Do you need to get your back on track? A strong back is essential for healthy posture, spinal stability, and the trunk support necessary for daily movements like twisting, bending, sitting, standing, and lifting objects. And yet, many of us concentrate only on the mirror-friendly muscles in the front of our bodies, such as the biceps, chest, and abs. Over time, this single-sided training style can cause muscular and structural asymmetries that lead to aches, pains, and injuries.

A well-rounded workout routine helps keep the body balanced. Each time the muscles in the chest contract, which occurs during a chest press or even while hunching over your desk at work, the muscle fibers in the back compensate by lengthening. Conversely, when back muscles tighten, as is seen during a dumbbell row, the opposing anterior muscles of the chest lengthen. If only one side of the body is engaged and exercised, the other side becomes unbalanced. This is why it is so important to perform movements that correspond with each other, as well as remembering to incorporate major muscle groups like the back.

The following back-building exercises are great to pair with chest training days, or on their own. You will need a set of free weights and a towel to rest your head on. For best results, repeat this circuit three times.

Bird dog

  • Begin in a table top position with your shoulders stacked above your hands and hips positioned over knees.
  • Extend your left arm and right leg until a straight line forms from your arm through your leg. Keep your back flat and core muscles engaged. Hold for five counts then practice on your opposite side. Repeat 10 times.
A bird dog.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
A bird dog.

3-way back extensions

First movement: Place a towel on the floor for head support. From a prone position, extend your arms in front of you in a “Y” shape. Take a deep breath and use your back strength to pull your chest off the floor. Pull your elbows down toward your ribs and squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades. Hold for two counts, release, and repeat 10 times. Rest for 30 seconds before starting the next exercise.

Superman with modification.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Superman with modification.

Second movement: Remain in the prone position, but adjust your arms so your hands are resting behind your head. Keep your legs in place. Take a deep breath and pull your chest and legs off the floor. Hold for two counts then release. Repeat 10 times. Rest for 30 seconds before starting the next exercise.

Superman.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Superman.

Third movement: Remain in the prone position with your arms by your sides and your forehead resting on the towel. Move from your shoulders, winging your arms up overhead until your hands meet. Now smoothly return your arms back to the starting position. Continue for 10 counts.

A back extension.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
A back extension.

Renegade row

  • Holding a free weight in each hand, start in a high plank position with shoulders stacked above hands and spine straight.
  • Using your core and back strength, push the left weight into the ground as you pull the right weight up toward your ribs. Flex your shoulder to really feel the muscle contract. Lower the weight back down and switch sides. Alternate from side to side for 20 repetitions.
  • When performing this exercise, avoid shifting too much at the hips. Core stability is key to properly completing this movement.
A renegade row.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
A renegade row.

If you want to stay strong and stable, remember to always have your own back.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt, ACE-CPT, is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more about her virtual training program, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.