Exercises for Thick and Strong Upper Back

In this article we talk about the upper back. We will learn the biomechanics of the upper back and then discuss how to make a stronger upper back.

The major muscles of the upper back include the Trapezius muscle (or traps), the Lattisimus Dorsi (or lats), the Rhomboids, Teres Major, Erector Spinae group, Supraspinatus, and a couple of other small postural muscles.

Upper Back Functions

The upper back is responsible for supporting the thoracic spine (the part of spine along the upper back) and controls and stabilizes movements of the shoulders. When these muscles contract they aid with the pulling movement. The scapula, or the shoulder blades are major players in the upper back, moving in all directions and attached on all sides with various upper back muscles.

Exercises to get a stronger upper back


There are many variations of rowing; in this article we will talk about our top two rowing choices to improve the strength of the upper back.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row– This exercise targets the mid and lower traps, as well as rhomboids, which bring the shoulder blades together. With a dumbbell in one hand, bend over, and place the opposite knee and hand on a low bench to support the torso. Bring the dumbbell to the side of the body, concentrating on drawing the shoulder blades together and then lower the weight back down. Work through a full range of motion. After completing one side switch sides.

Barbell Bent-Over Row– In this version the rowing is performed while using both the arms together. You’ll have to maintain your own posture; therefore this lift is dependent on strong postural muscles and a strong core. The torso should be kept as parallel as possible to the floor to target the mid traps. Keep a slight bend in the knees and back straight. A narrower grip works more of the biceps, and mid traps while a wider grip works more of the rear deltoids and mid/ upper trap muscle. Start with arms fully extended and then activate by drawing the barbell towards your sternum. Try not to swing or pump the hips to get momentum.

Wide Grip Pull downs or Pull-ups

The lats are working hard in these exercises. By working the wider fibers of the lat muscles you’ll get a broader back. To do so, take a wide grip on your pull up bar (or the lat pull-down bar) with palms facing forwards. Keep your chest upright as you bring the bar to your chest level. With a wider grip and palms forward, you can minimize the work done by the biceps. Ideally, you change grip slightly every workout to be slightly wider or narrower as needed.


This is a great exercise for the upper traps. The traps attach at the c-spine and base of the skull, forming a triangle down to the rear part of the shoulders. By shrugging, bringing your shoulders to your ears and back down slowly, you work the upper traps. While some people think this is a part of the shoulder workout, we recommend it to be done during your back workout, since the traps have a mid, upper and lower area.

Cable pull downs

This exercise targets your lats and is performed as follows. While facing the pulley, grip the handle with the hands at shoulder width or narrower. Start with the arms flexed up at about 45 degrees from the body. The action starts by keeping the core tight and pulling straight downwards while maintaining the extension of the elbow. After the handles touch your upper thighs, go back up and repeat.

Since back muscles are not visible in the mirror a lot of people ignore these muscles. This is a big mistake as the upper back muscles play a critical role in maintaining a good posture. Always balance your chest workout with your upper back workouts if you want to develop that confident posture.

Originally published at www.kaa-yaa.com.




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Rahul Yadav

Rahul Yadav

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