I love your column. I am writing to ask for some tips to tone my back. I am wearing an open back dress to a wedding in July and want my back to look amazing. I currently run four times a week and am training for my second half-marathon of the year. I also lift weights 2-3 times per week and on a good week get a long bike ride in too. I was hoping you could provide me with some exercises to add to specifically target my back.
Nothing is sexier on a female than a long and lean back, and I am always one to envy those women whose backs ripple with their every move. Because I was not blessed with much to push up in the front, my closet is full of plunging backlines rather than plunging necklines, meaning a sexy back is extra important in my world.
Posture is key when it comes to a strong and sexy back, and without it, a sexy back will be nothing but a dream. If you slouch, round your shoulders and poke your neck out then you need to take a break from the heavy strength training and start working on your posture! But it is not as simple as just stretching as a lot goes into proper posture.
In our day we predominately use our anterior muscles (the muscles in the front of our body) and because of this they can become short and tight, pulling us forward. Combine that with our latest smartphone and tablet obsession and we now spending the majority of our day with a rounded spine. You need to take a few minutes before and after your workouts, as well as when you are at home after a long work day, opening up your chest. A very simple way to do this is to lie length wise on a long foam roller and place your arms out to the side, allowing gravity to help provide you with a deep stretch. Focus on trying to make your collar bones as long as you can while doing this. You also should add some extension to your thoracic spine so take a foam roller and place it right underneath your bra strap and lie overtop of it, allowing your upper back to arch back.
Core strengthening should be next on your list, as you need to create a solid support system for your spine, pelvis and rib cage. When we lack inner abdominal strength our body lacks stability, which affects how we walk and hold ourselves, making us seem shorter and heavier. A simple improvement in core strength will help you stand taller and look slimmer, as well as improve your muscular function. Most studios and fitness centers offer a variety of core training classes, Pilates and yoga so add one or two a week into your schedule. If you do not have time to hit the gym, check out the great 15 minute yoga and core workouts in the Get Focused section of the Nike Training Club App.
The last area of importance is building the muscle tone of your back, sticking with high reps and light weight, or body weight, to ensure your muscles stay lean. And with the added core and flexibility work you are doing, you should find that your muscles will be working efficiently, which will prevent your already over developed muscles from developing further.
My favourite piece of equipment for training my back is the TRX, which can be used anywhere. Here are a few of my favourite back exercises for you to add into your routine.
In this exercise you can increase or decrease the load you are lifting by walking your feet closer or farther away from you. Keep your knees bent, positioned over your ankles and your ribs soft into your spine with your eyes looking forward as if you are looking over the horizon. Initiate the movement from your shoulder blades and as you lift yourself up, focus on lengthening through the collar bone. You can do this with your palms facing in or forward.
TRX Reverse Fly
Walk your feet forward, keeping your legs straight, your heels positioned on the floor and your arms extended out straight. Begin to open your arms into a V shape as you lift your body up, keeping your palms facing forward. Activate the muscles in between your shoulder blades as you lift, again finding length in your collar bone. Lower yourself down to the starting position.
TRX Around the World
This time you are going to walk underneath your TRX so you are facing the opposite way that you do in a pull up. Extend your arms out in front of you while you stand tall and then begin to fall forward like a tree, lifting your arms upwards while maintaining a strong core. When you have reached as far as you can go (you will know you have gone too far if you feel your back compress) circle your arms around and back to your starting position. Do a second set in the reverse direction, circling your arms overhead to start and then once straight, lowering them back down raising your body back to the starting position.
Attached - Lena Dunham heading to the gym in New York the other day.