Upper Back Strength Routine

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Strengthening the upper back muscles is one of the most important reasons for going to the gym.  Our arms are in front of us most of the day, with the chest rounded forward.  Strengthening the muscles on the other side of the torso brings balance to the muscular system in the upper body.  It also helps you focus on having better posture.

There are many muscles in the upper back.  Rhomboids, Trapezius, Latissimus Dorsi and Deltoids are a few.  There are many exercises you can do in the gym to strengthen this group of muscles.  Make sure you keep your shoulders down away from your ears when performing these exercises.  Think about having your scapula (shoulder blades) in your back pockets if you were wearing jeans.  Anchor them down.

Do each of these exercises with a weight (resistance) that you can withstand for about 10 repetitions.  Do the exercises in sequence and repeat them 2-3 times.

Repeat the movement slowly with the same speed throughout the motion.

  1. Straight Arm Pull DownStraight Arm Pull Down
  • Stand with band or cable attached in front of you at shoulder height, so both hands have one end of the band in them.
  • Have your arms shoulder width apart.
  • Back up until the band has tension on it.
  • Keeping your arms straight, pull the band down to your hips with each hand finishing by each hip.
  • Keep the shoulder blades tucked back.
  • Relax your neck.
  1. Lat Pull Down
  • Use a bar or band that’s attached above your head so that both hands have one end of the band/bar in them.
  • Hold your arms shoulder width apart with your hands up high on the band.
  • Pull your elbows down to your sides and bring your shoulder blades together.
  1. Rowing
  • Use a resistance band, cable or machine.Row with band
  • Attach the band/cable in front of you at waist height with one end of band/cable in each hand.
  • With elbows bent at 90 degrees, hold on to the band/cable and back up until there is tension on the band.
  • Pull both arms back to your sides, then reach forward to relax.
  • Stop once you’re in line with your sides, don’t go any further.
  • Keep your forearms parallel to the ground.
  1. Reverse FlyRear Delt Raise
  • Use a machine or lie face down on an incline bench with weights.
  • Start with your arms hanging down.
  • Expand your arms out to the sides in a T formation/butterfly.
  • Keep your shoulders down from your ears.
  • Don’t bring the arms past your backside.
  • Stop when you’re in line with your back.
  • Tuck your shoulder blades together.
  1. External Rotator CuffRotator Cuff exercise on side
  • Lie on your side with a light weight in your top hand.
  • Relax your neck onto your other arm or on a pillow/rolled towel.
  • Bend elbow to 90 degrees and rest it on your side.
  • Bring weight down to touch floor/bench.
  • Rotate arm up until the forearm is parallel to the floor.

You can do the first three exercises with both arms (bilateral) or with one arm at a time (unilateral).  Using one arm at a time helps you strengthen the weaker side.  It’s good to alternate between both of these techniques so your body has variety.

There are many other exercises you can do to strengthen your upper back, but these are the basics.  Perfecting the basics with good form is the safest and most effective way to strengthen your upper back.


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