Back fat and muscle toning is one of the biggest body issues faced by both men and women, especially in the summer when we shed our winter clothes.
While dropping extra weight can be part of the solution, the ultimate solution for how to lose back fat is to work in regular strength training for your back muscles. Not only will you lose the excess fat but you will tighten and tone your muscles, also leading to better posture and less back pain.
Our back muscles are often overlooked because we don't see them in the mirror everyday. However, if you've ever suffered from back pain you realize just how important our backs are to just about everything we do. So to improve your core strength and get your sexy back (see what I did there?) it is time to (re-)organize your training program.
Below are some of the best back exercises that you can do at the gym and at home.
Time required: 15-20 minutes
Required equipment: dumbbells (5-10lbs depending on your condition)
Optional equipment: a stability ball and a pull-up bar.
Instructions: Every time you workout, pick 3 to 5 of the following exercises, do 20 reps of each, then repeat the circuit two more times. Don't overdo it if you're just starting out; pick some simple exercises and build up to the more difficult ones.
How to Lose Back Fat & Tone Your Back Muscles
The pull-up is a fantastic exercise for your back and arms. Pull-ups are done by gripping a bar with palms facing out, and then using your arms, shoulders, and back muscles to pull yourself up. An easier option would be to do a chin-up, where your palms are facing you, but this workout targets your biceps more.
If you find pull-ups a bit too intense to start with, an alternative to the bar is to use a resistance band in a door and do a series of pull downs. This keeps you in a vertical position and mimics the range of motion you'd get in a pull-up. Do not lean backwards while pulling down as that defeats the purpose because you're now using your body weight and not your muscles. Eventually, you can replace the resistance band with a bar and move into using your body weight as the resistance.
Position one knee on a firm chair or bench while your opposite hand holds a light weight. Slightly bend forward the arm that holds the weight, but keep your back flat. Pull that arm straight back in a rowing motion as you contract your upper back and feel your elbow glide past the side of your body.
Alternatively, you can do a bent over row with both arms. With your knee slightly bent, bend at the hips so your arms hang straight down and your back is at a roughly 45degree angle. From there, pull the dumbbells straight up, contracting your upper back and feeling the back of your arms take the weight.
Find a comfortable exercise mat where you can lay on your stomach. You can also position yourself this way on a stability ball. Engage your back muscles then lift your chest and feet off the mat. Don't overdo it, the point is to engage your core and hold the position, not flex up as far as possible.
The next step would be to move your arms up and out to form a T-position, release, do the Y-position, release, and then form an I as your arms extend straight above your head.
For a more advanced workout, add dumbbells or ankle weights. Again, start small and work up.
The standard push-up is a great way to work your back muscles. Position your hands on the ground underneath each shoulder and get your feet up on your toes. Using your arms, push yourself up while keeping your back straight. Feel the muscles in your arms and back engage as you slowly raise yourself up. Hold the position at the top for a second and then slowly lower yourself down. At the bottom of the push-up, don't relax into the ground, but hold the position just above the mat for a second, then repeat the upward movement.
The keys to a good push up are keeping your body straight and maintaining consistent speed as you work your muscles. If you are unable to complete push-ups using your full body, consider hinging at your knees. This still gives your upper body a workout but takes some of the strain off your hips and legs.
This move requires a stability ball. You need to lay on your stomach on the ball, and lift your legs up toward the ceiling by bringing your knees away from the ball. This is like a reverse push-up as you're engaging your core to lift your legs. If you don't have a stability ball, consider the TYI exercise instead.
Note: do be careful when practicing this exercise as you don't want the stability ball to slip out from under you.
Similar to the TYI Exercise, the superman workout will work your back, core, and arms. Lie on your stomach with your arms fully-extended over your head and your legs out straight. Now lift from the tips of your toes to the tips of your fingers and hold the position for at least a count of five and then slowly release back down to the mat. As you gain core strength, increase the time you hold the position and see how long you can "fly."
Lie on your stomach across the stability ball with your arms over your head flat on the mat and your feet in a shoulder-width stance. Next use your back muscles and core to raise your head and hands until your body is straight keeping your feet on the floor. Hold that position for a count of five and then slowly lower yourself back down, reaching your fingers out to stretch your lower back.
This back extension is best done using a stability ball although you can use pillows or a soft foot stool to achieve the same effect. As you gain strength, extend the time you hold the position to further strengthen those muscles.
The scorpion twist is a great way to stretch and open up your hips. This exercise requires you to lie on your stomach with your arms flat beside your head at 90-degrees to give you support while you rotate your legs. Slowly lift one leg up then rotate it towards the opposite side of your body. Feel your hips twist with the motion, holding the leg at the full extent of the stretch for a count of five.
Initially, you might feel a bit silly but this twist will get easier the more you work on it. Don't overdo it by trying to get your foot to the ground. You might get there eventually, but for now just focus on relaxing your hips and lower back to get the most out of the stretch.
If you want more challenge to the traditional shoulder press workout, then the Arnold Press is an option. Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart or sit on a bench as you hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing towards you. Rotate your hands as you press the weights up so your palms end up facing out. Rotate them again as you lower the weights back to the start position. Slow and steady wins the race here. If you don't feel much resistance from the dumbbells, try increasing the size or adding resistance bands.
For upright rows, you can choose to use a bar, dumbbells, or a cable machine with a bar attached to it. Hold the weight or bar down in front of your legs, and slowly lift your elbows up to shoulder height. Always make sure that your hands are close to your body and your back is straight. Your arms should go straight up and down from the start position.
This is another workout that targets both your shoulders and upper back. Hold a weight in each hand, and gradually bend your body at the hips as you maintain a straight back and slightly bent knees. The weights should hang down in front of you. The next step would be to raise your arms up slowly and bring them to the side as if you are forming the letter T and until they are at shoulder height. Hold this position for a count of five and then slowly release back to the start position.
Key to these sorts of exercises is to control the movement up AND down. If you just let the weights drop down to the start position you are not gaining any benefit. Your back and arms get the most benefit by controlling the descent as you fight gravity's pull.
One-Arm Lateral Raises
Most people do the lateral raises with both arms (as shown above). However, this workout is actually more effective if you do it one arm at a time. Hold a weight with one hand, and let the other hold a sturdy object like a pole. This keeps you from leaning away from the weight and 'cheating' the lift by using your body as leverage. The point here is to lift the weight using your upper arm and shoulder.
Lift the weight up to shoulder height and hold it for a count of five before slowly lowering your arm back down. Avoid 'throwing' the weight when you start each repetition and focus on smooth, consistent up and down movements.
There are plenty of exercises you can use to tone your back and reduce back fat. The above are some of our favorites and give us a selection to mix up our daily routine. The key to any of these exercises is to use smooth, controlled movements to gain the most benefit. We're using weight (our body, dumbbells, resistance bands, etc) and gravity to help us improve our bodies and it is the act of controlling the movement that introduces the resistance that works our muscles. So keep it slow, keep it controlled, and keep it going!
Did you find a new exercise or new motivation to get a nice, toned back? Share the love, we'd really appreciate you helping us to spread the work about getting fitter and healthier NATURALLY!