The back muscles have different roles, so you will miss certain parts if you only do one or two exercises. The following exercises are the best for pulling and working the upper back.
1. One-armed push-up variation (both sides)
Doing a one-armed push-up is a way to show off and is a difficult move to start with.
- Start on your knees, with hands placed on the mat directly in line with your shoulders. Raise and cross your feet, keeping your knees on the mat.
- Lift one hand and put it behind your back. Your other hand should still be planted on the mat, with your arm slightly bent.
- Lower yourself steadily, bringing your face to almost touching the mat. Then push back up.
- Try to be explosive as you reach the top of the movement.
- Do 5–10 reps with each arm.
This is the easier version of the text. In this version, your knees will be closer to your wrists.
The motions are the same but start in a full push-up position with toes on the floor and legs straight. Your legs should be wider than the mat for support and your arm should be in the center of the mat.
Because you can’t beat the classics. The only two options available are a standard push-up from a high plank position or an easier one from your knees.
3. Kneeling archer push-up
The kneeling archer is a good way to get buff.
- Get into a kneeling push-up position, with hands on either side of the mat.
- Lean into your left arm, pushing down into the mat and keeping your right arm straight. Be sure to look along your right arm for stability.
- Push back into a kneeling push-up position, then lean into the right arm, looking along the left arm. Leaning into both sides counts as 1 rep.
4. Diamond press-up
This push-up is more challenging than the average one, but isn’t that the point? This variation of the push-up will target your mid-chest and triceps more than the standard push-up.
- Form a diamond shape with your thumbs and fingers on the mat.
- Get into a kneeling push-up position.
- Lower yourself down toward the diamond shape of your hands.
- Push back up.
This version is a bit easier because your knees are closer to your wrists, which gives you more stability.
The full push-up position with your toes on the floor and your legs straight is the starting point for the harder version of this exercise. Your feet should be lined up with your body.
5. Hindu push-up
This exercise gets the top of your chest ready – and looks similar to a yoga pose.
- Start with toes planted on the floor, hands planted body-width apart, and your butt as high in the air as it will go, forming an upside-down V shape with your body. (Yogis, think Down Dog.)
- Bend your elbows to lower yourself, dipping your nose in front of your thumbs.
- Move the head forward, keeping it low to the mat and staying parallel, while lowering the hips to the mat.
- Move head back up, keeping hips close to the mat. Make sure the movement is fluid and smooth.
- Return to the starting position — carefully.
A less difficult way to do this exercise is to start on your knees instead of your toes.
6. Seated cable row
Targeting the lats usually involves a vertical pulling motion, like pull-ups or pulldowns. Although it may not seem like it, a well-done seated cable row is one of the best exercises to work the lats while minimizing involvement from other back muscles. Plus, you can eventually use a ton of weight.
Use a low pulley station with a neutral (thumbs-up) grip. The grip that is neither pronated nor supinated, along with keeping your elbows close to your body, targets the latissimus dorsi and improves muscle recruitment. The dumbbell row is a less strenuous exercise than the barbell row, as it targets fewer muscle groups. This allows you to focus more intensely on the muscles you are working.
How to Do the Seated Cable Row
Sit at the pulley station and grab the handle with a thumbs-up grip. To do this exercise, push your legs into the support platform while keeping your spine in a straight line. Your starting position should be with your knees slightly bent and your chest out. This will help to engage your upper back muscles for stability.
Imagine that your hands are just meaty hooks, and pull hard on your elbows without curving your spine. For the best results, the handle should be close to your abs in the most contracted position, and your elbows should be slightly behind your body.
Slowly lower the weight and allow your back to stretch as far as it can. Let your shoulder blades come forward. One way to work the lats, trapezius, and rhomboids is to do an extreme stretch. When lifting and lowering the weight, make sure to keep your lower back straight and not to use momentum by swinging your upper body to cheat the lift.
7. Meadows row
The exercise is called John Meadows after the bodybuilding coach who made it popular. It uses a barbell landmine rather than a dumbbell, focusing on the upper back muscles — the lower traps, rhomboids, and even the rear delts. However, don’t be concerned, it still functions the lats just as well.
The landmine enables you to stretch the recruited muscles at a unique angle, which builds muscle mass.
How to Do the Meadows Row
Stand on one side of a landmine station in a staggered stance with your weight on your back leg and your knees bent. Use your left leg as a support for the left arm and your right leg as a support for the right arm. Bend at the waist, keeping your spine flat. Use lifting straps to grab the barbell with a pronated (palm-down) grip. The sleeve’s smooth, thick design prevents grip strength from becoming a limiting factor.
Lift the weight by driving hard with your elbow. To target the upper back more, keep your elbow flared out rather than keeping it close to your ribs. Keep your torso flat, not rotated. To maximize the range of motion, use smaller 25-pound or 10-pound plates instead of 45-pound plates.
8. Inverted row
This simple bodyweight exercise being “underestimated” is an understatement. Hardcore gym-goers who have experienced lifting weights tend to avoid bodyweight exercises, but the inverted row is still a great exercise for them.
This move not only works the whole upper back and arms but also gives your lower back a rest. It’s a no-fuss workout routine that can be tailored to your fitness level and goals. Too hard? Set the bar higher or bend your knees. Too easy? Weighted vests and elevated feet can help improve your workout.
How to Do the Inverted Row
Secure it by holding on with both hands. Position a barbell around waist height and hold it with both hands to secure it. The higher the bar is, the easier the exercise will be, because you’ll be lifting less body weight. Place yourself beneath the barbell and grip it with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width grip, either palm-down or palm-up. Pull your shoulder blades together and lift your chest until it touches the bar.
Lower yourself with control. To get the most benefits, make sure your body is as tight as it can be. You should keep your body straight and contract your glutes and abs throughout each repetition. Be sure to keep your shoulder blades from moving around while you are stretching. Let’s stay tight and work on core stability.
9. Chest-supported row
This exercise won’t harm your lower back as it is very gentle.
If you don’t have any back problems, the chest-supported row is still a valuable exercise. The belt prevents people from cheating and also avoids any strain on the lower back muscles, which leaves them fresh for other exercises such as squats and deadlifts. The stress of the exercise is unlikely to be placed on the wrong muscles.
How to Do the Chest-Supported Row
There are some gyms that have a machine that is made specifically for this type of exercise. If you do not want to use a flat bench, you can use an incline bench set at 45 degrees. Use a bench to support your chest and head while lying down.
Stand up straight with your feet together and your stomach pulled in. The lift doesn’t require you to move your body much, except for your arms and shoulders. Pick up a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and start rowing. Make sure your elbows are pointing up. Start by squeezing the weight as hard and high as you can, then slowly lower it to a full stretch.
When trying to emphasize the lats, it is best to use a neutral grip with the palms facing each other. Additionally, keeping the elbows close to the body will further help in the process. To involve your upper back more, take a pronated grip (palms down) and let your elbows go to the sides.
10. Face pulls
Being unaware of what can obstruct your progress can hinder your ability to achieve your objectives. Injuries. Many people spend more time performing pushing exercises, such as the chest press than pulling exercises. This can lead to an imbalance in strength and an increased risk of injury. This can open the shoulder joint to an increased risk of injury when the body’s internal rotators overpower the external rotators.
If the shoulder blade stabilizers are not developed, this can cause muscular imbalances and injuries that will not go away. Enter the face pull. An exercise that is popular among those who focus on strength based on performance, this exercise works all the small muscles that are often neglected and contribute to shoulder health. This exercise also helps build the rear deltoid muscle, as well as targeting the traps and rhomboids in a different way.
How to Do the Face Pull
Make sure the rope attachment is clipped to the pulley, which should be at chest level. To grab the rope, hold it with your thumbs facing you and your pinkies facing away from you. Keeping your arms slightly bent, extend them and take a step back so that the weight plates are lifted.
Keeping your knees bent for stability, lower your spine by arching it backward and pushing out your chest. Pull the weights to your forehead level. Put your hands on the sides of your face. After pausing in the contracted position, slowly lower the weight back to the position it was in when you started.
When pulling, don’t use your biceps to flex your arms, but bring your shoulder blades together and pull with your elbows. Your arms will bend naturally. If you’re a bodybuilding enthusiast, consider performing a “back double biceps” pose.
11. Banded Dumbbell Pullover
The pullover is a classic weightlifting move that is older than the sport of bodybuilding. This debate has been going on for as long as the main target muscle has existed. Is the exercise working the chest or the back? It actually works both, according to science and experience.
The lats are the main muscles responsible for extending the arms and shoulders, but the chest and long head of the triceps also contribute to that movement in certain ranges of motion. If you do this exercise in a back workout, you will definitely feel your lats working, especially if they are already pumped and tired.
The extra band prevents the exercise from becoming too easy by providing resistance in the top position. The exercise now takes longer and causes more muscle growth because it provides both a great stretch and a hard contraction.
How to Do the Banded Dumbbell Pullover
Place yourself on a flat bench so that your head is at one end, your body is fully supported, and your feet are on the ground. Do not lie sideways on the bench when performing this movement. Place a dumbbell on the ground behind your head. Tie one end of a resistance band to a dumbbell, and the other end to a sturdy object like a rack or a heavy dumbbell, or have someone hold it in place.
Grip the dumbbell with your palms facing the weights and your hands around the handle. Hold a dumbbell over your head with your arms bent slightly. As you lower the weight behind your head into a deep stretch, make sure your glutes stay on the bench.
Pull the band back to the starting position against the tension. Do not actively bend your elbows while working out because it will make the triceps work harder instead of the back.
12. Banded Pull-Up
A light resistance band helps you to better focus on activating your latissimus dorsi muscles. Since the band provides the most support in the bottom position, it takes some of the stress off of the shoulder joint, making it easier on the joints.
For the muscle-focused lifter, it has another advantage. The pull-up recruits more core work for stability than a lat pulldown because it involves movement in your lower body. Unless you are very strong, have a lot of experience with gymnastics, or are good at calisthenics, it is likely that you cannot control your lower body well during a pull-up.
How to Perform the Banded Pull-Up
Secure one end of the resistance band to the top of a rack, and stretch the band down so you can step into it. The band’s resistance should let you finish 10-15 reps before your muscles get tired. Grip the bar palms-down, slightly wider than your shoulders. To do a pull-up, start by gripping the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. Then, keeping your elbows in front of your body, begin pulling yourself up until your chin clears the bar.
Keeping an arched chest is crucial to prevent shifting the stress of the movement from the back muscles to the shoulder joints, which could cause injuries. Think about leading with your chest to the ceiling. Lower yourself to a dead-stop hang for maximum stretch.