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The most effective back and core workouts for women

When you walk into the gym, it’s hard not to notice the massive number of machines and weights at your disposal. Once you take a little time to understand how to best use these tools, you can develop a regular regimen to build strength with more intention. This means isolating different areas of your body and performing exercises to target specific muscle groups.

Not only will this help you be well-rounded physically, but it allows you to give different body parts a break and avoid overextending yourself. The trick is learning which exercises are the most effective so you can maximize your time and results. Strengthening your back and core is a foundational key because they support your limbs. Let’s take a look at different core and back exercises for women to keep your goals within reach.

Woman working out at home with dumbbells

Why is it important to work out specific muscle groups?

Think of your muscles as rubber bands. If you try moving or stretching them when weak or cold, you can cause harm or damage to your body. You don’t want anything to snap, so to speak. A gradual and consistent approach to building and stretching your body is more effective and less painful.

There are both compound and isolated movements that you can adapt into your workout. A compound exercise allows you to work more than one muscle group at the same time. Planks are a great example, because they strengthen your core, back, arms, and legs. Isolated movement is more specific, and includes movements such as bicep curls.

As you create your own workout plan, it is good to assign days of the week to muscle groups. For example, Monday could be your core day. Tuesday could be legs and glutes, and so on. As with any physical practice, consistency will be key in getting the results you want.

What are the best back exercises?

The back is an area that often gets overlooked in favor of core and glute workouts. However, the back is arguably the most important part of your body to strengthen, because it truly supports everything else! You also don’t need the gym to work out your back. Back workouts for women at home can be done with a single pair of dumbbells. Bent over rows can be altered many different ways.

For example, try doing them with one arm at a time, then both, or switching an underhand and overhand grip. Full-body lifts are also great. For these, stand up straight with your dumbbells on the floor in front of you. Bend at the waist, keeping your legs and back straight, pick up the dumbbells, and use your back to lift back up to a straight, standing position. Stability balls are also great tools. In a plank position, place your hands on the floor and your feet on the ball. Using your back and core, and keeping your feet on the ball, push your glutes upward so the position you reach resembles a downward dog in yoga.

Lastly, back extensions. Lie down on your stomach elevated from the floor, preferably on some type of bench. You’ll want to have the upper part of your body hanging off the end. Engage your back and pull your upper body back, in a movement almost resembling a backward sit-up. For any of these workouts, if you lack dumbbells, feel free to use water bottles or other small weighted objects.

What are the best core exercises?

Everyone wants that chiseled six-pack, but to get it, you’ll have to put in some serious effort! Fortunately, core exercises are some of the easiest to adapt to a home routine if a gym is not available. You can get so much more creative than just doing crunches. Try giving sit-ups a little variation by placing a rolled-up towel or yoga block under your lower back. You can also implement some classic Pilates moves. Lie down on your back and put your arms to the side. Lift your legs straight up so your body creates a 90-degree angle. From this starting point, you can activate your core by lifting your bottom off the ground or lowering your legs slightly to do flutter kicks. Core workouts don’t have to be overly unique or creative as long as you are holding the proper form and doing them with regularity.

Woman doing sit-ups on mat
Alena Ozerova/

Getting in peak physical condition can seem intimidating if you don’t know where to start. Your back and core support much of the rest of your body, making them prime muscle groups to target first. Utilize isolated and compound exercises to give variety to your workouts. Stick to basic movements. You can work out your back at home with small weighted objects and repetitive movements. Your core is best built by resistance-heavy movements such as flutter kicks and planks. Get your body strong and never stop learning, using these basic movements to start.

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