Upper Body Workouts Great Upper Back Exercises to Improve Your Posture By Paige Waehner, CPT Paige Waehner, CPT Facebook LinkedIn Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer"; and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness." Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 06, 2021 Reviewed Verywell Fit articles are reviewed by nutrition and exercise professionals. Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Heather Black, CPT Reviewed by Heather Black, CPT Heather Black, CPT is a NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Heather Black Fitness & Nutrition where she offers remote and in-person training and nutrition coaching. Learn about our Review Board Print The muscles in your upper back help you to shape and define the shoulder area, and balance out the muscles in the front of the upper body. These muscles also help you to maintain good posture while sitting still (static posture) or while you are moving (dynamic posture). These important muscles include the rear deltoid (back of the shoulder), the rhomboids and trapezius (back of the neck), teres major and minor, and infraspinatus. The latissimus dorsi (middle and upper back) and triceps (back of the upper arm) are also involved in most upper back workouts. To work the upper back, you typically do a lot of pulling and rowing motions. Benefits of Upper Back Exercises Working the upper back can not only make your body look better, but it can help your body feel better as well. Researchers have reported that many students and people that do sedentary work (such as sitting at a computer) often suffer from pain in the shoulders, middle back, and lower back. Correcting poor posture through exercise can be an effective way to reduce this pain. The authors of one study explained why posture matters throughout the day. "Correct posture minimizes the strain on the human body by maintaining balance of the muscles and skeleton. This balanced musculoskeletal state protects the supporting structures in the body and prevents damage or progressive deformation in all positions, including standing, lying down, and sitting." There are many different exercises that can help you get your postural muscles strong. For example, a pelvic tilt can help address lower back stability. And the cat-cow exercise can improve spinal flexibility. But an upper back workout can strengthen muscles to help prevent slumping over your computer and may even help you to sit, stand, and walk taller. Getting Started Speak to your healthcare provider before starting this or any exercise program especially if you have been diagnosed with an illness or injury or if you are returning to exercise after a long break. A set (or two) of dumbbells and a resistance band will allow you to complete most of these exercises. If you have a barbell and weight plates, those will also come in handy, as well. When you're first starting out, make consistency your goal. Do a little less than you think you can do just to establish a regular routine. Try to do your upper back workout 1-2 times per week and on the days when you are not doing this workout, try to participate in other physical activities, such as walking, cycling, or other strength training activities. As you get more comfortable with each movement, increase the number of repetitions first, then increase the weight. When you increase the amount of weight, decrease the number of reps, and slowly increase the reps again. Beginners: Choose 1-2 exercises and perform 1-2 sets of 12-16 repsIntermediate/advanced: Choose 2-4 different exercises. For example, complete a barbell high row followed by a T-pull with a resistance band. Try a variety of moves with different types of equipment to work your muscles in a different way. Try for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps, resting between sets 1 Barbell High Rows Barbell high rows are perfect for working those upper back muscles, particularly between the shoulder blades. The exercise is much like a regular row except that you're hinged forward at the hips so the torso is tilted forward. Hold the bar with an overhand grip. The key here is to keep the knees slightly bent to protect the lower back and engage the abs. With feet about hip-distance apart and hands a bit wider than shoulders on the bar, hinge at the hips until your torso comes forward over the knees (but not so far forward that it is parallel to the floor). Keep the shoulders back, the knees slightly bent, and the abs tight.Bend the elbows and contract the back to pull the weight up towards the chest.Lower down and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps You want to bring the barbell up to your chest rather than to your belly button, as you do with regular barbell rows. If you don't have a barbell, this exercise can also be performed with dumbbells. Do a Barbell High Row and Other Back Exercises 2 Reverse Fly Reverse flies work both the upper back (especially the rhomboids and trapezius) and the rear delts (back of the shoulder). You may find that you need to use a little less weight when you're first starting to do this movement. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart holding one dumbbell in each hand. Then bend the knees slightly and hinge at the hips, bringing your chest forward so it is almost parallel to the floor. Let the weight hang down, palms facing each other.While maintaining a tight core, bend the elbows slightly and raise the arms out to your sides, squeezing the shoulder blades together.Lower the weight back to starting position. Try to avoid hunching your shoulders during this exercise. Keep the neck long and the chin tucked. How to Do a Reverse Fly: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes 3 T-Pulls T-pulls using a band are a great way to target the muscles of the upper back. The band adds challenge to this move by creating tension throughout each phase of the exercise. The key to this move is to keep the shoulders down and away from the ears as you focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together. You also want to sit tall and keep the core engaged rather than hunching forward. Sit on the floor with the legs extended in front of you. Loop the band around both feet. Hold one end of the band in each hand. There should be no slack in the band.Extended the arms in front of you at chest level and bend the elbows slightly.Open the arms out to the sides, keeping the shoulders away from the ears and concentrating on the upper back and rear shoulders.Pause when the arms are open and the chest is broad. Then slowly return to the starting position and repeat. 4 Y-Pulls This exercise is similar to a T-pull but the shape of this movement looks like a letter Y instead of a T. Start in the same position, but instead of taking the arms out to the sides at chest level, you lift the arms up to a Y position. Maintain a strong tall back throughout the full range of motion. For more intensity, alternate a T-pull with a Y-pull. 5 Upright Row One of the most effective ways to target those posture muscles is with upright rows. This exercise can be performed with a bar or with dumbbells. Stand tall with feet about hip-distance apart. Grasp a barbell or place dumbbells in each hand and allow the weight to hang in front of you. Your palms should be facing your body. Lift the weight up along the body toward the chin, leading with the elbows. Your arms should go no higher than parallel with the shoulders.Pause at the top of the lift.Return the weight back to the starting position. How to Do an Upright Row 6 Renegade Row This exercise is more appropriate for intermediate or advanced exercisers. It is performed in a plank position, so in addition to working the muscles of the upper back, you also work the muscles in the core. Core muscles also play an important role in maintaining good posture. Place two dumbbells on the floor positioned shoulder-distance apart. The handles of the dumbbells should be parallel to one another. Find a full plank position but instead of placing palms on the floor, you'll grip one dumbbell with each hand. Try to keep your hips parallel to the ground as you lift the right dumbbell off the floor, bending at the elbow. Widen your feet slightly if necessary to make it a little easier to keep the hips level. Lower the dumbbell slowly to the starting position. Now repeat the exercise on the left side by lifting the left dumbbell and continue to alternate sides. How to Do a Renegade Row 7 Seated Row This exercise can be done on a cable machine at the gym. But it can also be performed at home with a resistance band. You'll begin in a seated position with the legs extended out in front of you. Wrap the band around your feet and hold one end of the band in each hand. Sit up tall and relax the shoulders. Pull the bands back, bending at the elbows so that your hands come close to the sides of the lower abdomen. Return the hands back to the starting position and repeat. How to Do the Seated Cable Row: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes 1 Source Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Kim D, Cho M, Park Y, Yang Y. Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(6):1791-1794. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.1791 By Paige Waehner, CPT Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness." See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from companies that partner with and compensate Verywell Fit for displaying their offer. 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