Lift like a man, look like a goddessIn The New Rules of Lifting for Women, authors Lou Shuler, Cassandra Forsythe and Alwyn Cosgrove want women to toss aside the myth that lifting heavy weights will lead to a bulky body. Their popular book teaches women to abandon what they call “the three dirty words”: toning, shaping and sculpting. Instead, they say, women should focus on lifting moderately heavy weights that will lead to a stronger body. A bonus? Increasing muscle mass will also boost your metabolism.
Here are five back exercises adapted from the book that will have your back ready in no time. Incorporate them into your workout two to three days of the week, along with additional exercises that target the rest of your body, for full-body strength and conditioning.
Dumbbell Single-Arm Overhead SquatThis is a full-body exercise that will make you feel strong from head to toe. You work your legs with the squat while targeting your upper and lower back with the overhead lift.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, one dumbbell weighing twice as much as the other (e.g., if one dumbbell is five pounds, the other should be 10 pounds). Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed straight ahead.
- Hold the light dumbbell overhead in your nondominant hand, with the heavier dumbbell between your legs, keeping both arms straight. Push your hips back and lower yourself until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor, holding the lighter dumbbell straight up over your shoulders, tightening the back of your shoulder and upper back muscles. Keep your abs pulled in tight.
- Rise back to the start position and do one to two sets of 15 repetitions each. Switch arms and repeat.
Dumbbell One-Point RowThis exercise works your back and core muscles while challenging your balance. If you find it too difficult, perform the row with your toes touching the floor.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, balance your weight on your left foot, bending forward at the hips and raising your right leg so it forms a T with your torso and left leg. Your chest and right leg are parallel to the floor and your shoulders are square to the floor.
- Hold the weights below your shoulders, arms straight (remain balanced on your left leg). Pull the weights straight up to your sides, keeping your shoulders square to the floor, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly lower weights to start (you are still balanced on one leg) and repeat for eight repetitions. Switch legs and repeat for eight repetitions. Do two sets.
Lat PulloverThis is a full upper-body exercise that emphasizes your lats (the muscles that help you pull your arm
down and back).
- Lie on your back on a bench (or floor if you don't have a bench), feet flat on the bench (or floor), knees bent; hold a weight in both hands or a weight in each hand over your chest, arms straight up. Lower the weight or weights straight back behind your head until your arms are in line with your torso and parallel to the floor. If you are not using a bench, lower your arms until the weights are just above but not touching the floor
- Keeping your arms straight, pull your arms to start position over your chest. As you reach start position, think about tightening your lat muscles. Do one to two sets of 15 repetitions each.
Back ExtensionsA strong lower back will reduce your risk of injury to your vertebral discs. This exercise is also called prone cobra in yoga.
- Lie face-down on a mat or well-padded floor, arms straight by your sides, palms up, forehead facing the floor. The tops of your feet should be flat against the floor.
- Slowly lift your head and shoulders off the floor, lifting your arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together and hold for five seconds. Lower to start position and do one to two sets of 15 repetitions each.
Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
Back rows work your entire back and can work your core muscles if you keep your abdominal muscles pulled in and your back flat.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides, a dumbbells in each hand. Bend your knees slightly, pushing your hips back, and bend forward at your hips without rounding your back. Hold the weights straight down from your shoulders with your wrists facing back and your knuckles facing forward. Pull the weights straight up to the sides, bending your elbows, while keeping your torso in the same position. You are only moving your arms, not the rest of your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as your elbows reach to the ceiling.
- Slowly lower the weights to start position. Be sure to keep your back flat. Do one to two sets of 15 repetitions each.