Back to Basics

Sculpt a strong and sexy back with this no-frills training program.

It’s easy to forget about training your back since you can’t easily see it, but nothing makes you look better in a LBD — or any clothes for that matter! — than a beautifully developed back. Properly training your back muscles is important for physique balance, proper posture and spinal strength, so make sure you work it at least once a week as part of your regular plan.

This meat-and-potatoes program trains your back from all angles, giving you the strength and stability you need while also developing a beautiful V-taper. The first move should be done using a pretty heavy weight for muscle building; exercises two and three should be done with a moderate weight for shaping and strength; and the last move can be done for reps using a lighter weight to focus on one side at a time. Do this plan for 4 to 6 weeks and you’ll look as good leaving a room as you do coming in!

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Wide-Grip Pulldown

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Setup: Hold the bar with a wide, overhand grip then sit down in the machine and secure your knees underneath the pad. Sit up tall and draw your shoulder blades down and back.

Move: Drive your elbows down and pull the bar into your upper chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the peak contraction. Pause briefly, then slowly return to the start, resisting the pull of the weight stack on the return.

Tip: Never seesaw back and forth to pull the weight; this means you’re using momentum and are putting your back and spine at risk.

Seated V-Handle Row

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Setup: Attach a V-handle to the low pulley row machine, and sit holding it with your palms facing inward, arms extended. Place your feet on the platform and sit up tall with your knees slightly bent and your shoulders back.

Move: Drive your elbows back to pull the handle in toward your abdomen, pausing a moment at the top to squeeze. Slowly return to the start and resist the pull of the weight stack on the return.

Tip: You can lean back and forth slightly as you pull and release the weight here (as if rowing in a boat), but do so with a straight back.

Bent-Over Barbell Row

Setup: Stand holding a loaded barbell with an underhand grip in front of your thighs, knees slightly bent. Fold forward from the waist with your back straight until your torso makes a 45-degree angle. Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor.

Move: Maintain your body angle as you drive your elbows up and back and pull the bar into your abdomen. Pause a moment at the top before lowering slowly to the start.

Tip: Play with the position of your hands on the bar to change the angle of attack on your back. Use an overhand, wide, narrow or even a flip-grip (one hand over, one hand under) for variety.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Setup: Place one knee and same side hand on a flat bench and hold a dumbbell in your other hand with your palm facing inward. Flatten your back and extend your arm straight toward the floor.

Move: Drive your elbow up to the ceiling, keeping your arm in close to your side. Pause a moment at the top then slowly lower to the start. Do all reps on one side then switch.

Tip: Keep your shoulders square at all times; don’t tilt side to side.

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