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Sculpt a Sexy Back

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Beginner Exercises

1. Cobra

(targets lower back)

  • Lie facedown on the floor with arms at sides, palms down.
  • Keeping abs and glutes tight, lift chest off floor and raise arms up and back toward hips, rotating thumbs up.
  • At the same time, lift legs about 3 inches off floor. Hold for 3 counts and lower back to starting position.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Shrug

(targets upper back)

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at sides with your knees slightly bent.
  • Hold a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand with palms facing in.
  • Keeping abs tight, slowly shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, keeping elbows straight. Hold for 3 counts and lower.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

3. Seated Row with Bands

(targets upper back)

  • Sit in a chair and tie a resistance band around a sturdy structure, such as a doorknob, at elbow height, 2 to 3 feet in front of you.
  • Hold one end of band in each hand, palms facing each other.
  • Bend elbows and pull band toward your ribs, pressing shoulders back and together. Hold for 3 counts.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

Intermediate Exercises

1. Stability-Ball Leg Raise

(targets lower back)

  • Lie with your hips on top of a stability ball with legs extended behind you, hands shoulder-width apart on floor.
  • Lift both legs toward the ceiling as far as you comfortably can without overarching spine. Hold for 3 counts and lower.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

2. Stork-Stance Flye

(targets upper back)

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in.
  • Bending from the hips, lean forward, keeping your lower back flat, then raise right leg off floor with left leg slightly bent. Extend arms out to the sides to about shoulder height, elbows straight.
  • Lower arms to center. Do 8 to 10 reps.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

3. Rolling Ball Pull

(targets upper back)

  • Kneel on the floor with hands and forearms resting on a stability ball about shoulder-width apart.
  • Roll ball away from you and extend arms forward, dropping chest and pelvis toward floor. When you're fully extended, hold for 3 counts.
  • Roll ball back to starting position, contracting shoulders.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

Advanced Exercises

1. Quadruped on Ball

(targets lower back)

  • Lie on top of a stability ball, legs extended behind you, hands on floor about shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift and extend left arm and right leg simultaneously. Hold for 3 counts and return to start; switch sides.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

2. Lower-Trap Dip

(targets upper back)

  • Sit on floor between two sturdy chairs. Place a hand on the edge of each chair, legs extended, arms straight.
  • Press up, legs at a 90-degree angle.
  • Shrug shoulders toward ears and lower body toward floor.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

3. Single-Leg Row on Ball

(targets upper back)

  • Place right knee and right hand on a stability ball, left foot on floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell in left hand, palm in.
  • Keeping your back flat and arm close to your body, squeeze your shoulder blade and bring elbow back toward your hip. Do 8 to 10 reps.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2006.

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