We know the importance of strong, toned, and defined back muscles. Aesthetic reasons aside, a strong back helps support all of the other major muscle groups throughout the body. And, it turns out, a strong back is especially important for females.
According to a study conducted at the University of North Florida, “When examining gender, it has been shown that the prevalence of lower back pain is higher among females, compared to males.” Building strong back muscles can contribute to a decline in this pain and other imbalances that cause irritation to the body.
Here, Personal Trainer and Founder of Maple Holistics Caleb Backe shares both sample exercises and stretches to perform to strengthen female back muscles, specifically. First, toned back muscles on a female can also attribute to a variety of important health factors, including:
“Strong back muscles mean that you’re back is more capable of supporting your lower body,” says Backe. “Your body requires more energy input on a daily basis when you don’t strengthen your back muscles and you’re constantly fighting poor posture habits.” Over time, poor posture can cause a wide variety of complications such as chronic pain because of the large amount of stress placed upon both the neck and back. Given that we’re living in a digital world where individuals spend more time hunched over their computers or phones, it’s nice to have comfort knowing that you’ve been working the muscles in your back and neck (properly) to help avoid any unwanted hunches or back pain.
Surprisingly, we don’t mean the heavy lifting that you may see or perform at the gym. According to Backe, “We’re unconsciously bending down or lifting things all the time, which means that we’re likely using our core and back muscles on a daily basis. A strong back protects us from potential injury when completing these daily tasks.”
Best Back Exercises
Here are three helpful back exercises to incorporate into your workout.
No, not the old school dance floor move. This staple workout exercise, “is a great move for all abilities, as it strengthens our lower back,” Backe says.
To perform: Lie flat on your stomach with your arms stretched out above your head. Simultaneously lift your feet and your arms up so that your body is making a boat shape. Hold for ten seconds and repeat for 12 reps.
“This is the exercise you want to work out your lats on either side of your back and really target and strengthen your core,” Backe says.
To perform: Turn onto your side with your legs extended. Your feet and hips should be resting on the ground and stacked on top of one another. Place your hand below your shoulders and lift yourself up. Hold this for 30 seconds and then switch sides. Beginners can start on their elbows rather than lifting themselves up on their hands.
“This is an easy exercise, which you can modify by using heavier or lighter weights, [that] works your shoulder blades and upper back, which can improve your posture,” Backe explains.
To perform: With a dumbbell in each hand, hold your hands into your chest with your elbows and forearms touching. Then, stretch your arms back to either side so that your arms are at ninety degrees to your shoulder blades. Bring your arms back in and repeat for 12 reps.
How To Recover Post-Workout
“This helps strengthen your lower back and is a great way to aid in recovery at the end of your workout,” Backe says.
To perform: Sit with your legs in straddle (remembering to square from the hips) and put your arms out in front of you. Lean forward, as far down as you can, and breath into the pose. As you extend out in front, make sure to keep your back straight, moving from your hips. Hold for 30 seconds.
Sometimes this stretch can be manipulated by rounding your back. Not only does that not help relieve back tension, but can add to it!
A typical movement in yoga practices, the cat-cow stretch is a great movement to relieve tension in both the back and the neck.
To perform: Arch your back and pull in your core while on your hands and knees. Then, slowly reverse it so that your back is being pulled toward the ground and lift your head so that you get a full stretch. Repeat this cycle for eight reps.
Seated Spinal Twist
This is a great movement, as it can be done down on the mat or seated in a chair while at work.
To perform: Sit with your legs extended in front of you (if down on the floor). Then bend your right knee across your left leg. Take your left elbow and place it on the outside of your bent knee. Put your right hand on the floor beside you and twist to look over your right shoulder. Hold this and breathe into the stretch for 15 seconds.
Backe recommends repeating for three reps on each side. Additionally, while it may feel tempting, avoid moving your back too quickly as this may result in cracking the back.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Back Muscles
“When you ignore working out your back as women, you run the risk of injury later in life,” says Backe. “A strong back and core effects all areas of the body, as your back essentially holds the body up. Common back issues that are more prevalent in women are conditions like degenerative spondylolisthesis and piriformis syndrome, which can both be prevented by strengthening the back and core.”
So ladies, make sure not to ignore those precious back muscles and incorporate some of these movements into your day.