Exercise for women is one of the primary topics we discuss and explore at Elements of Wellness. But today’s topic is not so commonly discussed for women. Instead it is often left to men seeking that broad, powerhouse, v-shaped torso that intimidates every viewer. But, women should and can also enjoy a sexy back that allows them to look fantastic in that strapless evening gown, in that summer top or in that bikini on the beach. In fact, the back is one of the sexiest physical features of a woman. So let’s talk about your back today.
In surface area, the back is the largest muscle group in the body. But in order to work the back properly, secondary muscle groups are required to participate. These are primarily the shoulders and biceps. One rule, however, that must be followed is to complete the targeted back movements first in your workout while the shoulders and arms are rested and strong.
The upper back is comprised of 2 primary muscle groups; the latssimus dorsi and the trapezius. The “lats” primary purpose is to pull your arm down while the main goal of the “traps” is to manoeuvre the shoulders and shoulder blades.
The lower back muscles work in collaboration with your abdominal muscles, so working one without the other is nearly impossible and certainly not advisable. Comprised mainly of the lumborum muscle, the development of a strong lower back is crucial for everything from posture to overall strength and support of other vital muscle groups thus making the absence of lower back training a big fitness mistake.
So…let’s begin in the smartest order; upper back first.
There are 4 key upper back movements when discussing exercise for women, each with a variety of variations and intensities, with which to work the upper back. The first and likely most recognized is the Lat Pulldown. It is a rather simple move actually but one that packs a powerful punch.
Attach a long bar to the cable of a lat pulldown station. Select a weight that allows you to perform 8-12 reps in which that last three are challenging. Grab the bar overhead with an overhand grip, palms facing away from you, hands shoulder width apart. Sit on the seat, keep your head and back staright and your eyes looking forward. Pull the bar to the upper part of your chest. Pause and return to bar to the starting position in a controlled and resistant fashion.
Grab a light dumbbell and lie on a flat bench. Using both hands, hold the dumbbell vertically by the end over your head. With elbows slightly bent, slowly lower the weight until you feel a stretch in your sides and upper arms as they align with your head. Pause then return to the starting position.
One Arm Row
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Place your left hand on bench and allow your right arm to hang straight down with your palm facing the bench. Pull the dumbbell up, keeping it close to the body, until it reaches your chest. Lower it again until your arm is straight. Repeat on the opposite side once all reps are complete.
Sit on a chair or the end of a workout bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be hanging by your sides with your palms facing each other. With your back straight and your head facing forward, slowly raise your shoulders as high as you can toward your ears. Pause the return to the starting position.
Now for the lower back. There are 4 key movements for this muscle group but the most ideal is the seated row and thus your first movement.
Sit at a rowing machine or low pulley cable with your feet flat on the foot rest and your knees slightly bent. Bending at the waist, lean forward and grasp the handles of a parallel grip bar, palms facing each other. Slowly draw the hands towards your mid torso while leaning your back until your torso is perpendicular to the floor. The handles should touch just below your chest. Pause then slowly and in a controlled manner, return to the starting position.
Stiff Legged Dumbbell Deadlift
Stand with a pair of dumbbells on the floor in front of you. Your feet should be hip width apart. Bend at the waist and grab the dumbbells so they are near your ankles. Palms facing your feet. Keep your back and legs straight raise yourself up to a standing position, keeping your arms straight. Return to the starting position.
Lie across a hyperextension bench. Tuck your ankles securely behind the footpads with your thighs flat against the front panel. Fold your arms across your chest and slowly bend forward at the waist as far as you comfortably can. Then slowly raise your torso back to the starting position.
Dry Land Swimming
Lie face down on the floor with your arms in front of you, parallel to the floor and your legs straight. Keeping your head facing the floor, simultaneously raise your arms and legs off the floor. Slowly kick your legs up and down while pulling your arms out to your sides and back behind you.
Okay…so those are the sexy back movements. What about intensity? There are three intensity levels at which all of these movements may be performed; beginner, intermediate and advanced.
At beginner level, complete the workout 3 times a week with 1-3 sets, 12-15 reps each. The speed of each movement should be 3-4 seconds up and 3-4 seconds down. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.
Intermediate level steps it up a notch with 2-4 sets, 8-12 reps each with an increased weight load. Speed is now 2-3 seconds up and down with 60-120 seconds of rest between sets.
As you move to advanced level, the sets increase to 3-5. Reps reduce to 6-8 under yet again increased load. Speed remains at 2-3 seconds up and also down. The rest period increase to 90-240 seconds between sets.
And what about form? Always keep your back straight and core securely locked. That means, shoulders back, chest out, booty back and head looking straight ahead. Practice in a mirror so you can see how this aligns and secures your spine and avoid injury.
So, don’t leave the strong, chiselled backs to the men. There is exercise for women that will allow you to develop that beautiful, lean and toned back for all those fabulous outfits you want to show off in the seasons ahead. Get to the gym, start today and get your Sexy Back! J
What do you think? Do you want a Sexy back? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject and routine. Please comment in the space below.
Keep in mind, I am not a medical doctor. I am a fitness and wellness coach. Thus, this is not medical advice so please be sure to consult your physician before beginning this or any other fitness routine or program. Use of this and other routines discussed in this blog are at your own risk.