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Working Your Back and Shoulders: 5 Toning Tricks

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During bathing suit season, both men and women long for toned shoulders and a sleek back. Yet many people forget to work these muscles when they hit the gym. Standard strength training exercises such as bicep curls, push ups, squats, sit ups and tricep extensions all miss the back and shoulders. Not only does a toned back and shoulders look excellent, but these exercises also improve your posture, prevent injury and increase flexibility.

Trick #1: Bent Over Row

This exercise focuses on the middle of the back. Hold a dumbbell between 5 to 10 lbs in each hand. Stand with feet touching and a slight bend in your knees. Bend forward so that you have a neutral spine or flat back. Your arms should be hanging by your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades back as you bend your elbows and pull your upper arms up to your sides. The motion should mimic rowing. Slowly return the weights to the starting position. Complete 10 to 20 repetitions for one set. Aim to complete two to three sets.

Trick #2: Flys

This trick focuses on the back of the shoulders and the upper back. To start this exercise, set up an aerobic step with three risers on each side. Sit on the step with feet in front of you, knees bent. Relax your arms straight down toward the floor, each hand holding a 5 to 8 lb dumbbell. Bend over toward your knees to create a neutral spine. Make sure your head and neck are in a straight line with your spine. Raise your arms up and out to your sides as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. You will create the letter T with your arms. Complete 15 repetitions for one set. Aim to complete two to three sets.

Trick #3: Push Press

The push press works your deltoids, which help strengthen and tone your shoulders. For this trick, sit on the edge of a workout bench with your core engaged and your back straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with elbows bent and arms at shoulder height. Your hands should be supported on top of your shoulders with palms facing the ceiling. Extend arms overhead until straight. Your palms should now be facing forward. Slowly return to the starting position. Complete three sets with 8 to 10 repetitions per set.

Trick #4: Shoulder Shrugs

This trick helps work both your shoulders and your upper back. Stand with feet hip width apart with your arms at your sides and knees slightly bent. With palms facing in, hold a 5 lb dumbbell in each hand. Engage your core while you shrug your shoulders toward your ears. Hold for three seconds and remember to keep your elbows straight during this exercise. Repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions for one set. Aim to complete two to three sets.

Trick #5: Ball Pull

This exercise targets your upper back. Kneel on the floor with a stability ball in front of you. With arms shoulder width apart, place your forearms on the ball. Roll the ball away from your body as you drop your chest and pelvis toward the floor until fully extended. Hold for three counts. Roll back to the starting position. Repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions for one set. Aim to complete two to three sets.

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