Strength Exercises for a Healthy Back: Fit Check

These eight exercises will keep your muscles strong and help prevent back pain.

A few months ago, we offered you three beginner exercises to help increase your back strength. This week, Sports Club/LA personal trainer and a Washingtonian Top Personal Trainer Abdul-Karim Al-Jabbar provides more advanced exercises to strengthen your back muscles and help you maintain better posture.

Having a healthy back is more important than you might think. Each year, Americans spend at least $50 billion on lower back pain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It’s also one of the most common neurological ailments in the US—second only to the headache.

These eight exercises should be performed in supersets: Do the first two exercises one right after the other with no rest in between. Rest for 30 seconds. Then do exercises three and four together, and so on. Do the whole workout two or three times.

Watch this video provided by Al-Jabbar to see how to perform each exercise.

Exercise One: Cable Seated Row
Reps: Eight to 12

This move requires a weight machine outfitted with cables.

Sit facing the machine. Grasp the cable handle with both hands and pull it toward your chest at shoulder height. Your shoulder blades should pinch together. Release, returning to the original position, and repeat.

Exercise Two: Cable Squat Row
Reps: 20

This move requires a weight machine outfitted with cables.

Attach a rope handle to a low pulley cable. Face the weight stack (if you’re a novice, start with a low weight). Stand up tall and lean back slightly. Hold the handle with both hands, then squat as if you are sitting on a chair. Keep your spine straight. As you stand, pull your elbows behind you until your wrists are in line with your ribs, pinching your shoulder blades. Release and repeat in a smooth, fluid motion.

• • •

Exercise Three: Prone Dumbbell Row
Reps: Eight to 12

This move requires two dumbbells.

Lie facedown on an incline bench at a 30- to 45-degree angle. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms hanging down. Bring the dumbbells toward your ribs, bending your elbows and pinching your shoulder blades. Lower your arms and repeat.

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Exercise Four: Single-Arm Plank Dumbbell, Reverse Fly
Reps: Ten each arm

This move requires one dumbbell.

Get in a push-up position with your feet positioned slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold one dumbbell in your right hand. Use your left hand as support under your chest so your hands and feet are shaped like a triangle. Slightly bend your right arm and raise the dumbbell shoulder height to your side. Lower to starting position and repeat ten times. Switch arms and repeat.

• • •

Exercise Five: Assisted Pull-Up or Regular Pull-Up
Reps: Eight to 12

This move requires an assisted pull-up machine or a pull-up bar.

Using either the assisted machine or the regular bar, perform a pull-up. When doing a pull-up, be sure that your chest is open and that you raise it, not your head, to the bar. If you’re using an assisted pull-up machine, pick a weight that you can manage for two to three sets of eight reps.

Exercise Six: Cable Single-Arm Row Twist
Reps: Ten each arm

This move requires a weight machine outfitted with cables.

Stand in a slight lunge with your left foot in front of your right. Grasp the cable in your right hand. Pull the cable toward your body and twist your torso to the right. Return to starting position and repeat. After ten reps, switch arms and legs and repeat.

• • •

Exercise Seven: Straight-Arm Pull Down
Reps: Eight to 12

This move requires a weight machine outfitted with cables with a straight bar attached.

Grasp the bar with hands shoulder-width apart. Slightly bend your elbows and maintain an upright posture. Bring the bar down to your thighs. Release to shoulder height, then repeat.

Exercise Eight: Single-Leg Dumbbell Reverse Fly
Reps: Ten each leg

This move requires two dumbbells.

Stand on your right leg. Bend over as low as you can while keeping your back flat. With your palms facing each other, grasp a dumbbell in each hand. Pull the dumbbells away from each other as you lift your arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the ground. Return to starting position and repeat. After ten reps, switch legs and repeat.

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