Fitness

The Back and Biceps Workout to Help You Stand Up Straight

Hey, people who sit a lot (so, um, probably everyone): This back and biceps workout might be just what you need to help improve your posture so you can stand up straighter.

When you spend a ton of time sitting—especially if you’re hunched over a screen—your head, neck, and shoulders tend to pull forward, leading to that rounded posture, as SELF reported. That improper posture can cause uncomfortable tightness.

One way to help fight this tendency to slump is by devoting time to working the muscles in your posterior chain, or the back of your body, ACE-certified personal trainer, Sivan Fagan, owner of Strong with Sivan in Baltimore, tells SELF. These include your rhomboids (an upper back muscle that connects your shoulder blades to your rib cage), mid- to lower-trapezius (the muscles across the back of your neck and upper back), and your rear deltoids (the back of your shoulders).

“The muscles associated with good posture are the ones that retract the shoulder blades, depress the shoulder blades, and put the shoulder blades in a good position in order to help keep you upright,” she says.

Working these muscles, as well as other muscles in the back of your body, like your latissimus dorsi (the large, triangular muscles that span the width of your lower back), help counteract that forward slouch and work to build more balanced, total body-strength. Many people tend to neglect the muscles in their backs in favor of movements that work front-of-the-body muscles, like presses, front raises, and lateral raises, says Fagan.

That’s why many trainers recommend you work your back muscles in a 2:1 ratio to your pushing muscles, says Fagan—that means for every one set of push-ups you do, for instance, you should do two sets of an exercise that targets your posterior chain.

This workout is a great way to really home in on those back-of-the body muscles, while giving your arms some extra TLC, too. Although your biceps are firing in any pulling movement, adding in some isolated biceps work—which this back and biceps workout incorporates as a finisher—can help you gain serious strength in your arms.

The best part? This workout will give you a complete back-of-the-body burn in just over 20 minutes.

The Workout

What you need: A pair of moderate and light dumbbells, as well as a looped resistance band. You may want to use an exercise mat for comfort, too.

The Exercises

Superset 1

Superset 2

Finisher

  • Cross-body bicep curl

Directions

  • For Superset 1, complete 8 reps on each side of the row and then, without resting, perform 12-15 reps of the shoulder external rotation. Rest for 1-2 minutes. Complete 3 rounds total.

  • For Superset 2, complete 10 reps of the pullover and then, without resting, perform 12 reps on each side of the rear delt raise. Raise for 1-2 minutes. Complete 3 rounds total.

  • For the finisher, complete 12-15 reps of the bicep curl on each side. Rest for 30-60 seconds. Complete 3 sets total.

Demoing the moves below are Nathalie Huerta (GIFs 1 and 3), coach at The Queer Gym in Oakland, California; Hejira Nitoto (GIF 2), a mom of six and a certified personal trainer and fitness apparel line owner based in Los Angeles; and Erica Gibbons (GIFs 4 and 5), a California-based personal trainer and graduate student becoming licensed as a marriage and family therapist.

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