What are the best workouts to build muscle in your upper back?
When it comes to building a strong and muscular back, it will come down to two types of movements, namely pulls and rows, with a wide variety of ways you can do them.
The muscles that compose “the back” are extremely important and vital to a high quality life. Not only do they help your posture, keep your neck supported, protect your shoulders, and help keep your spine safe, they’re desperately needed to perform well to the various big barbell lifts we might see in a gym (squat, deadlift, bench, press, olympic lifts), and in the sport of CrossFit they’re used in gymnastics (muscle ups, pull ups, handstand work) and the kettlebell/dumbbell variations of olympic lifts. Furthermore, in our attempts to train the upper back we will also get things like shoulders, biceps, forearms, lower back and midline thrown in too.
The three main groups of the upper back are:
Trapezius (aka traps): This is a large, flat, triangular, superficial muscle on each side of the upper back. It originates from the cervical spine and all 12 of the thoracic vertebrae. Its main functions are Scapula adduction, elevation, depression (lower fibers) and Scapula outward rotation (overhead pressing). Think of these as neck muscles that also help support the arm and shoulder. When folks hunch too long over their computer and phone (or food), they'll tend to experience pain here.
Rhomboids: They originate from the cervical (neck) vertebra and run diagonally down and attach to the inside of the scapula. They’re functions include scapula adduction (coming together), scapula inward rotation (when you’re bringing your arm down from a lateral raise) and scapula elevation (shrugs). Think of them as the posture muscles-if you engage them you’ll stand up straighter, and your shoulders will pull back.
Latissimus Dorsi (aka: lats):is a large, flat muscle on the back that stretches to the sides, behind the arm, and is partly covered by the trapezius on the back near the midline.A lat’s function is arm adduction, either from above (for example, lat pulldowns) or in front (rows). It is the largest muscle in the back and can be thought of as a big pulling and stabilizing muscle.
A short, and not exhaustive list of movements to train this are:
- Pull Ups, with variations including chin-ups, mixed-grip pull-ups, chest to bar pull-ups, weighted pull ups, and wide-grip pull ups.
- T-Bar Row, with variations including laying t-bar row, landmine row, deficit t-bar row.
- Stead row, with the variations being single arm, wide-grip, and done with a cable with various hand positions
- Lat-pulldown, with variations being wide-grip, straight arm, single arm, and banded pull-downs, kneeling.
- Bent over rows, either with a barbell or dumbbell, done with both hands simultaneously or individually, with variations including gorilla rows, renegade rows, elevator rows.
- Wrapping it up would be bodyweight rows on either rings, or the barbell.
You can hop on the internet and find plenty of instructional videos and workout-out programs incorporating all of these movements, and nearly all can be done at your local CrossFit gym, Planet Fitness or other mainline gym setting. Get in there and clang and bang!
However, the problem when it comes to using the internet is the absence of a coach or programmer that knows you and your specific goals, movement history, injury-risk, nutrition, and non-gym life schedule and demands, and even with mirrors it is very easy to do any fitness movement unsafely or incorrectly. Which is why at FCF, what is sold is not gym-access, but coaching. With a personal trainer, or a group-fitness coach you will have someone who will take the guesswork out of what movements to do when, how often, and will ensure you’re moving safely and effectively.
If you’d like to get a jacked back, and or even just a safe, well-moving, injury-free back, sign up for a free consultation, called a No Sweat Intro Here.