Keeping your back strong is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves — especially as we age. Back pain is one of the most common complaints as we get older, and, a lot of times, it’s because we don’t have muscles built up to help protect us.
There are two types of muscles in our back — ones built to hold up us up for hours on end that are responsible for our posture and ones that help us lift heavy stuff like groceries, our kids, and furniture. If you are in a stationary job, for instance, working on exercises that will help you not hunch over your computer are key. Strengthening your back muscles also helps with other exercises (mostly abs) and keeps you balanced during your workouts.
There are tons of different exercises to tone women’s back muscles that target both types of muscle groups and build endurance for lifting, moving, and stretching. Plus, if you do them consistently, you’ll start to develop muscles you can see, which looks great when wearing tank tops or bathing suits.
What you’ll need
Many of these exercises don’t require weights or bands and can be done using your body weight, but a few do, so if you don’t have a set of 5- to 8-pound dumbbells (moving up from there), you’ll want to invest in a set. You’ll also want a yoga mat or thicker towel for the ones you do on the ground.
Also, if you’re new to working out or specifically working out your back muscles, watching a few online videos on proper form is always a good idea. That way, you can avoid injury and get the most out of your workout.
Top six moves
There are a ton of back exercises for women out there, but these are six that give you the most for your time. For each one, sort out with 10 to 15 reps and work up to two to three rounds of each, doing them immediately in a row.
The upright row is a perfect upper back exercise for women to tone and gain muscle. Start by standing with feet hip-width apart, arms down and in front of your stomach, and your hands holding 5- to 8-pound weights against your thighs, palms facing your body. Pull your elbows up and wide, slightly above your shoulders, so your hands reach chest height, then return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
This one requires nothing but you. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Extend your right arm and left leg straight in the air so both are parallel to the floor at the same time. Return to start and repeat on the opposite side. Once you’ve done both sides, that’s considered one rep.
While you’re on the floor, lay down with your arms and legs outstretched, your forehead on a mat. Lift all four limbs, plus your chest and head, a few inches off the ground, so you are staring at the mat. Hold for three to five seconds and relax your limbs back down.
Hold one dumbbell in both hands in front of your thighs with your palms facing your body, Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your knees slightly bent, press your hips back and lower the dumbbells toward the floor. This is one you’ll definitely want to watch a practice a few times without weights, because it can strain your lower back if not done properly.
There are not many exercises that work multiple body parts better than a good, old-fashioned pushup. You probably know this one already, but make sure your elbows are at 45-degree angles away from your body to engage your upper back. If you’re new to pushups, try starting with your knees on the ground and build up to keeping your body in a lateral position. This exercise targets a woman’s upper back, as well as the core, arms, and shoulders.
Front raise to lateral raise
To get that sexy back shoulder muscle, you want to incorporate front and lateral raises. Grab a 5- to 8-pound set of dumbbells. Start standing with feet hip-width apart, arms reaching toward the floor, with your hands holding the dumbbells against your thighs and your palms facing your body. Raise the weights straight out in front of your body to shoulder height. Lower back to start, then immediately bring the dumbbells out to the side, again to shoulder height. Return to start.
Like I said before, there are so many variations of the above exercises that you can advance to as you build strength, but these will get you well on your way to a strong and toned back. It should only take a month or so before you notice your posture and balance improve, and you’ll start seeing muscles you never knew you had popping up.
As you do advance, you can increase your dumbbell weight, add a weighted vest, or hold each move a few seconds longer, and you’ll notice a marked improvement in no time. You can also find more advanced moves online or through a personal trainer. This allows your muscles to develop more fully and keeps you interested and engaged. There’s nothing like a little variety to keep you pushing yourself to stay motivated to continue toward your fitness goals.
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