6 Exercises For A Strong, Sexy Back

Written by Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the founder of 12 Minute Athlete, and a leading expert on high intensity interval training (HIIT) and bodyweight fitness living in Venice, California. She has her Bachelor’s in International Affairs and Communication from Lewis and Clark College and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Photo by Krista Stryker

Though many of us will be bundled in warm coats and scarves for the next month or two, that doesn't mean we need to put our fitness routines on hold. The sooner you start, the more likely it is you'll have met your goals once it's time to shed the layers. Work hard now, and you'll have a strong, sexy back by the time tank top season gets here!

Here are six of my favorite back exercises you can do with minimal equipment:

Bodyweight rows

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Body weight rows are a fantastic way to strengthen your back and upper body, and are a perfect primer for pull ups.

To do them, position your body under a straight bar or dip bar so your legs are straight in front of you. You should be holding the dip bar with both hands and arms fully extended. Pulling your shoulders back, pull yourself toward the bar as far as possible. Lower back down and repeat.

Tip: If this is difficult for you, try bending your knees to make the exercise slightly easier.

Do it: Complete three sets of 8-12 reps, 2-3 times a week.

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Pull Ups

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Pull ups are one of the best exercises to strengthen your back, improve your posture and make you feel strong. They're tough, but work hard and you'll be able to do them!

If you're just getting started with pull ups, try doing a flex hang: jump or step up to the pull up bar, grab on and hold on as long as you can. This will help you build up strength in your back, shoulders and grip so you can work towards doing full pull ups.

Once you get the hang of that, try doing jumping pull ups to continue getting stronger.

Do it: Three sets of of flex hangs (until failure), three times a week, or three sets of 6-10 reps of jumping pull ups three times a week.

Half Wheel

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A half wheel is a great and gentle way to work your lower back as well as your butt and core muscles.

Le on your back with knees bent. Squeeze your butt and abs, and raise your butt and hips as high as you can while still keeping your shoulders on the ground. Hold, then lower down.

Do it: Two sets of 20-25 controlled reps (or do two sets of 20-30 seconds holds), 2-3 times a week.

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Wheel Pose

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Also known as a bridge, wheel pose works nearly every muscle in your body and will get you a crazy strong and flexible back.

Lie on your back on the floor with knees bent and hands by sides of your head, fingers pointing toward your toes. Push your hips up, rounding your back and squeezing your butt, abs and leg muscles as you do so. Push through your shoulders so everything gets a good stretch and breathe in deeply before slowly lowering down.

Do it: Do 2-3 rounds of 10-20 second holds, 2-3 times a week.

Superman Hold

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The superman exercise is a deceptive one because while it may feel like you're not doing much at first, it's actually one of the best exercises to work your entire back, butt and hamstring muscles.

Start by laying on your stomach with your arms straight in front of you by your ears. Then simultaneously lift your arms and your legs. Arms should be straight and glued to your ears, as high up as you can get them. Your butt should be squeezed as hard as you can and your toes lifted off the floor.

Do it: Three rounds of 10-30 second holds, 2-3 times a week.

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Bird Dog Plank

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Bird dog planks are great for working your body unilaterally to iron out any possible imbalances. Plus, they'll not only challenge your back muscles, but your balance as well.

Get into a basic plank, then lift one arm and the opposite leg and hold. Try to keep your core tight and refrain from letting your hips from sliding too much to one side. Hold and then switch sides.

If this is too tough, just lift your arm and leg separately. If you want even more of a challenge, try putting your bottom leg and/or hand on a stability ball.

Do it: 2-3 rounds of 10-30 second holds, 2-3 times a week.

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