A bulge around your bra line, a muffin top peeking over your back waistband or a softness behind your shoulder blades that makes you unwilling to go shirtless at the pool — it's all pesky back fat, and you want to be rid of it.
You know you can't target it for loss; spot-training isn't a real thing. However, you can take some steps in your exercise program that will get you closer to a svelte, defined back.
Of course, remember that all the intense cardio and strength training you can possibly do won't help if you don't keep your diet in check. Watch portion sizes and make smart choices so you're eating mostly vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Go for a Cardio Push
Burning calories for at least 250 minutes per week through cardio work, such as jogging or cycling, helps you drop extra fat. As you lose fat, some it will come from your back; this comprehensive approach is your only fat-loss option.
But if you've been slogging along at a steady pace, several times per week for weeks, months or even years and aren't getting the results your want, it's time to kick it up and turn on some serious fat-burning mechanisms.
The way to do this is through interval training. Instead of settling into a manageable workout pace for the long haul, alternate bouts of extremely high-intensity work with easy ones. A simple routine has you warm up for five to 10 minutes on a treadmill and then alternate 10 rounds of running all-out for a minute and walking for a minute.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Obesity showed that this type of training, done for 20 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks, helped overweight young men lose a significant amount of fat mass and accrue lean mass. Much of the fat lost came from the trunk, which includes your middle and lower back.
Keep at your steady-state exercise on the days you're not doing the intervals, as your weight and health will still benefit from the calories burned.
Sculpt the Muscles
Make your back appear less soft by developing your lats, traps and rhomboids. These back muscles pop as you lose fat through interval training, cardio and diet.
Another bonus of sculpting your back? You gain more lean mass, which is a far more efficient calorie-burner than fat mass. The added muscle gives your metabolism a boost all day long, so it's easier to maintain a thinner frame.
Three primary basic exercises will help you target all the muscles of the back. These won't sizzle away the fat, but they will give you more definition. Do them at least twice per week for one set of eight to 12 reps. Work up to three back workouts per week consisting of three sets of the moves. Don't be afraid to challenge yourself — heavy weights give you results.
Bent-Over Barbell Rows: Hold a barbell in front of your thighs with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder distance apart. Bend forward from the hips to create a 45-degree angle with the floor. Pull the barbell to your bellybutton as you squeeze your middle back together and draw your elbows back. Release to straight arms to complete one rep.
Pull-Ups: Use a fixed bar, or an assisted pull-up machine, and hold on with an overhand grip. Pull your chin up and over the bar. If using the assisted machine, adjust the weight to an appropriate level — remembering that lower numbers are harder, not easier, when it comes to this machine.
Seated High Row: Sit in a high-row machine with your chest facing the pads or column. Reach your hands up to grasp the handles that are positioned slightly above your shoulders. Pull your elbows back as you draw the handles to the upper sides of your ribs. Straighten the arms to complete one rep.