Regardless of your fitness level, it’s easy to forget about what you can’t see, your back. But you won’t get a celeb-worthy back with cardio alone. When checking out your reflection, you likely give a quick spin to see how your butt looks, but barely notice your back muscles. That’s a shame, because they’re crucial to getting a healthier body (and can look damn sexy too). A strong, toned back does more than allow you to look your best in the most revealing dresses. It’s also key to perfect posture, preventing back pain and also lets you do more physically, from running faster to lifting heavier weights.
Though it’s easy to neglect these muscles, it’s also easy to train them incorrectly. And while doing any move wrong is bad, using improper form for back exercises is especially dangerous. A common mistake is not activating the core, which can put detrimental stress on the spine and lead to back injuries or even nerve damage.
Perform this routine as a “ladder”: Do 10 reps of each move, resting 30 to 60 seconds in between. Return to start and repeat, this time doing nine reps. Continue this pattern until you’re down to one rep of each move. Remember to engage your entire core, even your glutes, to keep your back flat.
Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, bend your knees slightly, push your hips back, and lean forward, keeping your back flat and core tight (a). Slowly bend your elbows, keeping them close to your body, to pull the dumbbells to your sides (b). Pause, then slowly lower back to start. That’s one rep.
Bent-Over Lat Pull
Loop a resistance band around a sturdy object, hold both handles, and back away until your arms are straight. With your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, lower your torso toward the floor and extend your arms past your head (a). Pull the handles toward you, bending your elbows out to the sides until your hands are next to your shoulders (b). Reverse to return to start. That’s one rep.
Lie facedown with your arms resting on the floor, directly in line with your shoulders so your body forms a T shape, thumbs pointing toward the ceiling (a). Slowly raise your arms as high as you comfortably can (b), hold for one or two seconds, then return to start. That’s one rep.
Lie across a stability ball, feet hip-width apart and resting against a wall or other sturdy object, arms extended past your head, and palms facing each other (a). Squeeze your glutes and lift your chest off the ball to straighten your back while reaching your arms overhead (b). Pause, then slowly reverse the motion to return to start. That’s one rep.