It is important for any strength training or exercise program to be well balanced. Our bodies are made up of a system of opposing levers that work together to make movement possible. For example – the triceps are responsible for straightening the elbow, while the biceps are in charge of bending it.

When we focus too much on one area of the body or only exercise select muscle groups, our lever systems become unbalanced, and eventually overused and broken down. In a world obsessed with abs and biceps, mirrors and selfies, it is easy to forget about the large muscles behind you that are responsible for good posture, and spinal stability.

80% of Americans experience back pain in their lifetime. We spend most of our days sitting at our desks or in cars, huddled over cell phones and computer screens. Our posture is deteriorating, our backs are aching and stiff, and our progress in the gym is suffering.

Here are 4 simple back exercises that help balance the muscles of the upper body, improve posture, and are appropriate for any fitness level. Implementing these into your regular weekly routine will help build strong back muscles that are your best weapon against Quasimodo posture.

1. Superman Sweeps

Lying flat on your stomach, reach both arms out in front of you with thumbs pointed up to the ceiling. Tighten your tummy, squeeze your glutes, and reach your arms out and up bringing the chest off the floor. Keeping chest off the floor and back of the neck long, sweep the arms out to the side and down toward your feet with palms facing the ground. Sweep arms back to the starting position without dropping the chest or touching the floor, and rest. Make sure you actively reach as far out as possible while arms transition from the overhead position toward the feet. Repeat this forward and back sweep 8 times for 1 full set.

2. Lat Pull Downs

This exercise can be performed seated at a cable machine or kneeling with a resistance band anchored above you. Reach overhead with arms straight, back tall, and tummy pulled in tight. First, pull your shoulder blades down as far from the ears as possible. Next, follow through with elbows and arms until fists are in front of shoulders and elbows are tight against the ribs. Slowly release the arms back up while keeping neck long and shoulders down. Make sure to keep your chest open and back straight throughout the exercise. Repeat this pull and slow release for 10 reps.

3. Band Pull Apart

Grab a light to medium resistance band and stand tall with arms out straight in front of you, palms facing down. Start by squeezing your shoulder blades together and lightly lifting your chest while you pull the band apart with straight arms into a “T” shape. Release with control, and repeat 15 times for 1 set.

4. Plank Rows

Grab 2 dumbbells and position yourself in a plank with hands on the handles. While maintaining this perfect plank, pull one dumbbell off the floor toward your waist and squeeze your shoulder blades together as tight as possible. Remember to keep the supporting arm actively pushing through the ground while you row. Alternate arms for 20 total reps. If you are having difficulty maintaining a proper plank, you can open the feet up wide or drop to the knees for more support.

Tags: , ,