Whether you want to increase your speed, run longer distances, or simply stay injury-free, you need to strengthen your back muscles, says Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., CEO and owner of TS Fitness in New York City.
“Having a strong upper and lower back is essential to keeping an efficient running posture,” he says. Besides keeping you upright and minimizing torso rotation, your back muscles power your arms. “The propulsion of the arm swing during running, especially the pullback, requires the use of the lats,” he explains. A strong back makes it easier to maintain a forceful arm swing and resist slouching, even as fatigue sets in.
Plus, a fortified back is more likely to withstand all the pounding that comes with training. “Maintaining a strong lower back is important to prevent lower back injuries since there is a lot of impact with running,” Tamir says.To help you strengthen and protect your back, Tamir created this quick but challenging circuit of five bodyweight back exercises.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for the number of reps listed, resting for 20 seconds between exercises. Repeat the full circuit a total of 3 times. Each move is demonstrated by Tamir in the video above so you can master the proper form. An exercise mat is recommended.
Side Plank Reach to Row
Start on your side with your right forearm on the ground, forming a straight line from head to feet, feet stacked on top of each other. Make sure your right elbow is directly under your shoulder. From this position, reach your left arm overhead (your bicep should just graze your ear), then draw your elbow back toward your ribs in a rowing motion. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps per side.
High Plank With Scapular Retraction
Start in a high plank position, shoulders over wrists, core engaged so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels. Engage your glutes and thighs to keep your legs straight. Draw shoulder blades together and allow torso to drop slightly. Push up through the upper back to pull shoulder blades apart. That’s one rep. Complete 12 reps.
Lower Back Extension
Start facedown with your toes resting on the floor and fingers interlaced behind your head. Maintaining a neutral neck, engage your core, squeeze your glutes, and use your lower back to lift your chest off the floor. Pause, then slowly lower your chest to the floor. Complete 12 reps.
Start in a high plank position, shoulders over wrists, core engaged so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels. Engage your glutes and thighs to keep your legs straight. Pull the right hand up to the ribs, keeping the elbow close to the rib cage and hips square. Slowly lower hand back to the floor. Repeat, pulling the left hand up to the ribs. Continue alternating hands. Complete 10 reps per side.
Superman Lat Pulldown
Lie facedown on a mat, arms fully extended in front of you, palms down. Squeeze your glutes and simultaneously lift arms, legs, and chest off the floor. From this position, pull the elbows toward the hips, keeping the shoulders down and away from the ears. Extend the arms and repeat. Complete 12 reps.