4 Moves for a Sculpted Back from Brrrn Trainer Coco Minot

“In order to have a strong core, you must also have a strong and healthy back.”  

Coco Minot
Photo: Courtesy/InStyle

For people who were never really fans of being shoulder-to-shoulder in a packed, sweaty hot yoga class, Brrrn burst on the scene as the first cool-temperature cardio, strength-training, and bootcamp studio. They pivoted in 2020, as many fitness brands did, to offer Brrrn At-Home workouts featuring their signature sliding board, meant to feel like your own mini ice rink and to support you in anything from planks to skaters or mountain climbers.

The Brrn workout won't just strengthen your legs though — it's all about a solid core and upper body too. Your back is what keeps your whole upper body and core upright, so you can't forget about it when you're working different muscle groups. "We use our back muscles for just about everything...and in order to have a strong core, you must also have a strong and healthy back," says Coco Minot, American Academy of Personal Training-certified personal trainer and one of the founding trainers at Brrrn.

Plus, strengthening your back can help your posture — a win for all of us who have been sitting on our couches while working for the past year and a half — and even prevent injury, she adds. "Rhomboids are important for upper body stability and movement, as well as being vital for good posture and a healthy neck," Minot says. "For example, when doing the exercises below, you're strengthening your rhomboids by being in planks and variations of planks," she adds. This will give you a full-body burn while working your core, back, and even your legs. Just remember to keep your spine super straight and not to round your shoulders in a plank or plank variation so you can work those rhomboids even more while also ensuring that you avoid any injuries.

How it works: Perform each move for 30 seconds, and then rest for 15 seconds before moving onto the next exercise. To scale the intensity up, spend 45 to 60 seconds on each exercise. Overall, for a solid 10-minute workout, you'll want to go through two full sets of the four moves, progressing to three sets when you're ready.

You will need: A Brrrn Board or sliders (wearing socks on a hard-surfaced floor will work too), and small dumbbells (2.5-7.5 lbs) for an added challenge.

1. Pike

Pikes target primarily the upper and lower back, abdominal muscles, as well as the hips.

A. Begin in an elbow plank with your forearms out in front of you (in front of the bumper of the Brrrn board if you have one) and your feet together. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders and your palms facing down. Keep your core engaged! Slide your feet inward toward your elbows as you raise your hips up towards the ceiling, and make sure your legs stay as straight as possible (but keep knees slightly bent if you need to, of course).
B. Lower your hips down to return to the starting plank position. Keep your back straight and your spine neutral throughout the movement.

Repeat for a total of 30 seconds (progressing to 45 and 60 seconds later on if you want an additional challenge), and aim for a 2:2 tempo: two seconds of controlled piking up, and two seconds of controlled lowering down. Exhale as you pike up, and inhale on the way down.

2. Single-Leg Mountain Climbers

This exercise primarily targets the abdominals (especially obliques!), upper and lower back, shoulders, and quadriceps.

A. Start in a high-plank position with your hands out in front of you, and your wrists directly underneath your shoulders. Press back through your heels and engage your core, forming a straight line from shoulders to heels. With your core engaged, drive your right knee in towards your right elbow. Slide your right foot across your body, bringing your right knee to your left elbow, and then back to your right elbow.
B. Slide your right foot back to starting plank position.
C. Repeat on the left side, sliding your left knee from your left elbow, over to the right elbow, back to the left elbow, and returning to high plank.

Repeat for 30 seconds (45 or 60 seconds if you want to challenge yourself), alternating sides and aiming to touch your knee to the back of your elbows.

3. Twisted Lunge Knee Tuck

This exercise really works the full body. Mainly, it works the upper back (lats, rhomboids, rear deltoids), abdominals, quadriceps, glutes, shoulders, and lower back.

A. Stand with bent knees with your arms by your side and a weight in your right hand. Place your right foot on the ground and the ball of your left foot on the Brrrn board behind you or on the floor, if you don't have a board. Make sure your hips stay square forward! First bring your hands toward the ground, framing your right foot, and extend your left leg behind you, in a low lunge position.
B. Row your hand in, and continue to extend your arm up towards the ceiling, rotating your upper body towards the right. The weight in your hand should be directly over your shoulder. If you can, look up at the weight in your right hand.
C. Keeping your right arm extended and chest opened up toward the right, slide your left foot inward, and then back out to lengthen. Your right knee should be over your right pinky toe! Repeat, keeping your right arm up towards the ceiling, and slide your left foot in and out.
D. Use your core to keep your upper body lifted. Complete one side, and then repeat on the other side, with the left arm lifted.

Repeat for 30 seconds with the right arm lifted, sliding the left leg, and then repeat for another 30 seconds on the other side, with the left arm lifted and sliding the right leg. You can choose to do this move without dumbbells, using just bodyweight.

4. Twisted Row To Lunge

The muscles used in this exercise are similar to the above, but because this progression adds in the row and rotation with every rep, there is more of a focus on the upper back, lower back, and abdominals.

A. Begin in the same position as the twisted lunge knee tuck, standing with bent knees. Then move into a low lunge with your hips square in front of you and your hands framing your right foot, with your left leg extended behind you.
B. Engage your core and row your right hand in, and then extend your right arm up towards the ceiling while rotating your upper body towards the right. The dumbbell in your right hand should be directly over your shoulder. If you can, look up at the weight in your right hand.
C. Keeping your right arm extended and chest opened up to the right, slide your left foot in towards the bumper of the board, or just on the floor, and then back out to lengthen. Make sure your right knee is tracking over your right pinky toe.
D. Reverse the row with your right arm by bringing the weight down to your shoulder, then back down to the floor outside your right foot. Now, you should be back in the starting position: a low lunge with hands framing your right foot.
E. After doing the right side, repeat on the left, with the left foot in front in the low lunge, and left arm rowing.

Complete 30 seconds (or 45 or 60 seconds, for a challenge) of rows and slides on the right side, before switching to the left. If you don't have dumbbells or don't want to use weights, you can do this exercise with just bodyweight.

HomeBODIES is our recurring column bringing you beginner-friendly workouts you can do from the comfort of home.

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