Girl Smarts What's the best way to tone your back: renegade row or superman?

The renegade row and the superman are two of my favorite moves, says New York-based trainer Chris Ryan, CSCS. "But when it comes to strengthening your back overall, the superman reigns supreme

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Best upper back exercise renegade row vs superman play

Best upper back exercise renegade row vs superman

(Image by Alyssa Zolna/Christine Frapech)
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Ready to build your backside? Ehem, eyes up here—we’re talking about the upper half. Your back is made up of a dozen or so different muscles and strengthening each one is crucial to help you stand taller, reach higher, pull harder, and, certainly not least, protect and support your spine from injury.

The renegade row and the superman are two of my favorite moves, says New York-based trainer Chris Ryan, CSCS. "But when it comes to strengthening your back overall, the superman reigns supreme.”

The superman not only keeps the whole back under tension at the same time, working all the muscles at once, but it also includes strengthening and lengthening elements that are important for posture and proper spinal alignment, Ryan explains. (Maximize the latter by keeping everything extended and activated all the way from your fingers to your toes, he adds.) And the move isn’t just grueling for your back—the superman is also wonderfully tortuous on your butt and shoulders, says Ryan. (Get toned arms, lean legs and sexy abs with Women's Health Beginner's Guide to Strength Training!)

READ ALSO: Should you do abs exercises every day if you want to see results?

But don’t toss the renegade row aside just yet. Since you’re holding plank for the entire move, this one is a great overall core strengthener—and it will light your obliques, lats, chest, and shoulders on fire as you row back, Ryan points out. Just be sure to keep your hips and shoulder square to the floor throughout the entire movement. “One common mistake with renegade rows is letting go of core engagement on the row portion. Any bending at the hips or shoulder rotation takes away from strengthening your core and back,” he says.


(Image by Alyssa Zolna/Christine Frapech)

Want to try these moves out for yourself? Check out the walk-throughs of each move below.

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How to: Lying on your stomach, extend your arms in front of you and legs behind you. Keep the insides of your feet touching and turn your palms down. Lift your legs and arms, hold, and release. That's one rep.

Renegade Row

How to: Assume a pushup position with your hands on the weights, arms extended, and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bend your right arm and raise the dumbbell to chest level, keeping your hips and shoulders level. Lower the weight to the floor, then repeat the move by rowing the left dumbbell. That's one rep.

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