It’s time to bring sexy back. Literally. It’s very easy to neglect back exercises. We can’t “see” our backs, but they play an important part in not only looking fit, but being fit.
Having a strong back is vital to good health. It is estimated that more than half of all adults will experience some type of back pain during their lifetime, with $90 billion dollars spent on the diagnosis and management of back pain each year.1
The Benefits of Having a Strong Back
Aside from decreasing the risk of back pain or injury, there are other reasons to strengthen your back:
Posture. Poor posture can be caused by a variety of things, ranging from slumping over a computer, wearing an unsupportive bra, large breasts, age or fatigue. Having a strong back can help improve a person’s posture, and good posture can help a person look leaner and more confident than their slouching counterparts. Slouching may put pressure on the diaphragm, which can make breathing more difficult as well. Sitting upright may allow oxygen to flow through the body in an easier manner.
Increased Flexibility. According to the National Institute of Health, stretching exercises can increase a person’s range of motion and improve endurance. Having a full range of motion also enables a person to engage in normal activities such as bending over and reaching without strain or difficulty.
Balance and symmetry. Women who carry large purses primarily on one side may run the risk of muscle imbalances in their trapezius muscles. This, in turn, could lead to muscle strain or injury.
Effective Back Exercises for Women
The back is highly complex and is comprised of many muscles. Here are several exercises designed to target some of the problem areas many women encounter:
Back Exercises to Improve Posture
Quadraplex (Bird Dog)
This exercise helps to improve posture as well as strengthens and tones the back, glutes, shoulders, hamstrings, and abs.
• Lift right arm
• Lift left leg
• Hold for 60 seconds
• Repeat with left arm and right leg
The Bridge Pose
The Bridge Pose helps improve posture, stretches the chest and hips. It also strengthens the back, glutes, and hamstrings.
• Lie flat on your back with your arms at your sides
• Bend knees and place feet flat on floor
• Press feet and shoulders into floor as you lift hips toward ceiling
• Keep weight evenly distributed between both feet and shoulder blades
• Lift hips as high as can comfortably
• Clasp hands together or keep palms on floor
• Hold for 5 to 15 breaths
• Lower and repeat
Lower Back Exercises
The lower back pain is the source of many people’s pain and discomfort. Here are two exercises that focus on the lower back:
The Superwoman strengthens the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings
• Lay face down on mat
• Extend arms outward
• Slowly lift arms and legs simultaneously off the ground
• Stay in position for 30 seconds
• Lower and repeat
The range of motion is small, so do not try to overextend.
Two Knee Twist
This exercise alleviates pain and stiffness in the lower back, spine, and hips.
• Lie on your back with your knees bent towards your chest, arms out in a T
• Slowly lower knees to right side
• Hold 1-2 minutes
• Bring knees back to chest and slowly lower to left side
Note: Keep hands and shoulder blades on floor to maximize stretch.
Upper Back Exercises
Many people hold tension in their neck and upper back area. These exercises can help strengthen and loosen these muscles:
• Start in a pushup position with hands resting on dumbbells, feet slightly more than hip-width apart
• Tighten your abs and pull right dumbbell towards your ribcage
• Lower then pull left dumbbell towards ribcage
• Perform 2 sets of 10 reps on each side
Use light dumbbells, as heavy weight is not needed for this exercise to be effective.
This exercise stretches and strengthens the muscles in the neck and spine, as well as helps to balance the muscles in the shoulders. This may be ideal for individuals who tend to carry heavy purses or bags primarily on one side.
• Start on all fours
• Keep your back relaxed and look at the floor
• Inhale and press your chest forward, letting your abs sink to the floor
• Lift your head, relax your shoulder and look forward in one fluid motion
• Exhale, then round your spine outward, tuck your tailbone and bring hips forward
• Repeat 5-10 times
Doing a variety of back exercises is a great way to strengthen and tone the back as well as increase flexibility. It may be wise to consult with a physician if you currently experience any back pain before trying these exercises.
Jeff White is a certified personal trainer, author and wellness coach. He believes a strong mind and body go hand in hand, and both are needed for optimum performance. Jeff is the author of the award winning and Amazon Best Seller The 3 Pillars of Strength: Increasing Your Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Fitness.