Not only is a big, muscular back attractive, but it’s also important in daily life. It’s key to many bodily movements, and sitting at a desk all day isn’t doing it any favors. “Everyday life puts us in a very anterior dominant or forward position,” explains Kent Edwards, NASM, trainer at Crunch Fitness in New York City. “A strong back can counter that forward leaning, hunched position. It can help fight against common neck issues related to tight trapezius and pectorals muscles.” So here Edwards’ favorite exercises to keep that back strong, limber—and turning heads. Try them today! Photo: Getty Images/xalanx
1. Deadlift: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip width apart, toes pointing outward, barbell on the floor in front of you. Keeping back flat, bend knees and push them outward as you sit down and back until hands can grab onto the barbell with a mixed grip, one palm facing body, other facing away. With back still flat, push through heels to come to standing position, lifting the bar off the ground. Lock hips when fully standing and bar is at hip level. Slowly lower barbell back down and repeat. Do 5 reps, 3 to 5 sets, 3-minute rest between sets.
2. Tactical Pull-Up: Grab onto bar with hands facing away from body, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Without swinging body, core engaged, pull yourself up until chin is higher than the bar. Lower back down until arms are fully extended. Repeat. Add weight with a dip belt or take off weight with super bands or an assisted pull-up machine to find the right load. Do 6 reps, 3 to 5 sets, with 90-second to 2-minute rest between sets.
3. One Arm Dumbbell/Kettlebell Row: Stand in front of rack, box or bench. Keeping back flat, hinge at the hips to lean the body slightly forward and place one arm on rack, box or bench in front of you for balance. Grab dumbbell or kettlebell with the other hand, palm facing towards body. Keeping elbow close to body, squeeze shoulder blades together as you bend elbow and raise weight up to your side. Slowly lower back down. Do 10 reps, 2 to 4 sets with each arm. No rest (one arm works while the other rests and vice versa).
4. Dumbbell Pullover: Lie on bench, feet flat on floor or flat on top of bench. Hold dumbbell at the top vertically over chest with both hands, arms fully extended towards ceiling. Keeping arms straight, back flat on bench, lower arms and dumbbell back overhead until arms are inline with body. Slowly raise dumbbell back up. Do 12 reps, 2 to 4 sets, 30- to 60-second rest between sets.
5. Bat-Wing Iso Holds: Lie flat on incline bench on stomach facing the top, feet flat on the ground, dumbbell in each hand with arms fully extended down, palms facing body. Bracing your core, squeeze shoulder blades together as you bend elbows to raise dumbbells up to sides. Hold for 30 seconds. Then lower. Rest for 30 seconds. Do 3 to 5 sets.
6. Band Pull-Apart: Stand with feet hip width apart, holding onto resistance band with both hands on either side, and extend arms out fully in front of chest, palms facing one another. Squeeze shoulder blades together as you extend arms out to sides, pulling apart resistance band. Come back to center. Continue repeating. You can also pull band apart diagonally. Do 15 reps, 2 to 4 sets, with 30- to 60-second rest between sets.