Training Your Upper Back

The upper back is composed of a few large muscle groups, including the trapezius and rhomboids. The trapezius muscles, or “traps,” run from the base of your skull all the way to the middle of your spine. You have upper, middle, and lower traps, which are responsible for different actions, such as elevating and depressing your shoulders, and rotating and retracting the shoulder blades. The traps also assist in turning the neck and head. If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, then you may often experience tension in your upper traps.

The rhomboids are mainly responsible for squeezing your shoulder blades together. Strengthening your rhomboids can greatly help improve your posture. The rhomboids perform the opposite motion of your chest (pulling); therefore, it’s important to work the rhomboids to counteract all of the pushing movements that you do throughout the day.

Another important group of muscles in your upper back are the muscles that stabilize and move your scapula (shoulder blade). These muscles are collectively known as your rotator cuff muscles. They help stabilize your shoulders and also allow movements such as elevation, depression, retraction, protraction, upward rotation, and downward rotation. Basically, all of the fun movements that you can do with your shoulders are controlled by your shoulder blades and rotator cuff muscles.

Before You Lift:

Remember to keep your core engaged while executing the movements in this article. You can also perform each of these movements in front of a mirror, or record yourself, to double-check your form.

T-SPINE ROTATION

It is really important to warm up and stretch your upper back to help with mobility of your thoracic spine, or T-spine, which is the middle of your back. Oftentimes the middle of your back can lose mobility due to sitting too long or as a result of other muscular imbalances. Performing this stretch will help you regain some mobility, which will ultimately help your weightlifting be more effective.

  1. Lie on your side. Reach both arms straight out in front of your chest with your palms pressed together.
  2. Straighten your bottom leg and bend the knee of your top leg so that it’s at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Slowly take your top hand and open it to the opposite side of the floor while twisting through your mid back and head so that your eyes are following your hand.
  4. Your arms should be straight at 180 degrees at the end of the stretch, with your head facing the opposite direction and your top knee still bent.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

BENT-OVER ROW

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Biceps, Core

This movement specifically targets the rhomboids and assists in creating better posture. It’s also a great exercise to help reinforce the deadlifting movement pattern. A strong Bent-Over Row will help improve the strength level of your other back exercises since you are engaging your middle and lower back muscles.

  1. Stand tall with your feet under your hips, holding dumbbells at your sides or a barbell in front of you, hands gripping the bar just outside your thighs.
  2. Hinge at the hips and lower your chest down toward the ground. You want to keep your back as straight and flat as possible as you do this. The weights should now be parallel to your chest with your palms facing each other.
  3. Bend both elbows simultaneously and row the weights up until they reach your ribs. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of this movement.
  4. Slowly return the weights to the starting position by straightening your elbows.
  5. Remain in the bent-over position until all repetitions are completed, then return to the starting upright position.

Lift Safely: Keep your back completely flat throughout the movement. Don’t round the middle of your spine or arch your lower back while performing the movement. Engage the muscles in the middle of your back as opposed to using your upper traps. Do this by drawing your shoulder blades down and squeezing them together. Keep your shoulders as relaxed as possible and your neck in a neutral position.

Make It Easier: If it’s too hard to hold the bent position, you can hold one dumbbell in one hand and use the other hand to support your weight on a chair. Use the chair to help stabilize your core and to find the correct neutral spine position needed for this exercise.

REVERSE FLY

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Core, Shoulders

This exercise is really good for working some of the smaller muscles in and around your rotator cuff muscles. It’s also a great way to improve your posture and overall strength. This movement is similar to Bent-Over Rows but is much more difficult due to the use of smaller muscle groups.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding dumbbells by your sides.
  2. Hinge at the hips and keep your back straight and flat as you lower your chest toward the floor. The weights should now be parallel to your chest with your palms facing each other.
  3. Keeping your arms straight and elbows slightly bent, extend both arms straight out to your sides to form a long line. Picture yourself as a bird extending your wings to fly and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the motion.
  4. Return the weights to the center of your body just in front of your chest.

Lift Safely: Lift the weights in a slow, controlled motion. Avoid jerking your neck forward or raising your chest to try to use momentum to get the weights up. Don’t overextend your arms. Perform the movement within a comfortable range of motion. Avoid arching your lower back.

Home Workout Hack: This is a great exercise to try with a resistance band. Simply hold the opposite ends of the band (as opposed to holding the handles). Pull the band apart like you’re trying to rip it into two pieces.

FARMER’S CARRY

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Core

This is another exercise designed to help you improve your posture. It’s also a very functional exercise as it is similar to movements that you do every week, like carrying grocery bags. Keep this exercise in mind the next time you carry shopping bags or your purse.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Walk in a straight line for a few steps and then turn around and walk back.
  3. As you walk, brace your core and squeeze your shoulder blades together to maintain upright posture. You want to think about having the best posture possible while walking around with your dumbbells. The dumbbells should be heavy enough that you feel your core engaging as you walk, and you should also feel your shoulders depressing slightly.

Lift Safely: Pay close attention to how you pick up and put back down your dumbbells before and after the exercise. Use good squat form when doing this. Avoid bending over and rounding your back when handling the weights.

Make It Harder: Perform the exercise using only one weight; this will require more core engagement and balance. You can also make it harder by walking slower.

Home Workout Hack: A Farmer’s Carry can be done with many different items. This exercise is named because farmers often carry the various items on their farms this way. Get creative and see what items in your home you can Farmer Carry, for example, buckets, gardening supplies, backpacks, and luggage.

CAT-COW

Cat-Cow is another good movement to do to increase your thoracic mobility. It is particularly good for people who have forward shoulders and/or a rounded spine. Cat-Cow helps you learn how to get your spine back to a neutral position for weightlifting and other movements.

  1. Start in a quadruped position (on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the ground) with your knees directly under your hips, toes on the ground, and wrists under your shoulders.
  2. Drop your head down, round your back, and tuck your hips under to form a shape like a cat.
  3. Lift your head up and arch your lower back by pressing your stomach toward the floor to form a shape similar to a cow.
  4. Repeat the movement, flowing fluidly between cat and then cow.

Do You Have to Take Supplements with Upper Back Training?

Some people might use natural fat burners as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle to increase metabolism or decrease appetite. When combined with a healthy diet, it will further increase the loss of excess body fat – and may also have other beneficial effects.

Resurge is of the most popular weight loss supplements that promise to help you shed pounds and sleep better. Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with deficiencies of growth hormone and elevated levels of cortisol, both of which contribute to obesity.

While other supplements promote nutritional factors, meal replacement forms, appetite suppression, or similar effects, Resurge boosts your body’s metabolism by increasing your core temperature. However, before making any purchases, you might want to read some Resurge reviews because the supplement industry is rife with scams.

Besides, it should be noted that supplements are ineffective on their own and are hardly a solution to obesity. Pills or supplements only work when combined with a healthy weight-loss diet and regular exercise.

In any case, it’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you are taking medications or have any health concerns.

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