Back Exercises to Wow Them Coming and Going
In part 6 of the WebMD Fitness Series, learn how to sculpt a healthy, beautiful back.
It's About More Than Big Muscles
Strength training alone is not enough when it comes to a healthy back.
"It is important to stretch every day," says Calabrese.
As we age, without a balance of strength and stretching, we tend to develop poor posture, she says, which encourages injury as well as making us look and feel weaker, older, and heavier.
Stretching should include a flexion and extension of the spine. For flexion, sit with your knees bent, butt on your heels and arms out in front of you (child's pose in yoga). For extension, place your hands on your lower back for support and gently arch, tightening your abdominals for support.
1. Starting position: Standing with a slight bend in your knees, bend forward at the waist. Keep your back flat, with dumbbells hanging down towards the floor. Be sure to choose a light weight as the shoulder muscles are small.
2. Begin contracting the muscles of the upper back as you lead up with a slight bend in your elbows. Stop when the elbows are even with the shoulders, pause for a second, and slowly lower to the starting position, stopping just short of the arms hanging down without tension.
3. Picture hugging a beach ball as you return to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.
One-Arm Dumbbell Raise
1. Starting position: Place your right knee on a flat bench, bend at the waist, and rest on your right hand. Keep your back flat. Place a dumbbell in your left hand.
2. Slowly pull the dumbbell up toward your abdomen. Pause here for one second and then slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position. Repeat 10- 15 times.
3. Switch positions and repeat on the other side
Opposite Arm & Leg Raise
1. Starting position: Position body with hands and knees on floor approximately shoulder-width apart. Hip should be flexed at 90°.
2. Raise right arm and left leg off floor level with the back while stabilizing with the back and abdominal muscles.
3. Lower and alternate sides. Repeat 10-15 on each side.
Note: Remember to keep head and back in a neutral position. Shoulders and hips should remain squared and stable throughout movement.