Even when you're not paying attention to it, your back is working for you — which is why you need to make sure you strengthen it as much as you do other muscles in your body.
A strong back can contribute to better posture, help with everyday tasks like simply lifting up a box, and help prevent lower back pain, which has been found to be the leading source of disability worldwide.
But sadly, this area gets missed at the gym all too often.
"Everyday, I see countless people doing squats, pushups, and bicep curls in order to tone up and trim down, but one of the largest muscle groups seems to be getting left behind is the back," says Sonia Jhas, a personal trainer and nutrition specialist based in Toronto.
"Most people are focused on aesthetics, so they focus on the muscles that they can see in the mirror, such as the arms, abs, and legs," she explains. "However, building lean muscle in your back not only does wonders for your appearance, but it also helps elevate your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories 24 hours a day."
Here are six classic strength moves from Sonia she suggests to help strengthen and tone your back. All you need is 3-4 sets of 10 reps of each exercise, once or twice a week, and you'll be reaping the rewards:
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointing straight ahead. With your knees slightly bent, push your chest out, pull your shoulders back, and hinge forward from the hips. Keep your head up and your core engaged as your lower the weights towards the floor. Once you’ve come as low as you can comfortably go without rounding your back, exhale as you work to straighten back up, driving your weight through your heels, not your toes.
Single Arm Rows:
Stand to the right side of your bench and hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Place your left knee and left hand on the bench, bend through your waist and straighten your back until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Let your right arm hang to the side of the bench, pull your abdominals in, and as you exhale pull the weight up to the side of your chest. Make sure to keep your elbow in tight and your torso stationary as you squeeze your back muscles. Inhale as you lower the weight back down. Repeat on other side.
Sit down at the pulldown machine with a bar attached to the pulley. Make sure you adjust the kneepad to fit snug against your legs, and then grip the bar with your palms facing forward. Both of your arms should be extended above you holding onto the bar as you lean your torso back slightly and stick your chest out. Exhale as you bring the bar down to lightly touch your chest. Hold for a brief pause and squeeze your back, and then inhale as you slowly raise the bar back to the starting position.
Start by grabbing the bar from the top pulley and stepping backward a few feet. Bend your torso about 30 degrees at the waist. Your arms should be fully extended in front of you with a slight bend in your elbows. Tighten your core and exhale as you pull the bar down until your hands are next to your thighs. Inhale as you return to the starting position, making sure that your torso doesn’t move.
Lie face down on the ground, extend your arms straight out in front of you and keep your legs extended behind you. Now, exhale as you lift your arms, legs, and head off the ground. Hold briefly and then inhale as you lower your body back down.
Begin on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your hands flat. Make sure that you’re perfectly square with your knees directly under your hips and your hands shoulder-width apart. Contract your core, keep your spine neutral, and exhale while extending your right leg back and your left arm straight ahead. Hold for three counts and then release back down to the floor. Repeat on other side.