Sometimes we forget about the backs of our upper bodies and doing shoulder and back muscle exercises because we typically don't see the back of our body when we look in the mirror.
Back exercises create a strong and sculpted backside that can help you maintain good posture, and a healthy spine.
If you sit at a desk all day or spend hours driving, you probably feel some back pain at times. Exercising your back on a regular basis can help to reduce back pain and avoid slouching over.
Upper Body Fitness
Diet and aerobic exercise can help with weight loss if that is a problem (because we know that spot reducing really isn't possible), but even slim people struggle with unflattering back bulges. So, you have three choices:
Plastic Surgery (which is expensive and risky).
Smooth out the bumps by going bra-less (if you are over 30, this likely isn't an option, especially if have had children.
Fit a few toning back muscle exercises into your busy day.
Option number three is obviously the most practical – it's free and it's figure flattering. A stronger back also results in better posture which will improve the health of your abdominal organs and reduce your risk of injury.
Back Muscle Exercises
The shoulders play a key role in almost all back muscle exercises and the deltoid muscles are responsible for all of the movements made by the shoulders.
Grab a pair of mid-weight dumbbells (5-10 lbs). Stand with your feet hip distance apart, knees slightly bent and lean forward until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle.
Focus on keeping your spine straight and your shoulders pulled back. Grip a weight in each hand, palms facing each other, arms hanging down, and elbows bent. When dumbbells are together, your arms should form a circle almost like you are hugging a barrel.
Raise the weights up to shoulder height, keeping the bend in the arms. Lift with your back rather than your arms and make sure the wrists stay lower than the elbows. Repeat for 10-20 reps.
Rows are a great way to strengthen and tone your upper and mid back muscles, and with so many variations of these effective back muscle exercises, you can choose the one that works best for you. Seated rows are often done at gyms using cable machines, but you don't need expensive equipment to get the benefits.
Anchor a resistance band in a doorway at knee height (if you have that type) or wrap it around a pole or sturdy piece of furniture. Sit on the floor with your back straight, knees bent, and arms extended straight out in front of you.
Hold the end of the band in each hand, palms facing each other. The band should be taut when your arms are straight.
Pull your arms back until your hands touch your ribcage, making sure that your elbows are pointing directly behind you (no flaring). Hold for 2 counts then return to starting position. Repeat for 10-20 reps.
Grab a pair of light dumbbells (2-5 lbs). Begin with your feet hip width apart and lean forward at the waist until your spine is parallel to the floor, knees slightly bent.
Grip a weight in each hand, arms hanging straight down, and palms facing forward away from the body. The inside end of the dumbbells should touch each other. Keeping your elbows straight, slowly move your arms out to the side like wings, lifting to shoulder height.
Your torso and outstretched arms should form a “T”. Lower arms to starting position. Repeat for 10-20 reps.
Cat Cow Pose
This exercise will strengthen your back muscles and improve both posture and flexibility. It also provides an amazing stretch for your spine, so it is a great way to end your workout.
Begin on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your hands directly under your shoulders. Your spine should be neutral or in “table-top” position and your neck should be level with your back.
Curl your toes under and inhale as you drop your stomach down while lifting your tailbone and head until your gaze is toward the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds then uncurl your toes, lift your back until your spine is curled upward like a scared cat, and drop your chin toward your chest.
Repeat this cycle for 5 repetitions then return to neutral position.
Kim Performing the Cat/Cow Pose
Tips for Back Muscle Exercises
Your back is strong and meant to be used, but it is also very injury prone so it is important to train wisely. Incorrect form can cause serious injury, damage posture, and may actually worsen those issues that you are trying to fix.
The key is to protect your spine, shoulders, and the delicate muscles around the neck. So, for the best results, follow these simple tips:
Engage your core for every exercise. Your core muscles will provide extra support and protection for the lower back. And, as an added bonus, you are also toning your abs and glutes!
Keep your shoulder blades down and back. For some back muscle exercises, it is easy to unknowingly roll your shoulders forward or hunch them up toward your ears. It is VERY important to maintain proper form or you could put stress on the neck and cause serious injury to the rotator cuff and other upper back muscles.
Keep the spine straight. Unless you are performing an exercise that involves curving the back (cat/cow pose, superman) it is important to keep the spine straight. You don't want to arch your back while doing rows, the bridge, or shoulder blade squeezes as this can cause injury. Again, engaging your core muscles will help support your spine so you can maintain proper form.
Use a weight that will challenge you but still allow you to maintain correct form. You want the dumbbell to be heavy enough to get results, but resist the temptation to go too heavy. Proper for will yield better results than a few extra pounds on the dumbbell.
Warm up your back muscles with some stretching or even a short cardio session that will get your muscles heated up and loose.
I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or ideas you would like to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum