When’s the last time you took a nice, long, hard look at your… back? (Pausing here so you can find a mirror and uncomfortably crane your neck for a sec.) Well, you’ve got plenty of company, toots! “When we work out, we tend to focus on the body parts we stare at all the time—abs, biceps, legs, butt,” says Ian Creighton, a coach at Brick in New York City, who designed the routine here. “So we neglect our backs, an area we rarely see or think about.”
That’s a humungo problem, and not just because you’re missing out on definition where you least expect it. Our back muscles pitch in for nearly every movement, so when they’re weak, your entire body suffers. More specifically, the muscles around your lower back protect your spine, so when those guys aren’t getting enough attention at the gym, you risk injuries.
What’s more, an under-trained middle and upper back (lats, traps, and shoulder blade area) prevent you from lifting heavier weights and holding, say, solid planks or squats. Even walking becomes more efficient with a sturdy back, because those muscles maintain good posture. Which leads us to our next major perk: confidence. “Nothing owns the room like standing tall and proud, a result of a well-developed back,” says Creighton.
Perform this sequence two or three times a week, resting as little as possible between exercises. Repeat twice for three total rounds.
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Start in a pushup position with each hand resting on a weight and your feet hip-width apart (a). Bend your left elbow and raise the dumbbell to your side, pressing the right dumbbell into the floor for balance (b). Lower your arm and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep; do five.
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Dumbbell Front Squat
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders, palms facing each other (a). Keep your arms parallel and torso upright as you push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat (b). Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep; do 10.
These dance-inspired squats will make you want to shake your booty:
Stand and hold a resistance band out in front of you at shoulder height, hands shoulder-width apart and arms straight (a). Draw your arms out to your sides as if you were pulling the band apart, squeezing your shoulder blades together (b). Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep; do 10.
Related: ‘I Did 30 Burpees Every Day For 15 Days—Here’s What Happened’
Lie facedown with your arms extended up alongside your head (a). Engage your core and glutes to lift your arms, chest, and legs off the floor, turning your palms to face each other (b). Hold for 20 seconds, then lower to return to start. That’s one rep; do three.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Women’s Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!