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8 Best Back Exercises

It's time to bring sexy back.


By Nora Tobin, Shape

Back Exercises You Can Totally Do At Home

Most people head into a workout focusing on the areas we consider the most noticeable—butt, stomach, legs, etc. But here’s a secret: Strong upper-body muscles (and back muscles, specifically) are not only key for an overall defined look, but they’re your best defense against pain, injury, and poor posture for years to come.

Try these eight back exercises at home or at the gym to sculpt a strong, sexy back, and shoulders all at once and reduce the appearance of back fat.

How it works: Three or four days a week, do 1 set of each of these back exercises, with little or no rest in between moves. After the last exercise, rest 1 to 2 minutes and repeat the full circuit 2 more times (3 times total). 

You'll need: A pair of light-weight dumbbells and a pair of medium-weight dumbbells

Related: 10 Best YouTube Accounts for Free At-Home Workouts

T Raises

This at-home back exercise proves that you don't need huge weights to make some huge strength gains.

  • Grab a pair of light-weight dumbbells and stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a slight bend in knees as you shift hips back and lower torso until it's parallel to the floor.
  • Bring weights together and turn palms to face forward.
  • Keeping arms straight, lift weights up to shoulder height then lower back down. (Make sure to keep core and glutes engaged the entire time.)

Do 15 reps.


Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Aim to keep shoulder blades down and together and core engaged through this entire exercise.

  • Holding a medium-weight dumbbell in one hand, stand with feet hip-width apart, bend knees, and shift hips back, lowering torso until nearly parallel with the ground. Place right hand on a wall in front of you for balance.
  • Draw the weight up toward chest by bending left elbow straight up toward the ceiling.

Do 10 reps per side.


Delt Raise

This at-home back exercise is all about control. To get the most out of the move, focus on eliminating momentum and utilizing your back rather than arm muscles.

  • Holding a pair of light-weight dumbbells, stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Shift hips back as you lower torso until nearly parallel with the ground.
  • Turn palms to face each other, bend elbows, and lift weights up to shoulder height.
  • Gently lower back down, keeping core and glutes engaged during the entire movement.

Do 10 reps.


Plank with Lateral Arm Raise

Moving your limbs away from your core makes this back exercise an abs workout and balance challenge, too.

  • Start in a straight-arm plank with hands below and in line with shoulders, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Keeping hips as still as possible, lift one arm up to shoulder height.
  • Return to center, then lift the other arm to shoulder height. (Draw belly button up and in and keep your body centered.)

Do 10 reps per side.


Push-Up Hold

Rather than cranking out hundreds of reps, incorporate more isometric back exercises in your at-home workout to help build muscle.

  • Start in pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width, feet hip-width apart. Your body should form a straight line from heels to head.
  • Bend elbows and lower body until hovering a few inches above the ground. Hold for 1 deep breath, and then press half-way up and hold for 1 deep breath.
  • Lower back down to your lowest point, holding for 1 deep breath.
  • Return to your half-way point for one more hold.

Do 5 reps.


Back and Booty Blasters

While this move focuses on your glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs, it's also a great at-home back exercise too. (P.S. the muscles along the entire back of your body are called the posterior chain.)

  • Lay flat on your stomach. Lift your chest up, arching your back and interlacing your hands behind your back.
  • Lift your hands and legs up, touching your heels together.
  • Slowly move your legs apart and bring them back together.

Do 20 reps.


Twister

Time for a round of twister—but in the form of an at-home back exercise. This chair pose will stretch and strengthen your back while the rotations will hit your obliques.

  • Squat into chair position with hands in prayer pose in front of chest.
  • Twist your torso to the right while remaining in chair pose, and place the left elbow on the outside of the right knee. The other elbow should be pointing to the ceiling.
  • Hold for three breaths, then return to center. Repeat on the other side.

Do 4 reps.


Pilates Press

You'll seriously sculpt your chest, too, while doing this back exercise—as long as you don't let your hips drop when you lower to the ground. (Next try: 20-Minute Pilates Abs Workout)

  • Start in push-up position and bend one leg behind you so the bottom of the foot is facing toward the ceiling.
  • Lower your body to the ground by bending your elbows, keeping your back straight.
  • Push yourself back up.

Do 10 reps per side.
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