Yes You Can! Build A Strong and Sexy Back

Look and feel ten years younger with a few simple resistance exercises for your back side!

Two-time Oxygen cover model Fran Dennis loves a strong back. Add these three moves to your routine, and you can build one too!

Most women picture fitness competitors as being young and single, and spending every waking hour dedicated to their workout routines and meal preparation. But Fran Dennis is a pro who puts those notions to rest. At 37, this mother of six (yes, six!) is juggling being a full-time mom and business owner with hardcore contest and photo shoot preparation, all while loving every minute of it. “We’re busy, but great. There’s never a dull moment around the Dennis house,” Fran says.

The secrets to Fran’s success are not secrets at all. In fact, it all comes down to good ol’ hard work and strict nutrition. “I train very hard and am disciplined with my diet, so I wouldn’t say that anything was easy to build. That being said, my back and shoulders do respond much faster to training than my lower body, and I do naturally have broad shoulders,” she explains. “From an esthetic standpoint, a broad, defined back will give you that much desired ‘V-taper.’ This phenomenal shape lends to the appearance of a smaller waist, which most women desire,” Fran says.

“When I train my back, I lift moderately heavy to heavy. I think that most of my progress with building size and definition in my back is because I do a lot of exercises using my body weight. Pull-ups and chin-ups are my favorite exercises. If you can’t do the full versions of these exercises yet, simply start with assisted versions,” Fran suggests. “There are definitely other exercises that hit the back on non-back-training days; for example, stiff-legged deadlifts will not only strengthen hamstrings and glutes, but will also work the spinal erectors.”  “Train your back once per week, no matter if your goal is to build muscle or burn fat,” Fran says, adding that she tries to mix up her workouts each time she is in the gym. “I am a huge fan of exercises that use my body weight as resistance. Many women have difficulty executing these moves, but with consistency, you can gradually build the strength to execute these hard-core moves,” Fran says.

Incorporate these three moves into your own routine, and you’ll look great back there in no time!


Target Muscles: posterior deltoid

Synergist Muscles: teres minor, infraspinatus, lateral deltoid

Set Up: Sit on a stability ball and lean forward. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length.

Action: Slowly raise the dumbbells out to the sides and up to shoulder height while bringing your shoulder blades together. Slowly lower the dumbbells and return them to the start position. Keep your upper body stationary throughout the movement.

Do 2 to 3 sets, 10 to 12 reps.


Target Muscles: upper trapezius

Synergist Muscles: middle traps, levator scapulae

Set Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell or EZ bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip.

Action: Slowly shrug your shoulders straight up by contracting your upper trapezius muscle. Slowly return the bar to the start position.

Do 2 to 3 sets, 10 reps.


Target Muscles: hamstrings

Synergist Muscles: gluteus maximus, erector spinae, adductor magnus

Set Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell or EZ bar at arm’s length. Stand with a slight bend in your knees.

Action: Begin the movement by pushing your hips back and slide the barbell along the front of your thighs as you lower it to shin level. Keep your back flat, and don’t let it round at any point. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings as you descend. Keep your shoulder blades back and chest out. Lower until your chest is almost parallel to the floor or just before the point at which your back starts to round. Keep your abs contracted. Contract your glutes and push your hips forward to return to the start position.

Do 2 to 3 sets, 10 to 12 reps.

Fran’s Favorite Back-Training Workout

- Four sets of eight to 10 wide-grip pull-ups (use assisted machine if necessary)

- Four sets of six to eight close-grip seated rows

- Four sets of 10 straight-arm pulldowns

- Four sets of eight to 10 rear delt flyes (machine)

- Three sets of back extensions (with 10- or 20-pound plate)

Alternative Moves For Back Training

- One-arm dumbbell rows

- Barbell rows

- Lat pulldowns (wide-grip, close-grip and reverse-grip)

- Seated cable rows (wide- and close-grip)

Courtesy of Oxygen Magazine

More Great Fitness Articles From

Push Beyond Your Ordinary Pushup

Get Stronger, Leaner And Happier With Strength Training

A Strong Back Is A Healthy Back

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan LLC

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