With the mercury on the rise, baring more skin is a given. Whether trying to keep cool in a racerback tank while working out, taking a refreshing dip in a summer swimsuit, or hitting the town for a date in a strapless maxi dress, your back is exposed for all to see. And if you have back fat–you know, the rolls and bulges that fall over your bra and make for a lumpy, bumpy mess under anything cotton–you might be reaching for a cover up.
Targeting fat loss in one specific area is nearly impossible, thanks to your body burning what it wants, where it wants. But that doesn’t mean you can’t add in some exercises to tone up your upper back, shoulders, and lats. This summer, instead of adding on more layers, and thus upping your sweat supply, try the following and give new meaning to “baby got back.”
Rear Lateral Raise: From a seated position, bend forward from the hips so that your body is at about a 45-degree angle. In each hand, dumbbells, kettlebells, or easy-to-hold weight lifting plates. With your arms at your side and palms facing in, raise the weight in each hand out to the side with straight arms, making sure your shoulders are not scrunched up near your ears and that you’re using your back and rear shoulder muscles to move the weight. Keep the weight relatively light to avoid making jerking movements. The reps should be fluid and controlled. Complete three sets of 10-12 reps.
Inverted Row: Using a squat rack or Smith machine with the bar lowered near the floor, lie underneath the bar. The bar should be in line with your chest, or just slightly above, and it should be high enough for your arms to extend fully when holding the bar. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Using your back muscles to do the work, lead with your chest and lift your body toward the bar. If it is too difficult to lift to a parallel position, raise the bar, and angle your body with straight legs. Complete three sets of 8-10 reps each.
Barbell Row: Begin by holding by a barbell against the front of your body with straight arms and your grip about shoulder width apart. With your feet at hip-width distance, bend forward from the hips so that your body is at about a 45-degree angle. Let the bar hang. Relax your shoulders down your back and raise the bar toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Be sure to keep the strength coming primarily from your back muscles instead of your arm muscles. Hold the bar at chest level for a count of three, and then slowly lower to the hanging start position. If a barbell is too heavy, start with dumbbells. Complete three sets of 12 reps, taking breaks in between each set, or creating a circuit of exercises for each set.
Side Plank: There are lots of plank variations that will target your back muscles, but you can start by adding in a side plank. From the top of a push up position, lift one hand up and place it on your hip as you rotate your body to the side. The hand on the floor should be in line with your shoulder. While your core will come into play, focus on using your back muscles to help keep your balance. Perform planks on both sides, holding as long as you can. If the intensity is too much, lower the leg closest to the ground and help support your weight on your knee.
Lat Raises: Lay back on a bench, or on a stability ball to add in your abs, holding a medicine ball or dumbbell. Raise your arms straight above your shoulders, and start the rep by lifting the weight from overhead to above chest level. Finish the rep by returning back to the overhead position. Be sure to keep your arms straight throughout the movement, but being careful not to hyper extend your elbows. Also, work on keeping your back flat instead of arching your lower back to support the weight. Your lats, the muscles below your armpits on the side of your body and wrapping around to your back, should do the work. Aim for three sets of 12 reps.
Strength training is an efficient and effective way to shed unwanted fat throughout your entire body. Work in the exercises provided one to three times each week, being sure to give your body time to recover in between workouts. On non-lifting days, go for interval-based cardio to keep up the fat-burning progress. Want to focus on your back during your heart-pumping aerobic days? Try a workout rower, also called an ergometer or erg.
What do you see as your “problem area” that you’d like to improve? Share with us in the comments!