Everyone is obsessed with butt and arm workouts these days, but it feels like we’re missing some main body parts here. There’s nothing worse than having back fat and love handles, so it’s important that, in addition to working other body parts, you also do back strengthening exercises that will tone your back, slim your waist, and give you amazing posture. This workout targets the back, waist, and a little bit of the abs, so you can look amazing as the layers start coming off for summer. And just feel good in general. Here’s the back workout.
1. Lying Back Extensions
This move is both a warm-up and an actual exercise. It serves as a lower back workout, which is important because your lower back is usually a sensitive area and can get injured pretty easily, so it’s best to do these before you do any sort of back workout or waist- and ab-focused exercises. Lay out a mat and then lie on your stomach with your head facing the floor and your arms out over your head in a “Y” shape. Then, slowly lift your legs and arms off the floor, keeping only the area from your stomach to your thighs on the mat (if that’s too hard, leave your legs alone and just lift your upper body). Lower back down and then lift back up for 10 reps, feeling the tension in your lower back each time.
2. Rowing Machine
The rowing erg is a cardio machine, but it’s totally different than the treadmill or StairMaster because you’re using your entire bodyweight to pull the machine toward you. It’s specifically a great back workout that also tones your abs, and you’re burning calories at the same time. Set the machine to the “meters” setting and put it on a resistance between 6 and 10, depending on if you’ve used the rowing machine before or not. Hold onto the handles and put your feet in the straps, and then row the handles toward your chest, using your legs to push off the front surface and your back to bring the handle in. Think legs, then core, then arms. Try rowing for 250 meters straight, keeping good posture and your core engaged the whole time. This should get your heart rate up pretty quickly.
3. TRX Rows
There are so many different rowing exercises you can do, but I prefer TRX rows to the machine rows or dumbbell rows because the TRX straps ensure that you’re keeping constant tension in your back muscles throughout the exercise to give you a really good back workout. If you don’t have a TRX in your gym, you can use the cables to get the same effect. The idea is to hold onto the TRX straps with each hand and walk your feet inward, creating a diagonal line with your body. Note that the farther you move in, the harder it will be. Once you find a position that is challenging enough, hang with your arms straight, and then slowly row the straps in toward your armpits, squeezing at the top. If it’s too hard, take a few steps back. Do 15 reps total.
4. Russian Twists
I know Russia’s a sensitive topic lately, but this exercise has nothing to do with the country. Or at least, I don’t think it does. The Russian twist is actually an oblique exercise, but the muscles it targets are right under your love handles, so it’s a great waist slimming move. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell, and keep it hovering over your chest, but not pressing into your body. Start by sitting down on the floor and placing your feet out in front of you, raised a few inches above the ground. Your knees should be slightly bent and your torso should be elevated off the ground, making a V-shape with your thighs. Holding the weight with both hands, move it from one side of you to the other, tapping the ground next to you each time. Aim for 20 reps.
5. Lat Pulldowns
This is the one exercise in this workout that requires a weights machine, but it’s worth it because this back exercise is amazing for developing good posture and making your waist look more narrow. The lat pulldown machine looks intimidating, but it’s really simple. This machine works the Latissimus Dorsi muscle, which basically gives your whole torso its shape. Play around with the weight to see what feels good for you, and then grip the bar with both hands and sit down, facing the machine. Pull down on the bar while squeezing your back and bring the bar to chest level, aiming for your collar bone. Squeeze your back for a second and then let go of the tension to bring the bar back up, which should feel like you’re stretching your arms. Do 10 reps.
6. Plank Cross Reaches
This move looks simple, but if you’re engaging your core and keeping your hips square the whole time, you should really feel these in your oblique, hip, and lower back regions. Start in a high plank with your feet behind you, keeping them a little wider than shoulder width. Raise your right hand and your left leg off the ground, and reach your hand to your knee by twisting with your core. Then, return to the plank and do the same on the other side. Try doing 10 reaches per side, and if you feel your hips swaying, bring your feet a little wider apart for stability.
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Unless you’re some athletic psychopath who runs marathons on Sunday mornings, we can all agree that cardio is the worst. It’s a chore, like
giving a blow job getting a root canal or your monthly Brazilian. Even though you know it’s worth it, you still sit in the European Wax Center waiting room trying not to cry in public. In fact, I don’t really care what people say about post-workout endorphins. They’re really not worth the hype. Like, I don’t have a husband to shoot anyway, so what’s the point? Oh right, my physical appearance general health and well-being. Cardio sucks, but like any chore, you’ve gotta get it done every now and then, so you might as well find a way that works for you. For all the anti-runners, spinners, and jump-ropers (seriously what are you) try this cardio workout.
1. Bodyweight Squats
Most cardio workouts start out with jumping jacks or jogging in place as a warm-up, but we’re gonna be nice and let you skip that bullshit. A lot of people don’t realize that doing bodyweight toning moves can actually get your heart rate up as much as classic cardio moves do, so bodyweight squats are a great way to warm up without wanting to head home before the workout even starts. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and place your hands behind your head or out in front of you. Then, flex at your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips until your butt is in line with your knees or thighs. Get as low as you can, and then stand back up. Do 20 reps at a fast pace, but make sure you’re getting your butt low every time. Half-squats don’t count.
2. Jump Squats
Now that you know how to do a squat, you’re going to jump at the top of the movement every time, so instead of standing straight up, you’ll pop up from the bottom in an explosive movement, and then land back in your squat again. The idea here is to burn calories while burning out the same muscle groups we were just using. Try to hit 20-30 jumps without stopping. Your thighs may burn, but then again, just be thankful you’re not in a 60-minute Flywheel class being asked to turn the Torq up five notches with the Fall Out Boy soundtrack blasting in the background.
3. Forward & Backward Lunges
The squat moves we just did were all about the butt muscles, so now we’re doing lunges to focus on other muscle groups in your legs, like your quads and hamstrings. The reason we’re doing a ton of leg movements is because your legs have some of the biggest muscle groups in your body, so you actually burn the most calories when you do lower body movements. Standing with your feet hip width apart, lunge your leg backwards into a 90 degree angle, and then stand back up and alternate. Do 10 steps backwards and then 10 steps forwards before switching to your other leg.
4. Mountain Climbers
Nothing sounds worse than climbing a mountain, but this move doesn’t involve a Camelbak or a Clif bar, so bear with me. Mountain climbers engage your core while you move your legs, so you kinda forget you’re doing cardio because it’s also an ab move. And if you haven’t heard, abs are like, really trendy right now. Start with your hands on the ground, keeping your shoulders over your wrists and your abs engaged. Then, jog your knees into your chest without letting your butt raise upwards. Think about staying in a plank position with only your legs moving. You’ll feel the burn in your core while burning calories with your legs. It’s a win-win.
5. Battle Ropes
If your gym has battle ropes available, now’s your time to use them. Battle ropes will target your arms while getting your heart rate up, so you’re basically giving your legs a break while your arms do all the work for a minute. They might feel super thick and heavy, but once you start whipping them around, you’ll see how good of a workout they can give you. Keeping your elbows as close as you can to your body, flick your hands up and down, or hold onto the ropes with both hands and slam them until your arms feel like noodles (whatever those are). Try going for 30 seconds straight, and then rest for 30 seconds, and then do another 30 seconds of work.
If you’ve ever been to a workout class, you’ve probably been forced to do burpees, which are the fitness equivalent of getting punched in the face. However, there’s a reason they burn so many calories, and it’s because they get every muscle in your body working at once. If you hate cardio, you can skip the burpees for today and do froggers instead, which are basically burpees without the standing up and jumping part. The idea is to start in a “frog” looking position, squatting down with your hands in between your thighs. Put your hands on the ground and jump your feet straight back until your body is in a high plank. Then, jump your feet forward, raising your hands off the ground. Do 10-15 reps total.
7. Plank Hold
Holding a plank isn’t exactly a killer cardio move, but if you’re doing it right, you should be engaging all the muscles in your body, and your body could actually burn more calories this way than you would by just running around. Plus, ending your workout with a plank hold is ideal because your body is already in the fat burning zone, so you’re toning your muscles while keeping the fat burn going. With your forearms on the ground and your legs out behind you, think about keeping your body in one straight line while drawing your belly button in toward your spine. Squeeze your abs, butt, and your back muscles, keeping your whole body tight the entire time. Try to hold for a minute, and if you want more of a challenge, elevate your feet onto a block or medicine ball. Also, people tend to hold their breath here, so don’t make that mistake. It would suck to stop breathing after you’ve already come this far.