Who doesn’t want a sculpted back for those open back dresses and tanks?! It’s never too early to straight training for summer. Besides looking good in clothes, there are several important reasons to train your back. The most important reason is to strengthen the back so you have proper posture. After having many shoulder surgeries, I realized how important it was to train the back, specifically the upper back.
Proper postural alignment helps prevent extra stress and pain on your body and ligaments. Do you ever feel neck and upper back pain after a long day at your desk? We live in a society that spends most of our time looking down at our phones, at a desk staring at a computer, and behind the wheel. Chances are you have annoying neck and back pain due to poor posture. But we can fix that! These exercises have been my saving grace. While there are many things to address regarding posture, we will focus on back in this post. Below is a circuit to get you on your way to a strong defined back.
1. Lateral wide grip pull downs
This exercise trains your outer lats. It’s important when you pull down the bar to your chest that you pull your shoulder blades down and back. Make sure to keep your chest up and your head in line with your shoulders. I do a lighter weight for 4 sets of 15 reps. If you want to go with higher weight I would suggest going lower reps and sets.
2. Seated cable rows
Again, focus on retracting your shoulder blades down and squeezing your shoulder blades together. A great way to do this is imagine there is a pencil in the middle of your back and you are squeezing your shoulder blades together to hold it in place. Do this while you pull the bar down to your chest and remain in good posture while engaging your shoulder blades even when letting the weight back out. This exercise I do 4 sets of 15.
3. Reverse Close Grip Lat Pull Downs
This exercise mimics a chin-up and great for targeting your lower lats while also hitting your biceps. Again focus on pulling your shoulder blades down and together. This exercise I typically do less weight than the wide grip pull downs. I do 4 sets of 15.
4. Standing Push Downs
This is another amazing exercise for the lats and it triggers the triceps. Keep arms straight and hands shoulder with apart on the bar. With palms facing under, push arms down
5. Bent Over Rear Delt Raise
This weight exercise strengthens your rear delt muscles which is on the backside of the shoulder and imperative for proper posture. As you strengthen this muscles you will notice your shoulders naturally stay back without you having to hold them back. I do 4 sets of 15 reps. I do this exercise on the ball because it helps work your core at the same time. The unstable ball surface makes you use your core to stabilize yourself. This can also be done standing up.
What weight should I do? How many reps?
Honestly this is totally dependent on your strength. If you are new to training shoulders, choose lower weight and work your way up. It is more important to focus on doing the exercises correctly than how much weight you lift. You want to make sure you aren’t rushing through the exercises but actively engaging and training the targeted muscle group in each exercise. If you try a weight and its too easy then add on 5 lbs. Wouldn’t you rather start low and add weight? Why lift heavy weight and risk injury or pain the next day?! Makes sense right 🙂 I do all of the above exercises in a circuit. Complete each exercise 15 times and then start over from the beginning. Repeat 4 times. You can do fewer sets and fewer reps with higher weight if preferred. My favorite exercise to get warmed up is the arm bike. You will be shocked at how quickly your arm muscles burn. I do ten minutes as a warm-up.