It’s easy to take for granted how much we use our back muscles every day. Whether it’s lifting bags of groceries up a flight up stairs or squatting down to pick up something off the floor, we use our backsides to carry out the most complex and simplest tasks. “The back is literally involved in every movement. Even if you aren’t doing a ‘back exercise,’ per se, the back is still anchoring and stabilizing to support all arm gestures, core exercises, balance work and leg moves,” says Cheri Paige Fogelman, a Daily Burn 365 trainer.
And can you guess how many muscles are in the human back? Approximately 140 overlapping muscles. The major muscles are divided into three groups: extrinsic, intermediate and intrinsic — most of which we’re underutilizing sitting at our desks all day. What’s worse: Stress and anxiety also tend to manifest as tension in our necks and back before spreading to other parts of the body. Talk about a bad chain reaction.
If you’re looking to nix back pain, improve your athletic abilities, or, we said it, look better from behind, working out your posterior is key. “A strong back enables us to better stabilize, meaning you’ll work more efficiently and get more out of moves like plank, bicep curls and even cardio moves like running or speed skating,” Fogelman says. “The back is a secret weapon for a better workout,” she adds. “When I stand up tall and anchor my shoulder blades down and back during an exercise, I feel more triumphant, which boosts my self-esteem.”
These no-equipment back exercises from the trainers of Daily Burn 365 have you covered from every angle (rhomboids, lats, traps and more). Perform ‘em right and they’ll even help improve posture and range of motion, too. Don’t worry — we got your back!
5 Back Exercises to Tone Up Fast
Repeat the following circuit three times through, resting for one minute in between rounds. Or, mix things up by adding these moves into your usual exercise rotation.
1. Renegade Rows
How to: Get into a high plank position with your hands shoulder-distance apart, shoulders stacked above wrists (a). Keeping hips square and core engaged, lift your right hand off the ground. Your right elbow should be tucked close to your rib cage (b). Bring your right arm back to the starting position and repeat with your left arm (c). Do 10-12 reps on each side (d).
Pro tip: Repeat after us: Light as a feather, stiff as a board. Make sure to keep your hips stable and avoid shrugging your shoulders or moving your body to the side as you perform the row.
2. Bent-Over Reverse Flys
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hinge forward at the hips. Arms should be at your sides, palms in, gaze forward (a). Engaging your back and shoulder muscles and keeping our chest up, raise your arms to form a “T” (parallel to the floor), with your elbows slightly bent. Be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades to fully engage the muscles (b). Bring your arms back down to the starting position (c). Repeat for 15 reps.
Pro tip: Think about pinching the shoulder blades together with each rep, while maintaining a long spine. Once you’ve nailed down the movement and can do the reps fairly effortlessly, grab a dumbbell in each hand.
3. Scapular Push-Ups
How to: Get into a high plank with your hands shoulder-distance apart. Keep your body in a straight line with your head in a neutral position (a). Imagining that there’s something in between your shoulders on your upper back, pinch your shoulder blades, as you slowly lower your body halfway down the floor (b). Raise your body back up to the starting position (c). Repeat for 8-10 reps.
Pro tip: If holding your high plank is too challenging, do a modified standing version by placing your hands flat on a wall in front of you, and walking your feet out to your comfort zone. (The further from the wall, the harder it will be.)
How to: Lie face down on an exercise mat with your toes pointed down and your forehead on the floor. Keep your gaze in a neutral position (a). Bring your arms straight out in front of you with your palms on the floor (b). Engaging your back, glutes and hamstrings, lift your hands and feet a few inches off the ground (c). Repeat for ten reps, holding for three seconds each time.
Pro tip: As you lift your arms and legs off of the floor, be sure to pull your shoulders down and back (our tendency is to scrunch them up to our ears). Inhale as you lift your body and exhale as you lower it.
How to: Again starting face-down on your exercise mat, reach your arms out in front of you with your palms on the floor (a). Engaging your back, abs and glutes, lift your right arm and left leg off the ground at the same time, then lower them and lift your left arm and right leg (b). This is one rep. Continue alternating for 12-15 reps.
Pro tip: Just like a swimmer in the pool, make your movements precise and efficient by keeping your neck and spine long, shoulders down. To help you use your breath efficiently throughout this exercise, inhale for three counts and exhale for another three counts.