A STRONG BACK and great abs go together like summer and barbecues. And you’re going to want both when you’re hitting up all those barbecues, pool parties, and other shirt-optional events. But, shoring up the large muscle groups at the center of your body isn’t just a vain, aesthetic thing: Both are key for warding off injuries and preventing the aches and pains that come from working out other muscles and everyday living. That said, you have to look beyond your mirror muscles and also strengthen the oft-neglected ones.
“To build a strong back, you have to focus not just on the upper back muscles but your lower back as well for overall strength,” says Alyssa Ages, athlete with PowerNYC Training and trainer at Global Stronman Gym, Epic Hybrid Training, and Uplift Studios. Rows (barbell and dumbbell; upright, bent, and renegade), good mornings, and back extensions—all moves incorporated into the following 10 routines—are some of the best exercises you can do for overall back strength. And when it comes to building a stronger core, just doing a million crunches isn’t going to cut it (or get you cut), says Ages. “Adding weight to your core work (weighted sit-ups, weighted planks) forces your abs and supporting muscles to work that much harder to fight against the resistance provided by the added weight,” she says.
And with 10 routines to choose from, you have zero excuses not to work on these important muscle groups: Whether you have no equipment and want to get in a quick body weight workout or have barbells, dumbbells, a TRX, and more—there’s a routine here for you. You’ll also find something for whatever time frame you have: Got 10 minutes? Try workout 4 (warning: It’s pretty intense). There’s a Tabata routine if you want to rev up your metabolism and burn more fat and calories, a CrossFit-inspired EMOM workout, a few standard circuit workouts, and more. So, clearly, there’s no excuse to get bored mentally—and your body definitely won’t get bored physically, either. If you work a few of these workouts into your days over the next few weeks, you’re guaranteed to see serious results in the form of ripped abs and back muscles in time for that first BBQ of the summer.
You need: Two small hand towels (or gliders if you have them). This one’s all about body weight.
How: Perform each exercise for 60 seconds. Go through all the exercises, then complete the entire workout one more time.
1) Mountain climbers (the towels are under your toes)
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2) Superman planks (towels under your toes, drag left knee to left elbow, then right knee to right elbow, repeat)
3) Plank knee tucks (towels under your toes, drag your knees in toward your chest without raising your butt or torso. Do not rest with your knees tucked—shoot them back out and continue in a fluid motion.)
4) Gliding Supermans (towels under your hands, lying face down, arms out in front of you. As you lift your torso up, arms glide across the floor to a “T” position.)
5) Plank reaches (towels under your hands in high plank, extend left arm forward into an extended plank, return to center, repeat with right hand)
You need: Dumbbells and weight plate
How: Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each exercise (with 60 seconds rest between sets).
1) Dumbbell row
2) Weighted situps (soles of the feet together, knees fall out to the sides in butterfly position; weight plate or dumbbell held overhead with arms straight)
3) Dumbbell reverse fly
4) Russian twist (use one dumbbell or weight plate)
5) Renegade rows
You need: Barbell
How: Perform the first set with just the barbell and add weight for the following sets. Perform 12 reps of each exercise before moving on to the next. Repeat the circuit 3 times.
1) Bentover row
2) High pull
3) Barbell rollout
4) Good mornings
You need: Pullup bar, kettlebell
How: In 10 minutes, perform as many rounds as possible of the following.
1) 5 strict pullups
2) Toes-to-bar (or knees to elbows)
3) 15 American kettlebell swing
You need: Barbell or dumbbells
How: Performed as an EMOM (every minute, on the minute) for 20 minutes. Complete all the exercises as fast as possible in one minute. Whatever time you have left in that minute is your rest time (so if you finish in 30 seconds, you have 30 seconds rest time). Begin again every minute, on the minute.
1) 5 barbell or dumbbell rows
2) 5 burpees
You need: Kettlebells, barbell
How: Perform the assigned number of reps of each exercise before moving on to the next exercises. Rest one minute between exercises and repeat the full list of exercises twice.
1) Turkish getups (10; 5 on each side)
2) T-Bar rows (12)
3) Kettlebell windmills (12; 6 on each side)
4) Inverted rows (10)
You need: Pull-up bar, dumbbells or kettle bells
How: Two rounds. In round 1, perform the A exercise, then the B, then the A again for 30 seconds each with no rest in between. Rest 60 seconds before moving on the the next set of ABA. Once you have completed all six movements as ABA, rest two minutes, then complete the entire six movements again as BAB where exercise B is now performed twice.
1) A: Burpees B: Plank hold
2) A: Windshield wipers B: Renegade rows
3) A: Knees to elbows B: pull-ups
4) A: High pull B: Weighted sit-ups
5) A: Supermans B: Plank-to-pike
6) A: Russian twist B: Reverse fly
You need: TRX
How: Performed as back-to-back Tabatas. Complete one full Tabata with #1 and then one full Tabata with #2, and so forth with one minute rest in between.
1) TRX rows
2) TRX body saws
3) TRX pushups
4) TRX mountain climbers
You need: Ab ball, pull-up bar
How: This one is all about bodyweight. Go all out for 60 seconds with each exercise, rest 30 seconds, move on to the next exercises. Complete the entire group of exercises and then rest two minutes. Run through the entire workout one more time.
3) Plank to pike on ab ball
You need: Dumbbells
How: Time yourself for one round of completing all the exercises and reps below. Rest two minutes and try to beat your time for round 2.
1) Single arm dumbbell row (8 reps each side)
2) Bicycle crunches (30 reps)
3) Dumbbell reverse fly (12 reps)
4) Incline weighted situps (20)
5) Mountain climbers (50)