How to Get Your Sexy Back in 5 Moves
By LISA REED
Nothing is sexier than confidence. Walking with a purpose and with good posture trims your silhouette and creates immediate sex appeal. Whether you're getting ready to wear a bikini for summer or you want to rock a new strapless dress, it's time to learn how to achieve a strong, beautiful back.
Strengthening your back muscles will:
* Improve your posture
* Trim your waistline
* Increase your metabolism
* Realign your spine and shoulders
* Strengthen your core and correct lower-body imbalances
* Prevent low-back pain by stabilizing your spine and keeping your abs engaged
When working out, many people only use their arms in upper-body exercises like rowing. A good way to know if you're using your back muscles properly is to learn how to retract your scapula to initiate the movement: Take your arms out of the exercise -- don't think about pulling with your arms, but instead focus on contracting or squeezing your shoulder blades together to engage your back muscles. Understanding how to isolate and work each muscle is important in order to properly sculpt your back muscles.
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The five-move workout below will help you hone your mind-muscle connection to build a beautiful back.
Sexy Back Workout
*Make sure you warm up for 10 minutes (dynamic warm-up, elliptical or jump rope).
1) Y's: The Y's are an excellent warm-up exercise to specifically engage the upper back and shoulders.
To perform: Lie facedown on the floor with your arms outstretched overhead in a 30-degree "Y" shape. Your thumbs should be up and palms facing each other. Engage your abdominals to stabilize the spine and raise your arms by pulling your shoulder blades back and down.
2) Inverted Pull-Ups: (You can use the TRX at home, or if you're at the gym use the rings, a barbell placed in a squat rack or the Smith machine).
This is a challenging but awesome back exercise that places emphasis on the upper back and rear deltoid muscles. The exercise also allows you to work on stabilization of the torso to build a strong core.
To perform on the TRX or rings: Position your body under the handles of the TRX. If you're at the gym, place a bar in a squat rack at about waist height or use the Smith machine. Take a wider-than-shoulder-width grip on the bar and, as you position yourself underneath the handles, hold your torso perfectly straight (like your body is a tabletop).
With your arms fully extended, begin by retracting (squeezing) the shoulder blades as you pull your chest to the bar. Pause at the top of the pull-up to contract every back and core muscle. Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
3) Resistance-Band Lat Pull-Downs: This works the largest muscles in the upper body (your latisimus dorsi, or lats). Your lat muscles are very powerful spinal stabilizers that improve your posture. This exercise can be performed with a lat-pulldown machine in the gym or a resistance band if you're at home.
To perform: Attach the resistance band to a door anchor or around a sturdy object, ensuring that it's positioned above head height. Grasp the handles with a pronated grip wider than your shoulders.
Sit on a chair, bench or stability ball, or stagger your standing stance so you have a solid base from your legs. Initiate the movement by squeezing your shoulder blades down and back. As you pull your arms/elbows back, keep your chest tall and continue focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together in the back. Pause and contract the muscles when your arms/elbows form a 90-degree angle. Slowly return to the starting position with your arms fully extended and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
4) Dumbbell Single-Arm Row: This is a great horizontal pulling exercise (like an inverted pull-up) that reinforces balance as you work each side of your back unilaterally. It also works the muscles in those pesky areas that tend to bulge out of the back of a sports bra.
To perform: Begin with one hand placed on a bench or chair and kneel with the same knee on the bench to stabilize your torso. Hold the dumbbell in your other hand. If you are using a stability ball or bench that is taller than waist height, step back to secure a solid foundation with your legs. Your back should be slightly arched as your abdominals are drawn in. Bring the dumbbell back to your hip by raising the elbow up toward the ceiling. Concentrate on retracting (squeezing) the scapula.
5) Stability-Ball Back Extensions: This exercise strengthens the spinal erectors (lower-back muscles), which are critical for maintaining proper posture in all standing positions. It not only strengthens the lower back, but it also strengthens the glutes and hamstrings and promotes flexibility. During the exercise, position your arms up like a Y or place them softly behind your ears on the back of your head to activate your upper back.
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To perform: Lie facedown on a stability ball and position the balls of your feet on the floor and your heels on a wall to hold your body in place. Your upper thighs should be over the ball, leaving enough room for you to bend at the waist. Keep your back flat and inhale as you bend slowly at the waist without rounding your back. Go down as far as you can without losing form. Slowly raise your torso back to the initial position as you exhale and hold for two seconds at the top.
Key Tip: Keep your spine in a straight line from your tailbone to your neck to the top of your head.
For each exercise, perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions. The goal is to increase the lifting weight if you can successfully perform the exercise for more than 12 repetitions without breaking form. Don't ever sacrifice technique to force more reps.
These simple and effective exercises will help you get the beautiful, well-sculpted back you want, regardless of your fitness level. Over time, strengthening your back muscles will improve your posture, and you'll notice that your silhouette and waistline are dramatically thinner.
But remember, working your back alone isn't enough. Staying fit requires clean nutrition, a positive body image, cardiovascular exercises, total-body strength training and varied workouts. Increasing overall strength will also help with weight control because lean muscle burns more calories than fat.
Readers -- What are your go-to back exercises? Do you do any of the exercises mentioned above? Do you suffer from lower-back pain? What kind of exercises do you prefer to prevent/alleviate back pain? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Lisa Reed, M.S., CSCS, is a USA Fitness Champion, IFBB Pro, personal trainer, educator and motivator. She is also the owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, LLC, where she leads a team of in-home personal trainers in the Washington, D.C., area. Lisa and her team design online fitness and nutrition programs for clients around the world. She has trained hundreds of elite and professional athletes, including tennis player Monica Seles. She was the first female strength coach at the United States Naval Academy and trained top athletes as a strength coach at the University of Florida.