How much thought do you put into training your back? If the answer is not much, this article will convince you otherwise. Working your back is essential to counteracting the 3 C’s – couch, computer, and the chair you sit in all day.
Your back plays an integral role in all of your workouts. Running. Yoga. Pilates. Strength Training. Your back is literally your core. Even if you are not working out, your back muscles hold you up and help you do all the random menial tasks like laundry and emptying the dishwasher.
Also, your back takes up a lot of real estate on your body. It’s about to be summer with tanks, dresses and swimsuits and a sleek back will make you feel confident and have the posture to go with that confidence. Here is the DAOFitLife curated list of the top 10 back moves you can do in 10 minutes, plus more playlists and resources you can use both in the gym and at home.
These exercises are the best I have come across in years of working with trainers and doing yoga, whihc has a lot of great stretches for the back. Working the flexibility and strength of your spine is just as essential to working your back muscles, so these are a mix of both. I have linked descriptions or YouTube video demos of each workout. You can do all of these in just 5 minutes, timing each stretch or set of reps for 30 seconds. That’s only two songs on a playlist.
10 back exercises you can do in 5 minutes
- Sphinx – Lie facedown on the ground with hands by your side, navel tuck in towards your sides. Gently bring your hands forward so that your elbows are directly in line with your shoulders. Raise your chest up as far as feels comfortable without feeling like you are crunching into your lower back. Hold and brace your shoulder blades together. Gently have your chest come back to the floor.
- Cobra – This is for those who have no lower back issues and have an already stable foundation within their lower back, as well as, feasible mobility within their shoulder blades. Similarly, to the above sphinx pose, lie flat face down, bring your navel towards your spine for support. Trek your hands just underneath your shoulder blades, now carefully lift your chest completely forward, heart going towards the sky. Feel your hip bones come off of the ground; however your navel stays tucked in. Take a few breaths and carefully come back to your belly.
- Gate pose – Kneel on one leg with the other leg stretched out to the side. Let your chest shine upwards as you reach over in a side bend to your outstretched leg.
- Child’s pose with a reach to each side. Seat your hips firmly on your heels and spread your knees wide to allow your torso to stretch forward, with your head on the mat. Then take your left palm and place it over your right, creating a nice side stretch in your lower back. This is a great exercise to do if you are at home and in front of the TV or even between calls to give your back a break from the chair and the computer.
- Cat cow – From tabletop on all fours, arch your lower back and shine your chest forward, slightly tilting your chin up (cat). Then arch your back in the opposite direction so it creates a “C” curve.
- Superman and variations
- Banded chest pull aparts – With an exercise band hold it in front of your chest at shoulder width and pull it apart so that your upper back muscles and shoulder blades squeeze together. Hold for a few second and then release.
- At the gym – Facepulls with cable row
- Banded lat pulldown – Raise the exercise band over your head and then pull it behind you over your shoulders, then push back up towards the ceiling until your arms are extended.
- At the gum- Lat pull down machine
- Bent over banded row – Hinge your hips forward until your body is in a “7” position, while standing on the body band. Then pull the bank up in either a narrow or a wide row motion
- At the gym – TRX wide and narrow rows
- Bridge – Lie on you back, with heels close to hips (you should be able to reach with your hands and touch the top of your heels. Then press your heels into the ground and push your hips to the sky. Squeeze your back and glutes at the top, then return to starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 tmes.
- Variations – use an ottoman or sofa for more elevation, or a foam box at the gym.
- Variations – raise a single leg to either 90 degrees or full extension as you lift and lower – switch
- At the gym – hip thrust with barbell (you should do this with a spot or supervision the first time you try it).
Here are some additional YouTube 10-minute back workouts that you can do with no equipment that are available on my DAOFitLife YouTube Channel Back Playlist.
10 min intense back HIIT workout – Emi Wong’s quick no equipment workout
Why we forget to train our backs
One trainer I worked with explained that many of his clients “forget” about the back because they focus on only training the muscles they can see in the mirror. Because we can’t see our backs, they are often ignored or trained as an afterthought.
Why you should prioritize at least one to two “back days” a week
- To look good – As this article in Esquire explains, A strong back adds depth and shape to your physique, and more importantly, is the base that adds stability to all of your arm, chest and abdominal exercises
- To feel good – Since you probably have not been giving your back the attention it needs, it is likely weak and that weakness is the basis for a lot of the back pain we commonly suffer. Lower back pain can absolutely be reversed with the right training, which will inevitably help both your posture and your day-to-day comfort
- To make the front of you look good too – Your back is part of the posterior chain that contains large muscle groups; so by training larger groups you will be increasing the metabolic burn. Plus, many back exercises like rows also work your chest, biceps, shoulders and abs.
- To get and stay flexible – Flexibility matters, too. A more flexible back means less back pain and less of a chance for injury. A flexible back also provides better posture and a foundation for yoga and dance enthusiasts. And, it will be so much easier to reach down and pick up your kid, dog, or that suitcase from the floor (and put it in the overhead bin, cause no one offers to help anymore…).