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The 30-Day Fitness Challenge That Sculpts a Sexy Back

  • How It Works

    Natalie Jill, fitness trainer, certified sports nutritionist, author, and social media sensation, designed this challenge to work your muscles from all angles. So while you'll work your back in more ways than you knew you could, you'll also get a dose of core work and cardio each week. The whole thing kicks off on Day 1 with a timed rep test, which you'll repeat on the last day to prove just how much stronger you've gotten. Then each week you'll be given four different back-focused moves, along with one day set aside for a cardio circuit (for all-over fat loss) and another day for your core circuit (because you can't have a strong back without a tight core.) And don't worry, you can count on a rest day after each week. Make sure you follow along in this order—download, pin, and print the calendar for reference—so you know exactly which days goes with which move or circuit. Every week you'll progress, beginning with body-weight moves, followed by back exercises that incorporate a resistance band, stability ball, and finally dumbbells.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 1: 30-Rep Timed Test

    The whole thing kicks off on Day 1 with a 30-rep timed check-in. How long does it take you to do 30 reps of resistance band rows? Make note of that time now because you'll come back to it on the last day—and we have a feeling you'll be pretty darn pleased with how far you've come.

    • Sitting on the ground with legs extended straight in front, wrap a resistance band around the balls of your feet.
    • Holding either end of the band, pull it back as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
    • Keep your shoulders down and abs in. Be sure the movement comes from your back, not from your biceps.
  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 2: Cardio Circuit

    You’ll perform each of the follow five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible for maximum calorie burn and cardio endurance training results.

    • Jump Rope
    • Skater Hop
    • Butt Kick
    • Ball Tap
    • Power Squat

    See video for exactly how to perform every abs exercise from this circuit.
    NOTE: Tomorrow is a rest day, but since you're just getting started, you could complete a light workout.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 4: Bodyweight

    Back Pulse

    • Standing, lift your arms straight out in front of you, then spread them wide so they reach back.
    • Maintain straight arms and engage your back muscles so the movement does not rely on momentum, but rather on a slow squeeze of your back.
    • Continue this full-range movement, front to back, then pulse your arms in a tight and tiny motion (about 1 to 2 inches) back to really burn out those back muscles.

    30 seconds full range, 30 seconds pulse/3 sets
    See video for every body-weight exercise from Week 1.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 5: Bodyweight

    Bent-Over Reverse Fly

    • Standing, hinge at your hips, bringing torso nearly parallel to the floor.
    • Bend elbow as you create a "hugging shape" with your arms, hands meeting in front of you.
    • Pull up and back as you bring elbows behind you, squeezing your back. Repeat.

    60 seconds/3 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 6: Bodyweight

    Air Pull-Up

    • Standing, reach both arms up overhead before pulling elbows down and out to your sides, creating your own resistance as you mimic a pull-up movement. Bring arms back up to starting position, and repeat.
    • Elbows should remain pointed toward the floor with back and core engaged.

    60 seconds/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 7: Abs Circuit

    You'll perform each of the following five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible to build maximum core strength and for the most muscle endurance training results.

    • Lift and lower
    • Scissor kick
    • Side plank with tuck under
    • Shimmy
    • Pike walk

    See video for exactly how to perform every abs exercise from this circuit.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 8: Bodyweight

    Swimmer

    Double-Arm

    • With knees on the floor, standing tall, engage your core as you hinge back slightly.
    • Bring arms straight out in front of you, fingertips pointed.
    • Open arms wide as you mimic a swimming motion, squeezing shoulder blades before bending quickly at the elbow to return to starting position. (Repeat this double-arm movement before moving on to toe-taps.)

    Toe-Tap

    • From the same hinged position, hand down in front of you, reach left arms up, back, and around to tap your left foot.
    • Reverse the movement as you swing left arm up and forward. Repeat with right side.

    60 seconds each/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 9: Cardio Circuit

    You'll perform each of the following five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible for maximum calorie burn and cardio endurance training results.

    • Jump rope
    • Skater hop
    • Butt kick
    • Ball tap
    • Power squat

    Watch the video again if you need a refresher on how to perform every exercise from this circuit.
    NOTE: Tomorrow is your rest day—make sure you take it.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 11: Resistance Bands

    Cupid's Pull

    • Fold the resistance band in half. (Depending on how strong the band is that you're working with, you may not need to do this.) Grab the band with both hands about 3 to 4 inches apart, holding it straight out in front of you.
    • With left arm straight, bend right elbow as you pull that arm back (as if you're getting ready to shoot an arrow from a bow).
    • Make sure right arm is tight to your side, shoulders stay down, and elbow points back. Repeat on opposite side.

    30 seconds each side/3 sets
    See video for every resistance band exercise from Week 2.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 12: Resistance Bands

    Twisted Band Pull

    • Fold the resistance band in half. (Depending on how strong the band is that you're working with, you may not need to do this.) Grab near the end of either side of the band, holding it straight out in front of you.
    • With left arms straight out in front, pull the band open using a straight right arm. You'll twist your torso slightly as you pull the arm out. Repeat on left side.

    60 seconds/3 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 13: Resistance Bands

    Resistance Row Boat

    • Stand in the center of the resistance band, and cross the ends to create an X.
    • Hinge upper body forward from the hips and grab either end of the band or handle.
    • Hands start low and together before you pull elbows out and back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Bring arms slowly back to starting position. Repeat.
    • Standing will work more of the shoulder (and traps), while bending forward will allow the work to focus more on your lats—the largest back muscle.

    60 seconds/3 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 14: Abs Circuit

    You'll perform each of the following five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible to build maximum core strength and for the most muscle endurance training results.

    • Lift and lower
    • Scissor kick
    • Side plank with tuck under
    • Shimmy
    • Pike walk

    Watch the video again if you need a refresher on how to perform every abs exercise from this circuit.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 15: Resistance Bands

    Airplane Up and Down

    • Fold the resistance band in half. (Depending on how strong the band is that you're working with, you may not need to do this.) Grab the band toward the center with both hands about 3 to 4 inches apart, holding it tight.
    • Bring arms straight up and overhead. Slowly, with control and tension, lower straight arms down coming to just below chest height. Repeat, bringing arms back up.

    60 seconds/3 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 16: Cardio Circuit

    You'll perform each of the following five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible for maximum calorie burn and cardio endurance training results.

    • Jump rope
    • Skater hop
    • Butt kick
    • Ball tap
    • Power squat

    Watch the video again if you need a refresher on how to perform every exercise from this circuit.
    NOTE: Tomorrow is your rest day—make sure you take it.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 18: Stability Ball

    Ball Raise

    • Standing, hold a stability ball on either side, making sure to create tension by squeezing in slightly. This will also engage your chest.
    • Starting with the ball straight out in front of you, bring it up and overhead. Then slowly lower it down with control. Repeat.

    45 seconds/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 19: Stability Ball

    Ball Twist

    • Standing, hold a stability ball on either side, making sure to create tension by squeezing in slightly. (This will also engage your chest.)
    • With ball straight out in front of you, begin twisting your torso to bring the ball to the left and then the right. Repeat.

    45 seconds/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 20: Stability Ball

    Thumbs-Up Pulse

    • Lie on the stability ball on your chest and stomach, feet long behind you, anchoring you for support.
    • Strength arms out wide with hands in a thumbs-up position.
    • Bring arms up and back as you point your thumbs to the ceiling. Repeat.

    45 seconds/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 21: Abs Circuit

    You'll perform each of the following five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible to build maximum core strength and for the most muscle endurance training results.

    • Lift and lower
    • Scissor kick
    • Side plank with tuck under
    • Shimmy
    • Pike walk

    Watch the video again if you need a refresher on how to perform every abs exercise from this circuit.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 22: Stability Ball

    Lat Ball Roll-Out

    • With your knees on the floor, grab the stability ball with your forearms stretched long in front of you, head down and torso straight.
    • Using your back, muscles roll the ball in toward you. The movement is small. Repeat.

    45 seconds/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 23: Cardio Circuit

    You'll perform each of the following five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible for maximum calorie burn and cardio endurance training results.

    • Jump rope
    • Skater hop
    • Butt kick
    • Ball tap
    • Power squat

     

    Watch the video again if you need a refresher on how to perform every exercise from this circuit.
    NOTE: Tomorrow is your rest day—make sure you take it.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 25: Dumbbells

    L-Shaped Lift

    • Standing, grab one 5-, 8-, or 10-pound dumbbell in each hand, arms down in front.
    • Lift straight right arm directly in front of you. At the same time, lift straight left arm directly out to your side. (This creates the L shape.)
    • Without bringing weights back down, pivot both arms to opposite side so that left arm is straight in front and right arm is out to the side. Bring arms down to starting position, and reverse the movement. Repeat.

    15 reps/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 26: Dumbbells

    Reverse Fly

    • Standing with a 5-, 8-, or 10-pound dumbbell in each hand, bend forward as you hinge at the hips.
    • Starting with hands together in front of you, engage your back muscles as you pull your elbows out and back, remembering to squeeze at the top of the movement. Repeat.

    15 reps/3 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 27: Dumbbells

    Deadlift & Row Combo

    • Standing with a 5-, 8-, or 10-pound dumbbell in each hand, bend down with knees softly bent. Bring weights to hover just above your feet.
    • Come to standing as you squeeze your hamstrings and glutes. Weights are still hanging low for the deadlift portion of this move.
    • Once standing, lift elbows up and out as you raise the weights to chest height for an upright row. Return to starting position before repeating the entire move beginning with the deadlift.

    60 seconds/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 28: Abs Circuit

    You'll perform each of the following five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible to build maximum core strength and for the most muscle endurance training results.

    • Lift and lower
    • Scissor kick
    • Side plank with tuck under
    • Shimmy
    • Pike walk

    Watch the video again if you need a refresher on how to perform every abs exercise from this circuit.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 29: Dumbbells

    Weighted Bird Dog

    • From quadruped position (on hands and knees on the floor), place 5-, 8-, or 10-pound dumbbells in front of your hands.
    • Grab left dumbbell with your left hand, and raise a straight left arm directly in front of you. At the same time, lift a straight right leg directly behind you. Return arm and leg to the floor. Repeat on opposite sides (right weighted arm and left leg), before continuing the movement.

    60 seconds/2 sets

  • Patrick Connolly

    Day 30: Cardio Circuit

    You'll perform each of the following five moves for 1 minute each. Try to take as little rest in between each move as possible for maximum calorie burn and cardio endurance training results.

    • Jump rope
    • Skater hop
    • Butt kick
    • Ball tap
    • Power squat

    Watch the video again if you need a refresher on how to perform every exercise from this circuit.
    NOTE: Today is your last rest day before your final check-in—the 30-rep timed resistance band row test.

  • Patrick Connolly

    Final 30-Rep Timed Check-In

    Grab the same resistance band you used at the beginning of the challenge and head down to the floor to test your strength and endurance with a 30-rep timed resistance band row.

    Record how long it takes you. Now compare that to your time from Day 1. What's the difference? Share your gains with us on social media @fitnessmagazine and @nataliejillfit.

 

Alyssa Sparacino

Alyssa is the deputy digital editor for SHAPE & FITNESS and an ACE certified personal trainer. She is a cycling and barre enthusiast, and lover of both planks and pasta. Before joining the #ShapeSquad she was the digital editor for HGTV Magazine and assistant editor of Health.com.  More →

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