“Sit up straight!”
Ok, maybe our grandmothers were onto something. But perfect posture is about far more than how you sit at your desk or carry yourself throughout the day. In fact, it’s excess sitting that’s making our posture worse than ever!
Not only do most of us sit hunched over our keyboards all day, but then we come home and hunch over our phones. The end result? Rounded shoulders, aching backs, headaches, and other injuries. So is there a way to counteract this hunched lifestyle without quitting your day job?
Strengthening your back is one of the most important things you can do to improve your posture. A strong back will help you open up your chest, sit and stand taller, and carry yourself with more confidence.
Oh, and a strong back looks pretty great in a strappy tank, too!
The 30-day back challenge consists of quick, good back workouts for women that are going to strengthen your back and improve your posture.
We’ll give you the full list of exercises and complete workouts, plus you’ll learn why each of these simple back workouts is important for achieving perfect posture. By the time you’ve completed the 4-week challenge, you’ll be looking and feeling your best!
So do it for your health or do it for that new strapless dress. Click the button below and get ready for the ultimate 30-day back challenge!
Back Workouts for Women that Work
Single Arm Dumbbell Row
Dumbbell rows engage nearly every muscle in the upper back, especially those between the shoulder blades. The single-arm variation allows you to really focus on engaging your lats. And like with most single-arm exercises, your core has to work overtime during this move.
Grab a dumbbell in your right hand. Hinge at the hips, bend your knees slightly, and place your left hand behind your back with your palm facing out. Lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor and allow the dumbbell to hang at arm’s length. Brace your core and pull the dumbbell to the side of your torso. Keep your elbow tucked in by your side. During the exercise, keep your torso stationary — it should not be twisting from side-to-side. This creates momentum to lift the weight and can put your spine at risk for injury if you get carried away. Lower the weight back down and complete all reps before switching sides.
Note: While it is common to see this exercise performed with a hand on an exercise bench or thigh (see picture above), this is not going to provide the most efficient workout. Yes, you’re still working your back but by supporting your upper body with your opposite arm, you’re taking your core out of the picture. Keep the non-working arm behind your back to put your core on full activation status and get the most out of the exercise.
This versatile exercise can be done on an incline bench, swiss ball, or even on the floor. All you’ll need is a very light set of dumbbells. Y Raises strengthen and help stabilize the tiny muscles of the rotator cuff.
Set a bench to a low incline and lie with your chest against the pad. Your feet can be on the floor. Hold two light dumbbells with a neutral grip and let the weights hang straight down from your shoulders. Slowly raise your arms up until they form a Y shape in line with your body. Pause briefly and then lower back down.
Rear Lateral Raise
Rear lateral raises are more than just a shoulder exercise, they’re one of the best back workouts for women. In addition to the rear deltoids, they also train many of the muscles of the upper, middle back and core. Strengthening these muscles allows for a stable spine, strong shoulder joint and better posture.
Grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip. Hinge at the hips, slightly bend your knees, and let the weights hang down at arm’s length. Your gaze will be down at the floor throughout the lift. Without moving your torso, bring your arms straight out to your sides until they form a T-shape with your body. Lower the weights to the starting position and complete all reps. Move in a slow, controlled motion to avoid using momentum to move the weights.
Kneeling Lat Pulldown
Seated lat pulldowns are the go-to move for strengthening your lats. This kneeling variation requires your glutes and abs to stay engaged throughout the lift. You’ll use less weight than on the traditional lat pulldown but engage more muscle. The kneeling lat pulldown also better prepares you for upper body strengthening moves like chin-ups.
You can do this at the regular lat pulldown cable machine, but instead of sitting on the seat, kneel in front of it. Reach up for the bar with a wide grip until your body forms a straight line. Pull the bar down to your chest as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your arms should be the only moving parts during this exercise — your torso and hips should remain stationary. Pause briefly and then return to the starting position.
Although this requires gym equipment, this exercise can’t be beat for training your shoulders to remain engaged — when it comes to posture, the row provides one of the best back workouts. Don’t copy the bros you see at the gym doing this exercise while leaning way back or stretching too far forward. Your torso should not move throughout this lift.
Attach a straight bar to a cable station. Have a seat and keep your feet braced against the foot supports – your knees will be slightly bent. Grab the bar with an overhand grip that’s just past shoulder width. Sit up straight with a neutral spine, your chest out, and your shoulders down and back. Without moving your upper body, pull the bar to your upper abs. Pause briefly and return to the starting position. Choosing an appropriate weight is crucial with this back exercise — going too light will fail to adequately activate your back, while going too heavy may force you to break form and rely on more than just the muscles in your upper back to row the weight. Adjust the weight stack until you find that perfect weight that makes it possible to perform the prescribed reps but no more.
This simple exercise can be done anywhere and it’s a good reminder of how your upper back should feel throughout the day. The prone cobra pose offers a good back workout while also stretching those tight muscles in your chest and the front of your shoulders, providing more bang for your exercise buck. If you can’t hold the pose for the prescribed amount of time, break it up into smaller sets with 5-10 seconds rest in between holds.
Lie on your stomach on the floor with your legs straight and your arms next to your sides, palms down. Squeeze your glutes and raise your head, chest, arms, and legs off the floor. Rotate your arms so that your palms face away from your body and your thumbs point towards the ceiling. Only your hips should be in contact with the floor during this pose.
Swiss Ball Roll Outs
While this exercise may not be considered one of the best back workouts for women, having a strong core is essential for developing perfect posture. Swiss ball roll outs recruit almost every muscle of the abdominals, low back, lats, and shoulders. It’s the perfect core exercise to really improve your posture from all angles.
Kneel down in front of a Swiss ball (you may want a pad or yoga mat under your knees). Place your forearms and both fists on the ball. Before you start, your core should be braced, your lower back should be neutral, and your elbows will be bent about 90 degrees. With control, slowly roll the ball forward by straightening your arms and extending your body out as far as you can. If your low back starts to collapse, you’ve gone too far. Then, use the strength of your ab muscles to pull the ball back towards you — yes, it’s a challenging exercise.
This exercise looks so easy, but you will definitely feel the burn and notice improved posture. Wall slides are great “prehab” for vulnerable shoulders. It’s better to improve your shoulder flexibility and mobility now than ending up in physical therapy later on!
Stand up tall with your entire back against the wall. Your feet will be hip-width apart and about a foot in front of the wall. Place the backs of your arms against the wall with your elbows bent at 90 degrees (like a field goal sign in football). Slowly slide your arms up overhead while keeping your arms and back in constant contact with the wall. Slide them back down and then complete the prescribed number of reps. If you can’t do all the reps at once, break them down into smaller sets.
Pro Tip: In addition to the exercises listed, you should also take time to stretch your chest. If you want good posture, you can’t rely solely on good back workouts, you need to also incorporate lengthening movements. Yes, strengthening your back will help pull your shoulders back to some extent, but when you consider how much time we spent hunched and sitting, that’s just not enough. The doorway stretch is the perfect solution. Stand in a doorway and place your palms and forearms against the framing (assume the same upper body stance as you did in the wall slides). Gently press your chest forward until you feel a stretch through the front of your shoulders and chest. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Try doing this stretch at least three times a day but to really get results fast, do it every time you pass through a door way. Between the strengthening and stretching, your posture should be on point in no time.
About Strengthening Your Spine and Perfecting your Posture with Back Workouts for Women
As you can probably tell from the list of exercises, perfect posture is about more than just sitting up straight. Many different muscle groups have to work together to allow for good posture. Primarily, you’ll want to strengthen your shoulders, upper back, mid back, and core.
The chest muscles are usually far more developed than the back muscles which makes the problem even worse. If your back muscles aren’t strong enough to pull your shoulders back to offset a tight chest, the rounded/slumped appearance is really pronounced.
The positive effects of these 8 simple exercises will last longer than your time in the gym. The best thing you can do is memorize how your shoulder blades feel when they are engaged during one of these exercises. Use that feeling as a reminder during the day to sit and stand with good posture.
While many of the exercises in the challenge can be done at home, you will need some gym equipment for best results. There are very few effective bodyweight back exercises other than pull ups and chin ups. Most women new to weight training can’t do those yet, so the lat pulldown is substituted.
Cable rows are also important for developing a strong mid back. If you can’t get to a gym, try to get your hands on some therapy bands or other resistance bands. Tie them to a door handle or anchor them on the floor to recreate the pulling motion of a cable row.
To make the 30-day challenge as convenient as possible, the 2 exercises that require a cable station are done on the same day. That way you can minimize your time at the gym if you prefer to train at home and still get one of the best back workouts out there.
Improving your posture is so important for overall health, especially if you spend most of your day sitting. That’s why I want you to really succeed with this challenge! The full 4 weeks of exercises are just a click away, so let’s get started!