Back fat is among the most frustrating exercise conundrums because, while almost all weight-bearing exercise indirectly targets the back, there are only a few strength-training options designed specifically for the back, and many require exercise equipment or machines. Because cycling is a form of cardiovascular exercise, however, it can be a powerful tool in the battle against bulging clothes.
Cardiovascular Exercise Basics
Cardiovascular exercise -- sometimes called cardio or aerobics -- is your best tool in the fight against excess fat. Unlike strength training, which builds muscle, cardio burns more calories than targeted training and can help you shed fat throughout your body. In conjunction with a healthy diet, cardio can help you burn away unsightly back fat, and is most effective when done daily or almost every day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio -- such as cycling at low speeds on flat surfaces -- or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio -- such as cycling at high speeds or on an incline -- per week, and as much as 300 minutes of moderate cardio if your goal is weight loss.
Strengthening the Back
When you cycle, you're not just getting a cardiovascular workout. You're also getting some resistance training when you pedal. The back plays an important role in almost all exercise. While it's not targeted directly in cycling, strong back muscles will help your legs move more efficiently, and regular incline cycling can help strengthen your back, resulting in muscle growth and fat loss.
Revving it Up
If you want to maximize the calorie-burning power of your cycling workout, try using interval training. Interval training can build strength and improve your metabolism, and you'll continue burning calories for several hours after an interval training session. The goal of interval training is to mix high- and low-intensity exercise. Cycle at a rapid pace for one to two minutes, then slow your pace down for a minute or two. Increase the pace again and repeat this process throughout your cycling session. You can do interval training on a bike whether you're using a stationary or traditional bike.
Other Back Exercises
If you want to directly target your back muscles to build strength, there are a few exercises that don't require expensive equipment or a gym membership. Try holding a handweight in each hand with your arms at your sides as you stand up. Then bend your elbows to raise the weights above your head and touch the weights over your head. Do five to 10 reps. To exercise the middle of your back as well as your arms and shoulders, bend over so your body forms a 90-degree angle. Stabilize yourself using a chair or stool if necessary. Then hold a weight in your right hand with your arm extended toward the floor and bend your elbows, lifting the weight up. With your elbow still bent, make a circle with the weight. Then repeat on the left side for five to 10 reps on each side.
- Health: Back Fat Be Gone
- NBCNews.com: Battle of the Bulge: How to Blast Back Fat
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Harvard Health Publications: The Secret to Better Health -- Exercise
- High Intensity Interval Training Explained; James Driver
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.