10 Best Upper Back Exercises You Can Do at Home

Best Upper Back Exercises: On the list of often overlooked but vital muscles are the upper back muscles. Why? Because it’s easy to overlook them in favor of strengthening more expressive muscles like your legs or arms. But just because you can’t see the muscles easily doesn’t mean you should switch to upper back exercises. According to ACE-certified trainer and sports nutritionist Amanda Dale, strong upper back muscles prepare your body for success by aiding in sports, regular exercise, and increased mobility in everyday life.

Elanit Friedman, Openfit’s director of fitness and wellness, adds that a strong upper back is also critical to good posture. “We tend to sit slouched in front of a computer all day or stare at our phones,” she says. This hunched posture can cause shoulder and neck stiffness or pain, as well as more intense back pain. That’s why it’s so important to adopt a consistent upper back exercise and workout routine to reduce your risk of back injury, improve your mobility, and increase your overall strength.

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10 Best Upper Back Exercises You Can Do at Home

10 Best Upper Back Exercises You Can Do At Home

If you can’t hit the gym for an upper back workout, don’t stress. You can easily build your upper back strength at home with little or no equipment. A resistance band and a pair of dumbbells allow you to perform a variety of upper back exercises to tone your muscles. “Another sure-fire back blaster is to put a pull-up bar in your door and challenge yourself to use it every time you pass,” adds Dale.

Here are the 10 best upper back exercises to get you started.

1. Arm balance row

Benefits: “This move works your upper back muscles as well as your shoulders and core,” says Friedman.

  • Start in a high plank position, holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your wrists under your shoulders and your head, hips, and heels in a straight line.
  • Pull your right hand to your ribcage, then extend it fully skyward as you turn right. Make sure your arm is directly over your shoulder, not behind you.
  • Return to high plank position and repeat on the other side.
  • Continue alternating, doing equal repetitions on both sides.

2. Rocket launcher row

Benefits: This move targets your rhomboids, lats, and erector spine while also working your core, explains Dale.

  • Standing holding two dumbbells at your sides and taking a big step forward with your left leg, bend your right leg into a deep lunge while keeping it straight.
  • Lean forward from your hips, trying to put your torso on top of your left thigh. Let your arms hang over either side of your left leg with your palms facing each other.
  • Keeping your back straight and your abs contracted, bring the dumbbells outside of your ribs while keeping your elbow close to your side.
  • Slowly release and repeat.

3. Resistance rows

Benefits: Resistance rows are simple but effective. They work your entire back and deltoid muscles, Friedman says:

  • Stand in the middle of the resistance band with your feet hip-width apart. Wrap one end of each foot and cross the arms.
  • Bend your knees slightly and tilt your chest slightly forward, keeping your back straight.
  • Keep your core tight and your back straight as you pull your hands toward your rib cage, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top.
  • Release your arms and repeat.

4. Wide bent-over row

Benefits: The wide squat row is an excellent way to target your lats and hit your delts and core at the same time, says Friedman.

  • Holding a set of dumbbells, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Bend at the hips and tilt your chest forward until it’s parallel to the floor, keeping your back straight and your core engaged. Let your arms hang down with your palms facing your shins.
  • Drive your elbows up and out, form a goalpost with your arms, and press your shoulder blades together as you pull back.
  • Lower your arms and repeat.

5. Lunge row with crunch

Benefits: This move is a full-body workout – it not only works your traps, rhomboids, and back deltas but also your abs and leg muscles.

  • Stand holding two dumbbells at your sides. Take a big step forward with your left leg, keeping your right leg straight, bend it to take a deep lunge.
  • Lean forward from your hips, trying to put your torso on top of your left thigh. With your palms facing each other, swing your arms straight out to the sides of your left leg.
  • Keeping your back straight and your abs contracted, bring the dumbbells outside of your ribs while keeping your elbow close to your side.
  • Bring your arms down as you drive your right knee toward your chest for a crunch.
  • Bring your left back into a lunge position and repeat.
  • Do equal repetitions on both sides.

6. One-arm row

Benefits: By working one arm at a time, this move helps identify muscle imbalances you may have in your upper back and eliminate dominant-side compensation, Dale says.

  • Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, place your other hand on a bench or stability ball in front of you. Step your right leg back keeping it straight, and bend your left leg slightly. Lean your chest forward, keeping your back flat.
  • Drive your elbow up, bringing the dumbbell to your ribcage.
  • Release your arm down and repeat.
  • Do equal reps on both sides.

7. Reverse fly

Benefits: “This move is incredible for developing the smaller muscles of the upper back, as well as improving overall posture,” says Dale.

  • Holding a set of dumbbells, sit on a bench or stability ball. With your feet flat on the ground, hinge at the waist to lean forward slightly, and bring your dumbbells behind your calves, palms facing each other.
  • With a slight bend at the elbow, raise your arms outward and squeeze your shoulder blades, keeping your palms facing the floor.
  • Release your arms slowly and repeat.

8. Vaulter pull-up

Benefits: The Vaulter pull-up is a great way to challenge multiple areas of your upper body, including your back, shoulders, and biceps, explains Friedman.

  • Hold a pull-up bar with one hand facing forward and one hand facing back.
  • Pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar, keeping your back straight and core tight as you pull yourself up.
  • Lower yourself and repeat until your arms are straight.
  • Very difficult? Use a pull-up support band to make this easier.

9. Wide leg close-grip chin-up

Benefits: This move targets your middle and upper back muscles while also relying on the strength of your biceps, says Friedman. The real challenge? Spreading your legs keeps your core engaged the entire time.

  • Grasp a towbar from below.
  • Keeping your legs stretched wide in an upside-down “V” position, pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar, keeping your back straight and core tight as you pull yourself up.
  • Lower yourself and repeat until your arms are straight.

10. Dumbbell pullover

Benefits: This move is a great way to work your lats while strengthening your shoulders and core, explains Friedman. “It’s great for beginners because it teaches your core to stabilize upper body movement,” adds Dale.

  • Lie flat on a bench or stability ball with your back straight while holding a set of dumbbells.
  • With your feet firmly on the ground and your core engaged, hold the dumbbells together over your chest and stretch your arms skyward.
  • With a slight bend in your elbows, slowly lower your arms until your biceps reach your ears.
  • Slowly bring your arms over your chest and repeat.

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