Warmer weather is coming, and that means spaghetti straps and more form-fitting clothing. A toned, sculpted back not only looks great in a tank top or sundress: it enhances your over-all shape by creating the illusion of a smaller waist, and giving you a more fit, athletic look. A strong core not only looks great aesthetically but is essential in maintaining proper posture in your daily life.
The following exercises demonstrated show how you can tone, tighten and sculpt your back with minimal equipment. Let's get started!
1) Bent-over Rows with Overhand Grip
There are various ways to perform a 'bent-over row' exercise. Depending on the area of your back you would like to target determines the type of grip you would use. An overhand grip- shown here using the t-bar, hits your upper back muscles: the ones that will be on display in your summer tops!
Start by gripping the t-bar on the outer sides of the bar, palms facing down. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent almost at 45 degrees.
Keep your back straight and engaged, lower your upper body towards the floor, tilting only at the hips. T-bar should be parallel to the floor, about knee level. With elbows facing out, lift bar towards chest level, pause, then lower bar to knee level. Repeat 10-12 repetitions. Tempo should be 1-2 seconds to lift, 2-3 seconds to lower. To make this move more HIIT, reduce the weight of the t-bar (if applicable) and perform tempo 1:1 second, until failure.
This move is called 'swimmers' because it almost appears if you are swimming on the ground. It is an efficient move requiring only your body weight, and works all areas of your upper and lower back, including your 'shelf'/upper portion of your glutes.
Start by laying face-down on the floor, like a 'starfish': arms are extended apart and above your head, legs are extended back and apart.
Simultaneously lift one arm up off the ground while lifting the opposite leg; head stays down, upper and lower back are engaged. At the peak of resistance pause, then lower arm and leg back to the floor. Repeat on opposite arm and leg. Perform 10-15 repetitions/side. Tempo should be 1 second lift: 1 second pause: 1 second to lower. To increase the intensity, avoid the 1 second pause and perform until failure.
3) Single Arm Row
This version of the row targets the 'lats' (latin name: latimus dorsi) of your back- the outer back muscles. By performing this move unilaterally, it allows for a greater range of motion and a greater feel for the muscle being worked. The benefit to developing your outer back muscles (apart from increasing strength) is to create the aesthetic illusion of a smaller waist, and looking athletic and toned even from behind ;)
Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent; weight is held in either hand. Keeping your back straight and engaged, tilt your upper body at the hips: about 45 degrees. Weight is parallel to the floor. The lower the angle, the more your will feel it in your back. You may keep your balance by placing your other hand on a bench, or on your thigh.
Leading with your elbow, raise the weight up towards your body, about hip level; pause, then lower the weight to start position. Repeat 10-12 times/arm, for 3 sets. Tempo should be 1-2 seconds to lift, 2-3 seconds to lower. To increase the intensity, decrease the weight (if applicable) and perform exercise with 1:1 second tempo, until failure.
4) Weighted Crunches
If you are looking to add a greater challenge to the traditional crunch: simply add weight!! This creates a greater resistance to the movement, adding greater depth to your abs by strengthening and building those ab muscles. A stronger core not only looks great, but helps aid in proper posture in your daily life as well as performing most other forms of exercise by adding support to the opposing lower back.
Start by laying on the floor as you would to perform a crunch, knees are raised and bent, feet planted. Hold desired weight up with arms extended, at face level.
Maintaining the weight at face level, with feet planted on the floor, take a deep breath in, engage your abs to raise your upper body. Keep your back straight: ensure you don't round your back or lift with your neck. Breath out at the top. Slowly lower your body back to the floor. Repeat 10-15 times for 3 sets. Increase the weight used if 15 reps are performed with ease. Tempo should be 1-2 seconds on the crunch up, 2-3 seconds on the way down.
Try out this workout and be prepared to showcase all your hard work! Challenge yourself with the weight/resistance used as well as changing the tempo to increase the calories burned. Be ready for warmer temperatures and smaller clothes ;)