Genetics, diet, and lifestyle factors all play a role in where your body stores fat. And most of your everyday movements like walking and carrying groceries work the front of your arms and your chest. This may make it difficult to know how to tone and target back fat.
The idea of “spot-treating” areas of fat on your body with certain exercises is a myth. You’ll need to lose overall fat to lose back fat.
A combination of a healthy diet, a caloric deficit, and a workout routine that intentionally focuses on your lower and upper back can work together to make your back more fit and strong.
To get rid of fat deposits on your back, you’ll need to start by creating a caloric deficit. That means that you’ll need to burn more calories during the day than you consume.
In addition to cutting calories, you’ll get rid of back fat more quickly if you focus your exercise routine to target the muscles in your upper and lower back.
Adding high-intensity interval exercise (HIIT) to your routine, along with working out these specific muscles, will start to give you the results that you’re looking for.
A caloric deficit doesn’t have to be dramatic to have an effect on your weight. It takes 3,500 calories to equal a pound, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you reduce your caloric intake by 300 to 500 calories per day, you’ll start to lose a pound or two every week. It may take a week or two for your body to respond to cutting calories.
The easiest way to create a caloric deficit is to cut back on foods that are high in calories but low in nutritional value. Cutting out sugary drinks, processed and bleached grains, and foods with a lot of artificial preservatives can be a simple place to start.
Another way to create a caloric deficit is to beef up your exercise routine. Burning 300 to 500 calories at the gym, in addition to cutting 300 to 500 calories per day from your diet, will double your weight loss results.
Eating a diet that’s rich in fiber and low in sodium can help you trim excess fat and “water weight” that your body might be storing in your back area. Some of the most weight-loss friendly foods include:
These exercises target the muscles in your lower back muscles, including your obliques and extensors. The exercises can be done at home or at the gym, with minimal exercise equipment necessary.
Reverse hip raise with exercise ball
This low-impact exercise is easy on your hips and a simple way to start toning your back.
- Start by lying with your belly on the exercise ball, your eyes looking at the ground. Your palms should be flat on the floor and your legs can be bent at the knee.
- Squeeze your glute muscles together and balance on the ball as you press your legs together and up. The ball should remain stable during this movement.
- Hold this pose for several seconds, then lower your legs. Repeat several times, increasing the length of time you hold the hip raise if you’re able to.
This exercise targets your obliques, which are on your abdomen, but also impacts your “love handles” and lower back area.
- Lie on your right side with your legs stacked over each other.
- Put your left hand behind your head. Your right hand can rest wherever you feel comfortable.
- Squeeze your obliques as you draw your left leg up toward your left arm, which should remain stable on your head. You’ll be bringing the bent left arm toward your left knee.
- Repeat several times before switching to the opposite side.
This exercise named for a superhero works your lower back as well as your glutes.
- Lie on your stomach, on a yoga mat if you have one.
- Stretch your body out so that your legs and arms are lengthened.
- Lift your hands and feet off the ground at the same time. Both your arms and legs should be about 6 inches off the ground.
- If you can, lift your bellybutton off the floor and hold the position for several seconds. With control, lower your legs and arms back down before repeating the exercise.
Lateral raises with dumbbells
This easy weight exercise works the muscles right under your neck. And working out with weights can help boost your metabolism all day long.
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, facing forward. You can also modify this movement by doing it from a sitting position. You don’t have to use a lot of weight, either — doing lots of reps with lighter weights might be better for toning your back.
- Slowly raise the weights with your arms spread straight out, until your arms are parallel with the floor. Don’t squeeze your shoulders or “shrug” while you do this.
- With control, return your arms to your body. Take a breath, and repeat 10 to 12 times for one set.
A seated cable row will work your back muscles, especially your latissimus dorsi. You can also mimic the motion of a row machine by simply sitting on a bench and using light dumbbells or a resistance band.
- Start by sitting with your back straight and your hands on either side gripping the resistance band, dumbbells, or row machine handle.
- Draw your arms in, bending your elbows and pulling with your full weight as you lean back.
- Return to the starting position and repeat. Instead of repetitions, try to repeat this exercise quickly for several minutes to get your heart rate up.
The speedbag helps you tone your arms and upper body. While it’s best to use a bag that’s mounted to a wall or ceiling, you don’t even need a bag at all to perform this exercise.
- Stand with your shoulders held high, in a fighting stance. That means your feet are hip-width apart, with one leg slightly in front of the other, and your hands are in fists, close to your jaw.
- Set a timer for anywhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- Aim at your bag (or imagine one!). With your knuckles facing outward, aim to hit the bag as many times as you can in your chosen time frame, rotating your arms as you do so.
- When the timer goes off, that’s one “set.” Do up to three sets.
Lifestyle changes can make your weight loss efforts more efficient. Here are some changes to consider making in your routine:
- Start by walking more. Simply walking to drop off your child to school or to get your coffee instead of driving to the coffee shop burns calories.
- If you smoke, consider quitting. This can be difficult, but a doctor can help you create a smoking cessation plan that works for you.
- Practice your posture. Not only will this minimize the appearance of back fat, but it will also help strengthen your back and give you a little bit of a workout right where you’re sitting.
A lack of cardio exercise or a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to back fat. A diet that’s high in sodium or sugar can also contribute to inflammation in your body, making back fat and “bloat” appear to be significant.
Poor posture and clothing that doesn’t fit well can contribute to making your back “bulge” or appear lumpy.
However, it’s important to note that most of the time, genetics are the main factor at play in where the excess weight goes on your body. That means that back fat can fluctuate according to the phase of life you’re in, your total body weight, your height, and your activity level.
It’s a myth that you can target just one area of your body to lose weight. But by doing exercises that focus on your back, along with eating a healthy diet and cutting calories, you can tone up that portion of your body.
Consistency is the key here. It’s also helpful to have a support system. Buddy up at the gym or on a weight-loss app to give yourself a better chance of success.
Remember that every person’s body has limitations, and you don’t have to see them as flaws. Have patience with the body you have while you work toward your health goals.