6 Awesome Exercises That Help Shape and Tone That Sexy Back
In nearly every gym around the world, you can see guys pounding the weights area, working on their chest and back. Working on that wide spread and that thick chest. Most people, okay, I mean women would consider these ‘men muscles’ and the exercises for them are not for women.
Now ladies of the world, you have those muscles too and to give you the sleek, toned, tight waist, good arms and look that most of you desire (bare with me, I know that’s a broad statement, there are women who do not want that but lets just say for arguments sake, and to keep the article in context, it’s a large amount of women).
Now I have a theory, I could be wrong, but from my experience as a Personal Trainer most people in the gym, that clients or members will just do what they think they are good at, what they enjoy and also what they have knowledge or confidence in. It’s not a case of women not wanting to work upper body, they do, but they are not confident and they think they will bulk up. You won’t ladies and you need to start listening to the people telling you this, we’re not lying to you.
Those ‘friends’ body shaming you into thinking that going to the gym will make you have ugly muscles and look like a man, you won’t.
Those ‘friends’ body shaming you by saying that you are ‘perfectly beautiful as you are’ or ‘I wouldn’t want to look like that so why should you’. Remember it’s your goals, personal to YOU, not what someone else thinks.
NOW I REPEAT don’t worry about building a bulky upper body, most women don’t have enough testosterone in them to build large muscles, even if they wanted to. Yes, genetic’s play a part in how you react to weights but with the correct nutrition along side your training, you can keep lean and toned!
Okay so hopefully now I’ve drummed this into you, but if you are not sure still, YOU WILL NOT LOOK LIKE A MAN, YOU WILL NOT GET ALL BULKY. Understood?
So inline with this, I have outlined some exercises that are great for toning without adding bulk. Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Uneven workouts build uneven strength (that means that you shouldn’t be just doing legs every session), so focus on combining pulling vs. pushing exercises and make sure you stretch after every workout.
1. Chest Fly
Lie down on a flat or incline bench with a dumbbell on each hand resting on top of your thighs. The palms of your hand will be facing each other.
Then using your thighs to help raise the dumbbells, lift the dumbbells one at a time so you can hold them in front of you at shoulder width with the palms of your hands facing each other. Raise the dumbbells up like you’re pressing them, but stop and hold just before you lock out. This will be your starting position.
With a slight bend on your elbows in order to prevent stress at the biceps tendon, lower your arms out at both sides in a wide arc until you feel a stretch on your chest. Breathe in as you perform this portion of the movement. Tip: Keep in mind that throughout the movement, the arms should remain stationary; the movement should only occur at the shoulder joint.
Return your arms back to the starting position as you squeeze your chest muscles and breathe out. Tip: Make sure to use the same arc of motion used to lower the weights.
Hold for a second at the contracted position and repeat the movement for the prescribed amount of repetitions.
Variations: You may want to use a palms facing forward version for different stimulation.
2. Chest Press
Lie down on a flat or incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on top of your thighs. The palms of your hands will be facing each other.
Then, using your thighs to help raise the dumbbells up, lift the dumbbells one at a time so that you can hold them in front of you at shoulder width.
Once at shoulder width, rotate your wrists forward so that the palms of your hands are facing away from you. The dumbbells should be just to the sides of your chest, with your upper arm and forearm creating a 90 degree angle. Be sure to maintain full control of the dumbbells at all times. This will be your starting position.
Then, as you breathe out, use your chest to push the dumbbells up. Lock your arms at the top of the lift and squeeze your chest, hold for a second and then begin coming down slowly. Tip: Ideally, lowering the weight should take about twice as long as raising it.
Repeat the movement for the prescribed amount of repetitions of your training program.
Caution: When you are done, do not drop the dumbbells next to you as this is dangerous to your rotator cuff in your shoulders and others working out around you.
Just lift your legs from the floor bending at the knees, twist your wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing each other and place the dumbbells on top of your thighs. When both dumbbells are touching your thighs simultaneously push your upper torso up (while pressing the dumbbells on your thighs) and also perform a slight kick forward with your legs (keeping the dumbbells on top of the thighs). By doing this combined movement, momentum will help you get back to a sitting position with both dumbbells still on top of your thighs. At this moment you can place the dumbbells on the floor.
Another variation of this exercise is to perform it with the palms of the hands facing each other.
Also, you can perform the exercise with the palms facing each other and then twisting the wrist as you lift the dumbbells so that at the top of the movement the palms are facing away from the body. I personally do not use this variation very often as it seems to be hard on my shoulders.
3. Barbell Row
Holding a barbell with a pronated grip (palms facing down), bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward, by bending at the waist, while keeping the back straight until it is almost parallel to the floor. Tip: Make sure that you keep the head up. The barbell should hang directly in front of you as your arms hang perpendicular to the floor and your torso. This is your starting position.
Now, while keeping the torso stationary, breathe out and lift the barbell to you. Keep the elbows close to the body and only use the forearms to hold the weight. At the top contracted position, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a brief pause.
Then inhale and slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
Caution: This exercise is not recommended for people with back problems. A Low Pulley Row is a better choice for people with back issues.
Also, just like with the bent knee dead-lift, if you have a healthy back, ensure perfect form and never slouch the back forward as this can cause back injury.
Be cautious as well with the weight used; in case of doubt, use less weight rather than more.
Variations: You can perform the same exercise using a supinated (palms facing you) grip.
4. Lat Pulldown
Sit down on a pull-down machine with a wide bar attached to the top pulley. Make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. These pads will prevent your body from being raised by the resistance attached to the bar.
Grab the bar with the palms facing forward using the prescribed grip. Note on grips: For a wide grip, your hands need to be spaced out at a distance wider than shoulder width. For a medium grip, your hands need to be spaced out at a distance equal to your shoulder width and for a close grip at a distance smaller than your shoulder width.
As you have both arms extended in front of you holding the bar at the chosen grip width, bring your torso back around 30 degrees or so while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out. This is your starting position.
As you breathe out, bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back. Tip:Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. The upper torso should remain stationary and only the arms should move. The forearms should do no other work except for holding the bar; therefore do not try to pull down the bar using the forearms.
After a second at the contracted position squeezing your shoulder blades together, slowly raise the bar back to the starting position when your arms are fully extended and the lats are fully stretched. Inhale during this portion of the movement.
Repeat this motion for the prescribed amount of repetitions.
Variations: The behind the neck variation is not recommended as it can be hard on the rotator cuff due to the hyperextension created by bringing the bar behind the neck.
5. Body Row
Position a bar in a rack to about waist height. You can also use a smith machine.
Take a wider than shoulder width grip on the bar and position yourself hanging underneath the bar. Your body should be straight with your heels on the ground with your arms fully extended. This will be your starting position.
Begin by flexing the elbow, pulling your chest towards the bar. Retract your shoulder blades as you perform the movement.
Pause at the top of the motion, and return yourself to the start position.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
6. Back Extensions
Lie face down on a hyperextension bench, tucking your ankles securely under the footpads.
Adjust the upper pad if possible so your upper thighs lie flat across the wide pad, leaving enough room for you to bend at the waist without any restriction.
With your body straight, cross your arms in front of you (my preference) or behind your head. This will be your starting position. Tip: You can also hold a weight plate for extra resistance in front of you under your crossed arms.
Start bending forward slowly at the waist as far as you can while keeping your back flat. Inhale as you perform this movement. Keep moving forward until you feel a nice stretch on the hamstrings and you can no longer keep going without a rounding of the back. Tip: Never round the back as you perform this exercise. Also, some people can go farther than others. The key thing is that you go as far as your body allows you to without rounding the back.
Slowly raise your torso back to the initial position as you inhale. Tip:Avoid the temptation to arch your back past a straight line. Also, do not swing the torso at any time in order to protect the back from injury.
Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
Variations: This exercise can also be performed without a hyperextension bench, but in this case you will need a spotter. Also, a similar exercise to this one is the good morning and the stiff-legged deadlift.