The 30-Day Challenge That Will Counteract All Your Sitting

Photographed by Filippo Del Vita.
Chances are, you’re reading this at a desk or on your phone. Your shoulders are hunched forward, aren’t they? Your lower back is probably also curved opposite the way nature intended, and your glutes are asleep, possibly literally (depending on how long you’ve been frozen in place) — those muscles aren’t doing anything but sitting there.

It’s not really your fault. A lot of what we do in life — from desk work to washing dishes to driving — uses more of the muscles on the front of the body, letting the back-body muscles weaken. The resulting muscular imbalances can lead to slumped posture, an out-of-whack lower back, underdeveloped glutes, and back and neck pain.

Even our workouts often neglect those posterior chain muscles. For one thing, it's all too easy to spend most of our weight-room time facing the mirror and thinking about the muscles we can see: the biceps, quads, and abs.

But beyond that, it's just not as easy to target what's going on in the back. “Most of the exercises you learn in gym class use the front-of-body pushing muscles because when you’re doing body-weight exercises, you’re using gravity as the resistance,” says Jessi Kneeland, a certified personal trainer and founder of ReModel Fitness. “It’s much easier to orient your body to push — rather than pull — against gravity.” That means in order to pull, you usually need a bar or some other equipment to pull against.

Usually. Kneeland put together this awesome challenge for a strong back using no equipment at all (fine, you’ll need a bench or a couch for one move, but at least you’re not attaching anything to your doorframe). Kneeland suggests that eventually you’ll want to graduate to exercises with a bar, TRX, or dumbbells once these moves become too easy.
Because the only load you’ll be using is your own bodyweight, you’ll want to do a decent number of reps for each exercise (typically 15 or 20), resting only if you need it — that'll help get your heart pumping on top of the back-toning benefits. And enjoy those rest days; the workouts that come after each of them will up the ante.

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Photographed by Filippo Del Vita.
Here's Your Key To Decoding The Calendar:
SLRDL = Single-Leg Russian Deadlift (do all reps on one side before switching)
Y/T/M = Bent-over Y/T/M (the whole circuit of three moves counts as one rep)
Thrusts = Hip thrusts
Smans = Supermans

Read on to learn how to do each movement.
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Photographed by Filippo Del Vita.
Single-Leg Russian Deadlift (SLRDL)
This great move focuses on the glutes and hamstrings, and challenges your balance.

Start standing on one foot, with the other leg bent and foot hovering above the floor behind you. Stick your butt out toward the back wall so you hinge at the hips; your torso should be straight from shoulders to hips, and your thighs should stay parallel. Squeeze your butt cheeks together to pop your hips forward. The most important part is to really squeeze the glute of the standing leg. Do all reps on one side before switching to the other.

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Photographed by Filippo Del Vita.
Hip Thrusts (Thrusts)
This exercise makes the booty sing with some core-strengthening thrown in for good measure.

Find a bench, sturdy coffee table, or firm couch (take the cushions off if you can). Start seated on the floor, with your back to your furniture. Extend your arms out in a T-shape along the edge of it. Keeping your knees pointed straight ahead, squeeze your butt muscles to lift your hips up so your whole torso is parallel to the ground, but don’t let your ribs pop or your lower back arch. Hold at the top with a good butt squeeze for a beat, then lower your hips back to the floor. That’s one rep.

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Photographed by Filippo Del Vita.
Bent-Over Y/T/M (Y/T/M)
Give those shoulder posture muscles a workout with this three-in-one maneuver.

Hinge at your waist, butt sticking out toward the back wall, a soft bend in your knees. Your torso will be between a 60- and 80-degree angle to the floor (depending on your flexibility). Holding this body position, straighten your arms and raise them up so they’re alongside your ears, forming a Y shape above your head. Lower them down, then raise them straight out from your sides, forming a T shape. Lower them down. Now, keeping your upper arms extended from your body, bend and point your elbows toward the ceiling, squeezing your shoulder blades so they pinch together, and your arms form an M shape. The whole circuit of three moves counts as one rep.

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Photographed by Filippo Del Vita.
Supermans (Smans)
The entire posterior chain is in on this act.

Start lying face-down on the ground on top of a mat, towel, or carpet, hands overhead. Squeeze your glutes and your shoulders to raise your legs and arms up off the ground, keeping your head neutral (gaze toward the top of your mat, don't arch your neck backward to look up). Hold everything up for a beat, then lower down.

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