Best exercises for a toned back. There’s nothing quite like a beautifully toned back. Of course, we want to have toned abdominal muscles and firm behinds, but that is almost expected. The back is sometimes forgotten and without strong muscles, your posture suffers (think, how can you have killer abs when you are slumped over, or how can you look healthy and fit when your shoulders are hunched up by your ears). There’s another bonus to working out your back muscles, because all of the exercises force you to keep those abdominal muscles engaged throughout.
Please note that you will need free weights, bands or a gym with exercise equipment for these moves.
BEST EXERCISES FOR A TONED BACK
Overhead press. This move targets your shoulders and upper back. Standing tall with your feet hip width apart and holding free weights simply press your arms overhead. Keep your shoulder down. I sometimes feel that this one gets into my neck a little bit, so to ease the tension, I just gently lower my chin so that my gaze is toward the floor several feet in front of me, instead of straight ahead. If you don’t have free weights, this exercise can also be done while standing or kneeling on a band. Do 2-3 sets of 15 reps each.
Row. This is one of my favourite moves whether you are in the gym or at home. I spent quite a few summers rowing on lakes in Ontario, so it’s both a move and workout that is near and dear to my heart. The gym machines are pretty self explanatory, but you can read about them here (a beginners guide to gym equipment), so let’s take a look at how to replicate this move at home. Holding your free weights and standing with your feet a foot width apart, bend forward keeping a straight back until you are almost parallel to the floor. Pull your elbows straight back and up to the ceiling while drawing the weights toward your chest. To increase the difficulty of this move, try lifting one of your legs behind you. You can also do this move sitting upright and pulling your arms back while holding an exercise band. Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps each.
Lat Pull. This is one of those gym machines that I like as it’s easy to use and very effective. Just ensure that you aren’t throwing your whole body into the movement. You really need to focus on engaging those shoulder blades and allowing them to lead the movement. (When I used to teach Pilates, one cue that I gave women, was to feel like you are gently pressing your bra down with your shoulder blades). For those of you doing this exercise at home, there are some great options as well. Lying on your back, knees bent feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart start with your arms reaching overhead toward the floor behind you (note you will need to use weights for this one). With one smooth movement lower the weights to the floor by your side and repeat. Make sure that you aren’t touching the floor and that your shoulders are lengthening away from your ears and that you aren’t arching your back. If you happen to have a chin up bar, grab a band and hook it over the bar. Voila, you have your very own lat machine. Do 3 sets of 15 reps each.
Back extensions. These are so fun and have a ton of different variations. Lying prone (face down) on the floor, keep your arms by your sides and feel like you are gently lifting your belly button away from the floor. Inhale and on your exhale, feel like you are getting longer as you gently lift your upper body off the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Take a breath and lower back to your start position. This can also be done with your hands in front of your forehead. I’m a big fan of this being done on an exercise ball as it adds an element of instability. Do 1 or 2 sets of 15 reps each.
Add some or all of these to your workout routine and you’ll quickly feel yourself getting stronger. Even though you can’t see your back when you are rocking those tanks this summer, you’ll be able to hold your head high and leave a room confident because everyone will be gasping in awe.
What are some of your favourite back exercises?