Strengthen Your Back and Cinch Your Waist With This 20-Minute Workout

Strengthening your upper body can help make you waist look smaller
Image Credit: Ron Levine/Stone/GettyImages

From corsets in the 19th century to today's waist trainers, people love the look of a slim waist. But if your usual workout routine involves endless crunches, side planks and leg lifts, you may be taking the wrong approach.

Instead of trying to get smaller, why not get broader? Strengthening your back and shoulders can give your upper half a little broader and more sculpted look, ultimately making your waist appear smaller by contrast.

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Built by Samuel Becourtney, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York, this superset upper-body workout will strengthen your back and tighten your waist.

Body-Weight Warm-Up

Move 1: Scapular Push-Up

Move 1: Scapular Push-Up
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Skill Level All Levels
Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Start in a high plank with your palms beneath your shoulders, body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  2. On an exhale, press into the ground with your palms, pulling the shoulder blades away from each other.
  3. On an inhale, take the pressure out of your palms and allow your shoulders to sink, shoulder blades practically touching in the middle of your back.

Move 2: Shoulder Tap

Move 2: Shoulder Tap
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Skill Level All Levels
Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
  1. Start in a high plank with your palms beneath your shoulders, body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Keeping your hips square to the floor, tap your right palm to your left shoulder.
  3. Bring your hand back to the ground.
  4. Tap your left palm to right shoulder.
  5. Return to the plank position.
  6. Alternate here for 30 seconds.

Move 3: Prone Swimmer

Move 3: Prone Swimmer
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Skill Level All Levels
Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
  1. Lie on your stomach with your hands behind your back and resting on your butt.
  2. Squeezing your glutes, raise your upper body an inch or two off the ground.
  3. Sweep your arms out to the side and over your head.
  4. Pause here for a moment, then sweep the arms back to the starting position.

Superset 1

Do:​ 10 reps of both of these exercises back to back. Rest for 60 seconds, then perform 2 more sets (3 sets total).

Move 1: Bent-Over Gorilla Row

Move 1: Bent-Over Gorilla Row
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Sets 3
Reps 10
Body Part [ "Back", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, a pair of dumbbells on the ground in front of you.
  2. Press your hips back and come into a deep hip hinge, keeping your back flat, shoulders away from the ears. You should be able to touch the dumbbells with your hands.
  3. Take hold of each dumbbell, keeping them on the ground.
  4. Row the right dumbbell up toward your midsection, drawing your elbow back, close to your ribs.
  5. Reverse the motion and bring the dumbbell back to the ground.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side, getting 10 reps on each side.

Tip

Between reps, try setting the weights down and resetting your hip hinge position to make sure you're getting the most out of the exercise.

Move 2: Alternating Dumbbell Arnold Press

Move 2: Alternating Dumbbell Arnold Press
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Sets 3
Reps 10
Body Part [ "Abs", "Shoulders" ]
  1. Begin either seated or standing tall with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height, palms facing your shoulders. This is the starting position.
  3. Press the right weight up over your shoulder, twisting so that your palm now faces out. End when your elbow is straight but not locked out.
  4. As you bring the weight down, twist the weight so that the palm faces your body.
  5. Repeat this motion with the left side.
  6. Do 10 reps per arm.

Superset 2

Do:​ each these moves back to back for the given amount of reps. Rest for 60 seconds before performing 2 more sets (3 sets total).

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Move 1: Rear Delt Fly

Move 1: Rear Delt Fly
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Sets 3
Reps 3
Body Part [ "Shoulders", "Back" ]
  1. Stand with your legs about hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
  2. Bend your torso forward at your hips and bend your legs slightly so that your arms extend below your body with your hands facing each other as you hold the dumbbells. Keep your back flat. This is the starting position.
  3. Exhale and raise your arms out to your sides with your hands facing down, squeezing your shoulder blades together during the movement. Do not round your spine or move your head forward.
  4. Inhale and lower your arms to the starting position.

Tip

Keep your back flat and shoulders back away from the ears as you do this exercise.

Move 2: Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

Move 2: Dumbbell Triceps Kickback
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Sets 3
Reps 12
Body Part Arms
  1. With a dumbbell in your right hand, stand in a staggered stance and hinge your hips back, maintaining a straight spine. Your upper body should be just about parallel to the floor.
  2. With your free arm resting on your front leg, bring your right arm (holding the dumbbell) to your side.
  3. Pretending your right elbow is glued to your body, extend your arm straight back in a controlled movement and squeeze the muscle at the top.
  4. Slowly lower your arm back to starting position.
  5. Continue for desired number of reps, then switch sides.

Superset 3

Do:​ both exercises back to back for the given amount of reps. Rest for 60 seconds before performing 2 more sets (3 sets total).

Move 1: High Plank Dumbbell Pull-Through

Move 1: High Plank Dumbbell Pull-Through
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
Body Part [ "Back", "Abs", "Arms" ]
  1. Begin in a high plank, hands directly below your shoulders, and heels, hips and head in a straight line.
  2. Position your feet wider than hip-width apart to form a stable base and keep your hips low.
  3. Place a dumbbell just behind your right hand.
  4. Engaging your glutes, lower back and abs, reach the left arm across your chest to grab the dumbbell, dragging it on its side by the handle under your body.
  5. Pause when the weight is just behind the left hand, stacked below the shoulder.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

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Move 2: Dumbbell Renegade Row

Move 2: Dumbbell Renegade Row
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Samuel Becourtney
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
Body Part [ "Abs", "Back", "Arms", "Butt" ]
  1. Place two dumbbells shoulder-width apart on the ground. Grip each dumbbell and come into a high plank, shoulders stacked over hands, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Draw the abs in toward the spine and lock your legs to stabilize the hips.
  3. Lift one hand off the floor, pulling the dumbbell to the top of the ribcage.
  4. Return to start, placing dumbbell down softly, then switch sides.

Tip

Keep your hips as square as possible and avoid rocking side to side as you do this move. If you struggle to do so, spread your legs a little wider and squeeze the glutes.

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