A strong, toned back can be your best accessory. Your back is made up of several layers of muscles that consist of stabilizers and movers. Stabilizers are close to your joints and organs, while movers are the ones that are near the surface of your skin. They work with other muscles in your torso, hip and shoulders to generate force and move in different directions. Full back exercises should incorporate all of these characteristics.
A pullup is any movement that pulls your shoulder blades together and brings your body toward your hands, which are in a fixed position. Typically, you are holding onto a parallel bar or a pair of suspension rings. The pullup incorporates core stability to keep your spine in alignment when you move. Grab a pullup bar with both hands about shoulder-width apart with your hand facing toward or away from you. Exhale and pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Simultaneously pull your shoulder blades together. Lower your body until your arms are extended in the starting position. Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps. If you're not strong enough to lift your weight, use an assisted-pullup machine.
The standing cable row is the opposite of the pullup in that you move your arms toward your body, which is in a fixed, standing position. Use a cable column machine for this exercise. Set the height of the handle of the machine to as high as your chest. Grab a handle in each hand and stand away from the machine until the weight stack rises from its resting place. Stand with your legs about hip-width apart, and bend your hip and legs slightly. Exhale and pull the cables until they are near your armpits. Hold this position for one second, and slowly extend your arms in front of you. Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps. Do not round your shoulders forward as you move.
The medicine ball torso extension moves your torso in different directions to increase spine and shoulder extension. This exercise can increase torso and hip stability and tissue elasticity in your body. Stand with your left foot behind you and hold a 6-pound medicine ball with both hands near your chest. Raise the ball up over your right shoulder with your arms fully extended. Lean back and turn your torso to your right slightly as you raise your arms. Tighten your left buttock for balance. Then return the ball back to the starting position. Raise the ball up over your left shoulder in the same pattern. Perform 10 reps total, switch leg position, and repeat the exercise.
The tabletop stretch elongates and relaxes your back, shoulders and the back of your legs while adding a rotation. Stand with your palms against the wall and with your legs about hip-width apart. Keep your arms and legs straight and bend forward at your waist until your spine is parallel to the ground. Hold this stretch for three deep breaths. Bring your right arm under your chest and reach across your body to your left, turning your torso slightly to the left. Keep your left hand on the wall. Hold this twist for one second and rotate your torso back to the starting position. Perform sets of 10 reps per side.
- "NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training"; Michael Clark; 2007
- "IDEA Fitness Journal"; Creative Total Body Exercises; Rodney Corn; February 2010
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.