you bend left elbow back, drawing weight toward your left side.
Extend arm toward the floor and repeat. Switch sides to complete set.
Make it easier Perform the move with your knees on the floor.
- Lie facedown on a mat with arms extended overhead, shoulder-width apart, palms down, and legs extended behind you with feet hip-width apart.
- Keep head aligned with spine as you simultaneously raise arms and legs a few inches.
- Lower to start position and repeat.
3. Balance wide row
- Standing straight, hold a dumbbell in left hand. Hinge forward from hips as you extend left leg to hip height behind you and raise right arm to shoulder height out to the side.
- Extend left arm toward the floor, palm facing behind you. Bend left elbow out to side, drawing dumbbell up.
- Extend left arm to starting position and repeat. Switch sides (raise right leg and hold weight in right hand) to complete set.
- Make it easier Instead of balancing on one leg, perform the move in a lunge position.
4. Lateral halo
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, and hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of hips.
- Step to the right with right foot and bend right knee into a lunge as you hinge forward from the hips and lower dumbbell toward right shin.
- Push off the right foot and bring it back to the left as you raise dumbbell in an arc to the left, circle it overhead, then lower it to start position. Repeat, then switch sides to complete set.