Toning your back not only helps your posture -- as stronger back and posterior shoulder muscles pull your shoulders back and avoid that dreaded forward slump -- a toned back also eliminates a bulge that can appear above the top of a strapless dress. And you don't need access to a gym or thousands of dollars' worth of equipment to slim down. Reduce back fat with a diet and exercise program designed to reduce your level of body fat, and to tone your back muscles with exercises, without equipment.
Consume Fewer Calories to Reduce Back Fat
First things first -- if you want a slimmer back, you'll need to eat fewer calories than you burn. Creating this calorie deficit helps reduce your overall level of body fat, as your body starts to burn stored fat for energy, shrinking the size of your fat cells. While it's impossible to target your back for fat loss, losing fat all over will slim down your back.
To find your daily calorie needs, plug in your height, weight, age, gender and activity level into an online calculator. Then, for sustainable weight loss, subtract 500 to 1,000 calories per day -- the result will add up to 1 to 2 pounds lost per week. Don't cut your calories too drastically to speed up weight loss, though -- fewer than 1,200 calories a day will slow your metabolism by putting your body into a semi-starvation state. If trying for a 1,000-calorie deficit would take you below 1,200 calories, you'll need to settle for a smaller deficit through diet to ensure you're still meeting your nutritional needs.
Try Equipment-Free Cardio
You should also make cardiovascular exercise a key part of your routine to slim down your back. Cardio burns calories, which can help you create a greater calorie deficit without going below your 1,200-calorie lower limit.
You don't need equipment to get your heart pumping. A brisk walk around your neighborhood can burn a significant number of calories -- a 125-pound woman will burn 270 calories in an hour-long walk at a brisk 4 miles per hour; a 155-pound woman will burn 334 calories in that same time frame. Adding greater intensity to your workout by running -- or alternating running and jogging throughout your workout -- helps you burn even more calories. An hour running at a 6 mile-per-hour pace burns 600 calories in a 125-pound woman, or 744 calories in a woman who weighs 155 pounds.
If you have some exercise equipment -- but you don't have access to the gym -- you can incorporate greater variety into your workout. Try jumping rope to torch your calories -- jumping rope burns the same number of calories as running at 6 mph. Or, go for a bike ride, try rollerblading or skiing for cardio to slim down and lose fat, including back fat.
Tone Your Back Without Equipment
Tone your back with body weight exercises -- exercises that don't require added weights. These no-equipment exercises won't target fat loss in your back area, but they will shape your back muscles so your back will appear more toned while you lose body fat all over.
Perform Superman exercises to tone your lower back and the backs of your shoulders. Start by lying on the floor on your stomach with your legs and arms outstretched, then engage your glutes, back and shoulders to look forward, lift your legs and arms, and hold the pose for a few seconds. Add greater difficulty by modifying the exercise -- try using your back and glutes to lift your left arm and right leg, then switch to lift your right arm and left leg.
The bird-dog exercise can also tone up your back, sans equipment. Start on your hands and knees on the floor with your back flat. Without moving your core, extend your right arm and left leg out and hold this position for a few seconds before switching sides. This exercise works your back, shoulders, waistline and abdominals to tone your core and back, and it improves your core stability and balance.
Add body weight squats and lunges to your strength training routine, as well. While these exercises primarily target your lower body, they also strengthen your abdominals and back, since these muscles work hard to keep your core stabilized during the movement.
Get Creative With Alternative Weights
Some back-toning exercises -- such as rear flys and rows -- are much more effective when you use added weight, not only your own body weight. That doesn't mean you need to spend a lot of money on exercise equipment, though. Use soup cans or water bottles as light weights -- these are most appropriate for exercises that work smaller muscles such as rear flys. Make heavier weights by placing a few heavier items in a tote or small duffel bag to get a heftier weight that's more appropriate for rows, squats and lunges.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs Calculator
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- ACE Fitness: Back Exercises