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Are you ready for an amazing back and abs workout? I bet you are going to love this one! A few weeks ago, I posted a video about how to gain muscle on a vegan diet, including tips on what I eat and my general workout schedule.  Many of you asked me about specific workouts, so I decided to record a great back and abs workout for you. Please keep in mind, as I mentioned in the blog post, that I always change up my routine and exercises, in every single workout. This not only prevents me from getting bored in the gym, it also helps with muscle growth (because you target the muscle differently every time), as well as injury prevention. If you continue to work the same muscles in the same way, it can definitely lead to injury. So use this awesome workout for a day, and then again in a few weeks or so. One of my favorite parts of this back and abs workout is that working out like this has really helped me build my strength up to a pull-up! I was practicing pull-ups for so long (assisted), and was not hitting a full pull-up on my own! Until I started incorporating all these amazing tricks and exercises you are about to learn. So let’s go!!!

Back and Abs Workout Breakdown

This back and abs workout has 5 parts, as do many of my workouts: active stretch, back workout, abs workout circuit, cardio, and light stretching. I will describe the first 4 down below. For the light stretching, I usually do 5-10 minutes or stretching on the mat with my bodyweight and yoga-inspired poses, or with a foam roller.

Back and Abs Workout: Active Stretch


Hold a weight in your hands, and stand on a platform. Slowly bend down from your hips, head first, vertebrae by vertebrae. Come up very slowly, head last. Repeat 5-10 times, and try to go deeper into it each time.

Arm Circles:

Circle your arms forward 10 times, and backwards 10 times to warm up your shoulders.

Shoulder Stretch:

This is an active stretch, so move slightly back and forth as you press your hand against a wall about 10 times.

Seated Row Stretch:

Use a very low weight that is easy for you, and row 20 times to warm up the back.

Back Workout

These 5 back exercises are a great way to strengthen your back and build up to a pull-up. Take a 1-minute rest between sets within a given exercise, and rest 1-2 minutes between exercises. I usually love to do supersets inside my workouts, but this workout includes only separate, individual exercises. Enjoy!


Perform as many pull-ups as you can. The goal is 10 reps, for 4 sets. If you cannot do any pull-ups yet, no problem! You can use the assisted pull up machine to place a weight under you that will support you. Start with the lowest weight you possibly can. Note that the lower the weight you use to assist you, the harder this will be.

Wide Pull-Ups:

Within the last set (4th set) of 10 reps, I like to switch to a very wide grip – this is harder for me, and works the back even more. I add the weight under me to help me do this.

Seated Row Complex:

Use the same machine as you did for the stretch routine. Row with one arm, then the other, then both. All of those 3 are one rep, and you are going to do 3-4 sets of 8 reps.

Incline Pull-Up:

This is a tough one, so if you cannot start laying flat on the ground and pulling all the way up, touching your chest to the bar, then bring your feet in closer and it will be easier. Squeeze your back the whole way, and really focus your attention on it as you pull your body up. Perform 10 reps for 3 sets. This really helps with working up to a pull-up!

Rows Dropset:

I apologize in advance – this is going to hurt. When you perform rows, make sure you do not twist your hips, and bring the weight up to your mid-back or hip area. Really focus your mind on the back muscles when you do this, so you feel the exercise. This is a drop set that goes like this (the weight I used is in parentheses for example – of course you can use lower or higher weight):

  • 5 reps – heaviest weight (45 pounds) – no rest,
  • 8 reps – drop 5 pounds (40 pounds) – no rest,
  • 10 reps – drop 5 pounds (35 pounds) – no rest,
  • 12 reps – drop 5 pounds (30 pounds) – rest 1-2 minutes and start agian.

Repeat all of this 2-3 times, resting 2 minutes between each. Do not rest between the dropsets.

Back Extension:

Hold a weight (start low if you have never done this before), and focus on your lower back to pull you up. Make sure you are not using your glutes and hamstrings for this, because it can easily become a glute/hamstring exercise if you do. Focus your mind on the lower back. Perform 3-4 sets of 10 reps.

Ab Workout

This is an awesome ab circuit that includes 5 exercises, which you will perform 3 times in a circuit. This means you will do all of these 5 exercises without rest, take 1-2 minutes rest, then repeat two more times.

Leg Raises:

These are tough! Hold onto a pull-up machine’s handlebars, and try to bring your legs straight to the bar. If it’s too tough, you can do the variation my mom did! Perform 8-10 reps.

Incline Bench Leg Pull Ins:

Bring your legs in and out. If you’re having trouble pressing your lower back into the bench, do this on the mat. Try to keep your legs as low as possible when you stretch them out, making sure you press your lower back to the bench to activate your abs. Repeat 10 times.

Incline Bench Leg Pull Ins with Glute Raise:

This is the same as the previous exercise, only you’re going to lift your bum off the bench when you pull your feet in. Again, do this on the mat if it’s too difficult for you. Repeat 10 times.

Incline Bench Weighted Crunch:

The variation my mom is doing with holding the ball in your hands is much easier than having a weight behind your head. Choose the one that feels best to you. This is a very difficult exercise when you place the weight behind your head, like I am doing. I am only able to do 5 pounds! Repeat 10 times.

Lower Abs Plank Complex:

Get into a plank position, making sure your abs are activated first (this involves bringing your bum a bit lower than I did, but not crashing in your lower back). Tap the ground with your knees slightly, but do not place your knees on the ground all the way – you should feel this in your lower abs. Then, bring your opposite foot to your opposite arm on each side – without rocking in your hips too much. This whole thing is 1 rep. Repeat 10 times.

V Ups with Split Legs:

Lay Flat on the mat, and bring your legs and arms up at the same time, with your arms reaching between your legs. If this is too hard, keep your legs bent. The more straight they are, the harder this is! Repeat 10 times. And then, rest 1-2 minutes, and repeat the whole circuit 2 more times.

Back and Abs Workout: Cardio

I know, I get it. No one wants to do cardio after you lift all these weights. Believe me, I am with you. But we gotta. I am not a big cardio fan, but I like to do just 10 minutes of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) to get an amazing sweat in. It’s so important for your heart health. There is absolutely no need to stay on that treadmill for more than 10-20 minutes, especially when you do HIIT workouts! Good news though – it’s only 10 minutes! Here is what I did for these 10-minute treadmill sprints: 0-1min 6.5 speed 1-2min 9.1 speed 2-3min 6.5 speed 3-4min 9.3 speed 4-5min 6.5 speed 5-6min 9.5 speed 6-7min 6.5 speed 7-8min 9.7 speed 8-9min 6.5 speed 9-10min 10.1 speed 10-11min jog/walk to rest

PHEW!!! I am wiped. How about you? Did you like this workout? Do you want me to do more like it? Let me know in the comments! Love you!

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Soul in the Raw is a high-raw vegan recipe + education blog. Marina creates quick, easy, and delicious high-raw vegan recipes and blogs about the health benefits of a high-raw plant-based diet. You can get more of Marina’s awesome recipes, tips, and lifestyle techniques on the free Facebook group: Raw Souls .
Reduce Mealtime Stress: Planning Delicious, Easy, Healthy Vegan Meals | Soul in the Raw

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