by Leigh Ann Thomas, Certified Personal Trainer

Building strong, defined back muscles usually isn’t at the forefront of most women’s agenda. Often times, we tend to focus our attention on what we can see in the mirror staring back at us: our legs, midsection and arms. However, having a strong, toned back offers more benefits than just giving you a smooth appearance in a strapless dress.  Most Americans suffer from a weak core, poor posture and lower back pain as a result from sitting at a desk all day. Although we can’t avoid our day job, there are ways to strengthen and support our back for the long haul.

The key to sculpting a strong, sexy back is to focus on the following muscle groups; such as your latissimus dorsi, teres major, teres minor, rhomboids, trapezius and erector spinae. These are the primary muscles in your back that can give your physique the appearance of a smaller waist as well as tighten your trouble areas. Developing stronger muscles means compound movements and lifting heavy. Ideally, it should be challenging to finish the last 3 reps of your set, keeping your rep range between 10-12 repetitions. If you’re not challenged, then you need to increase your weight.

Below I have created a circuit with my favorite back exercises. Even though you can’t “spot reduce” a specific area on your body, you can, through strength and resistance training, strengthen your back and get rid of that bra bulge for good.  

Warm up for 5 minutes before starting this workout. Perform these exercises as a circuit, completing all the exercises without rest. Once you finish the last set, rest 1-2 minutes and repeat this circuit 4-5 more rounds. Finish with 20 minutes of any cardiovascular activity of your choice. 

  1. Deadlift with Reverse Grip Row – 10x - Holding dumbbells in each hand, palms facing up, feet hip-width apart, roll your shoulders back and keep abs tight. Keeping legs straight with slight bend in the knees, lean forward pushing your hips back and pause once weights are level with your shins. Perform your row, release, and stand back up.
  2. Seated Row – 12x  Seated at the cable row machine, with feet firmly against the platform, reach forward and grab the triangle shaped handle. Sit upright, knees slightly bent, shoulders back, abs tight and row the handle in towards the top of your belly button. Keep elbows drawn back as you pull, squeezing your shoulder blades together, then release to start.
  3. Lat Pull downs – 12x  Sit at the bench with your thighs under the lap cushion to keep your weight in place. Place hands wide on the bar (make sure your comfortable and controlled), lean back slightly and pull the handle down to the top of your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together, then release to start.
  4. Straight Arm Pull down – 12-15x  Standing at lat pull down station, lighten the weight and position hands shoulder-width apart on the handle bar. Pull the handle down towards your hips, keeping arms straight the entire time. Raise the bar back to start, stopping at your shoulders, abs tight.
  5. Back Extensions – 15x  Position yourself on the back extension machine. (If your gym does not have one, you can do this on a Swiss ball with your feet positioned against a wall or on the floor with your hands behind your head, raising your torso and legs at the same time) Holding your hands behind your head or for an advanced option you can hold a weighted plate at your chest. Keeping your head in neutral spine position (do not look up), lower your torso towards the floor, rise back up and stop when your body is in a straight line from the tip of your head to your heel. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  6. Single Arm Dumbbell Row – 12x  - Position yourself on a bench, kneeling with your right knee and your right hand to balance your weight. Grip one heavy dumbbell with your left hand and row the weight toward your armpit. This will require a lot of effort, so don’t be afraid to go heavy. Doing so will activate more muscle groups in your back.
  7. Side Plank – 60 seconds - Position yourself in side plank position, forearm on the ground and elbow beneath your shoulder for support. Stack feet or position your top foot in front of your back foot and lift your hips off the ground, holding this position for the prescribed amount of time. Squeeze your glutes, pull the top shoulder back and pull your belly button into your spine.  Perform plank on the right and left side.

Building a stronger backside is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Every muscle group impacts your spine in one way or another. Training your back will help increase the strength and definition in your abs, protecting you from injury, improving your posture and preventing muscle imbalances throughout your body.