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Back Workouts for Women

The 30-Minute Back Workout for Building Muscle

Too busy to train? Get the results of an hourlong workout in half the time with this back-shaping routine.

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If you’re like me, you always have a handy “to do” list at the ready. It’s an absolute essential when your life is full of appointments, errands, projects and the million other little things that need our constant attention. By keeping everything written down, you eliminate the risk of something slipping out of sight, then out of mind, right?

“Out of sight, out of mind” is a danger when it comes to our back training, as well. After all, unlike your legs, shoulders, arms and abs, your back is often out of sight — at least yours. It’s easy to forget that for everyone else, your back is often on display, whether you’re showing it off in that new backless dress or you’ve tossed on your favorite tank top for a particularly busy day.

To make sure your back workout never falls off your “to do” list, we’ve tabbed BODi trainer and health and fitness coach Jenny Jaucian to design a hyper-efficient back workout, squeezing in all the benefits of an hourlong session in just 30 minutes while touching all the key areas: the upper back, lats, rear delts, midback and your lumbar area.

“Performing these various back moves in a circuit offsets the problem of building up too much muscular fatigue in one area of the back, allowing you to get more work done with less recovery time,” Jaucian explains. “Also, doing all the movements with a tempo pattern — one count for the concentric portion of the rep, three counts for the eccentric — puts the target muscle under greater tension overall, which ultimately helps build more strength and lean mass.”

Better yet, you can do this workout pretty much anywhere: home, health club or otherwise. If you’ve got dumbbells, that’s perfect, but if not, Jaucian suggests getting creative by using gallon water jugs, cat litter containers or even full laundry detergent bottles. 

Whatever weights you ultimately end up lifting, remember this final piece of advice. “No matter how many reps you can manage in 45 seconds, make sure you’re practicing good form,” Jaucian says. “Don’t break your back trying to lift more weight than your strength will allow — pun intended.”

The 30-Minute Back Circuit

Perform the following exercises as a circuit, doing each move for 45 seconds. Rest between each move as needed, up to 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit for four to five rounds total. 

Exercise Sets
Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbell Row 4-5
Staggered-Stance Hip-Hinge High Row 4-5
Lat Pullover 4-5
Bent-Over Lateral Raise 4-5
Superman Pulldown 4-5
Romanian Deadlift Row
(Photo: Katy Loren)

Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbell Row

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Keeping your back straight from hips to head, hinge forward from your hips by pushing your glutes back, letting the dumbbells hang straight down directly beneath your shoulders as you do the first half of a Romanian deadlift. Keeping your core braced and back flat, contract your lats and bring your shoulder blades toward one another while bending your elbows, lifting the weights to hip level. Next, take three counts to straighten your arms and lower the weight before returning to the standing start position.

Staggered-Stance Hip-Hinge High Row
(Photo: Katy Loren)

Staggered-Stance Hip-Hinge High Row

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Place your left hand on your hip. Brace your core and step back about 12 inches with your right foot. Hinge at your hips, allowing the dumbbell to hang down from your left shoulder, palm facing the midline of your body. Pull the weight up toward your chest and then lower it slowly. Repeat the row for 20 seconds, then switch stances and sides for the remaining time. Switch the side you begin with for each round.

Lat Pullover
(Photo: Katy Loren)

Lat Pullover

Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, core tight, holding a dumbbell in each hand over your chest with straight elbows. Press the dumbbells into one another. Lower your straight arms down toward the floor behind your head as far as you can — if your flexibility allows, bring the ends of the dumbbells all the way to the point that they contact the floor. Then flex through your lats to return your arms to the start. Remember to take three seconds to lower the weight and then explosively bring your arms back overhead in one count on each rep.

Bent-Over Lateral Raise
(Photo: Katy Loren)

Bent-Over Lateral Raise

With a dumbbell in each hand and your chest up, back flat, knees slightly bent and eyes fixed on a point on the floor just ahead of you, bend over at the hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Let the dumbbells hang directly beneath you with your elbows fixed in a slightly bent position. From there, raise the dumbbells up and out to your sides in an arc until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Pause at the top, then lower the dumbbells back along the same path over a three-second count.

Superman Pulldown
(Photo: Katy Loren)

Superman Pulldown

Lie facedown on the floor in a superman position — legs straight and hip-width apart, arms straight overhead with your upper arms running alongside each ear. Simultaneously lift your legs and arms up off the floor a few inches, as high as you can. Contract your shoulder blades as you pull your elbows in toward your back. Hold for a one-count, then take three counts to return your arms to the outstretched position in front of you, and finally lower yourself back to the start position for a three-count. Repeat for time.