Top Two Back Exercises for a Toned Body

Equinox trainer Susan Hart has your back with these muscle toning exercises.

Part of our “Bootcamp for Brides” series.

Your groom hates to see you go, but loves to watch you leave. So with your stunning backless wedding gown, you’ll want to work and tone those muscles (lats, we’re talking to you).

Susan Hart, Tier 4 Trainer at Equinox at Franklin Street, has your back, quite literally. With these two back exercises, you can strut down the aisle and give them something to look at.

EXERCISE 1: Renegade Rows

  • Start in a high push-up position, holding onto a 10-15-pound dumbbell in each hand.
  • With your toes curled under, squeeze your quads, glutes, and abdominals.
  • Lock down the left side of your body as you row, i.e., pull the right dumbbell in toward the right side of your ribcage. Return the dumbbell back down to the floor.
  • Repeat on the other side. Alternate locking down the left side and pulling the right, and then locking down the right side of your body and pulling the left.
  • Repeat for 20 repetitions total, 10 each side.
  • Focus on using the muscles in your back (not your arms) to pull the dumbbell in toward your ribcage.
  • Remember to change up the weight of your dumbbells: every other time use a lighter weight (10-15 pounds) and go for higher reps (20 to 30). The next time use a heavier set (15-25 pounds) and decrease rep ranges.

Why This Works: Lighter weight and higher reps targets muscular endurance, which will have more of a metabolic effect. Think higher heart rate for a longer period of time. Heavier weight for fewer reps will help you increase a little bit of lean body mass, thus giving you the actual muscle tone you’re looking for.

EXERCISE 2: Assisted Pull-Ups

  • Using the assisted pull-up machine, pick a number that brings you to failure around 10-12 repetitions. (Remember that the higher up the pin is in the machine, the more assistance you’re giving yourself.)
  • Remember to change up your grip! The inside close grip will feel easier because you’re also using a lot of shoulders/biceps and forearms. The over-hand wide(r) grip will most likely feel a little more difficult, as this grip targets your lats, rear delts, and everything in between.
  • If you aren’t at the gym, no problem. Use a thick resistance band (these aren’t expensive) and loop it around the handles of a pull-up bar. No pull up bar? Find a playground and use any bar slightly taller than you are.
  • Tuck one knee inside the strap, slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended, and then pull yourself up and over the bar. Repeat until failure.
  • Note: If you need a more clear explanation, band-assisted pull-ups are all over Google or YouTube.

Why This Works: Assisted pull-ups are far and away one of the best exercises to target the muscles in your back. They hit pretty much every muscle when executed properly and are very challenging. Start with a thick band or make loops twice for added support. Decrease the resistance if you’re able to complete 12-15 repetitions easily. And remember, even a slight change in grip will target different muscles. Most importantly, really focus on the muscle you’re working on during each exercise—”focus on the squeeze” of the muscle you’re trying to work.


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