5 Effective Back Exercises for Women

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With so much focus on the upper body and core, it’s easy to forget to tone your back muscles. After all, you want to look good in that slinky, backless dress, don’t you? The exercises below work the two major muscles of the back—the latissimus dorsi (lats) that extend from the shoulders to the hip and the trapezius near your shoulders.

5 Bent-Over Rows

Though this exercise primarily works the triceps, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the move incorporates the back muscles. Depending on what equipment you have available, you can do this move with a pair of dumbbells or a barbell. How to do bent-over rows: Hold a 5- to 10-pound dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend forward at your waist until your chest is parallel to the floor and let your arms hang straight down. Bend your elbows to lift the weights toward your chest and your elbows toward your waist, bringing your shoulder blades together. Lower the weights back to the start and repeat.

4 Reverse Fly

If you’re working your chest muscles on the fly machine, reverse flys are a must. But if you don’t have access to a gym, try the exercise with a pair of dumbbells and a form similar to the bent-over row. How to do reverse flys: Using the fly machine at your gym (the one with two arms suspended at chest level), sit facing the machine (this usually means sitting backwards on the seat). Add enough weight to challenge you but is not too heavy to lift. By squeezing the muscles of your upper back together, bring the two hanging arms toward each other behind your back. Hold for a second then slowly bring your arms back to the starting position.

3 Superman

As the name implies, you’ll look a bit like the caped superhero while doing this exercise, but do it enough and you’ll also have his strength. There’s no equipment needed just you and your motivation (and maybe a cape if you’re so inclined). How to do Superman: Lie on your stomach with your arms reaching over your head and your feet hip-distance apart. Engage your back and glutes to raise your arms, chest, and legs off the floor. At this point, you can either hold for as long as you can (aim for 30 seconds to a minute) or hold for a second before lowering back down and repeating for multiple reps.

2 Lat Pulldowns

Even though this exercise requires a gym machine (or your home one if you’re a workout junkie), it’s the perfect counterbalance to shoulder exercises like presses. How to do lat pulldowns: Find the lat pulldown machine at your gym (barbell suspended by a cable above a seat). Sit down facing the machine with your quads anchored under the support bar. Select a weight that’s comfortable to lift. Reach above your head and grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Pull the bar down behind your neck but don’t strain your neck forward. Keep your elbows pointed out to the side as your lower and raise the bar back up.

1 Back Extensions

These are kind of like backwards crunches, but because your back doesn’t bend like your abs do, you’ll need a bit more room. And since they recruit not only your lats but your glutes and hamstrings as well, they’re the perfect backside exercised How to do back extensions: You’ll need to use the back extension bench at a gym for this move. Rest your legs and hips on the padded part and hang toward the floor, anchoring yourself with the bar near your ankles. Using your back and glutes, raise your upper body to form a straight line with your lower body then lower back down. For this exercise, you can either rely on your own body weight or hold an 8- to 15-pound weight or plate near your chest.

If you’re not already sold on strength training, check out these 5 Benefits for your body.

Want to work on your lower body too? Check out these Top 5 Exercises for women’s lower bodies.

All these exercises are the perfect complement to your abs workout by making sure your entire core is stabilized. Just make sure that when doing back exercises you never arch or collapse your back or try to lift too much weight, as you could seriously injure yourself.

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