It can be easy to forget about back and shoulder exercises, since these muscle groups aren’t as visible to you as, say, your legs and butt. But working your upper body (even the muscles you don’t see every day) is important for way more than just establishing a well-rounded fitness routine.
“Having a strong back creates good posture and is the foundation for a strong core,” explains Sammie Mack, a senior instructor at TruFusion. “Because most people spend the majority of their days sitting in a flexed position, looking down with a rounded back and shoulders folded forward, it is important to strengthen your [back and shoulders in] your workouts to counter the long-term effects of being sedentary for most of the day.” In addition to having poor posture, you may also suffer from back pain, thanks to that permanently slouched position.
Working your upper body also just makes you seriously strong, in the gym and out. Whether you’re lifting heavy boxes, shoving a carry-on into an overhead bin, or just working on mastering a pull-up, strengthening the back and shoulder muscles will prepare you for any heavy-lifting activity life throws your way.
Here are 14 back and shoulder exercises that’ll put your upper body to work. Bonus: Many engage other muscles at the same time, like your arms and abs. (For moves that include dumbbells, here’s how for you. If you have any back or shoulder issues, check in with your doctor before trying out these moves.)
• Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at sides.
• Bend knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips, keeping the back flat, arms straight, and hands under shoulders.
• Bend elbows and lifts weights toward chest; keeping your arms close to your body (they should skim your side).
• Extend arms back out and repeat.
• Start with your forearms and knees on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Elbows should be stacked underneath the shoulders, your forearms straight in front of you on the floor.
• Lift your knees off the ground and push your feet back to bring your body to full extension, so your body creates one long line.
• Hold this position. Keep your core and butt tight and your hips lifted. Look down at the floor to keep your neck in line with your spine.
• Start in high plank.
• Keeping your core engaged, jump your feet out and in (like jumping jacks).
• Start in high plank. Bend one arm to bring the elbow and forearm to the floor.
• Bring the other arm down so you are in a forearm plank.
• Push back up to the start position, placing each hand where your elbows were. Start with the same arm that you started with on the way down.
• Repeat this movement; alternating which side you lower first each rep.
• Start in high plank.
• Draw your right knee under your torso and into your chest, keeping the foot off the ground.
• Return your right foot to starting position.
• Repeat with your left leg. Keep switching legs as if you’re running in place.
Overhead Triceps Extension
• Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the middle of a dumbbell in both hands behind your neck, elbows bent and pointing toward the sky, upper arms in by your ears.
• Without moving your upper arms, extend your forearms above your head until they’re completely straight. Keep your shoulders down and core tight.
• Lower your forearms to the starting position.
Source: Self magazine