Upper Back Exercises

Back Muscle Groups

The upper back is comprised of two distinct muscle areas. The uppermost portion includes the levator scapulae, scalenes, splenius capitas, and splenis cervicis which connects the neck to the shoulders. The remaining portion contains the trapezius which bridges the neck and shoulders to the back. Within this portion contains a subset of muscles called the rhomboid major and rhomboid minor. These connect at the lower portion of the trapezius and spread out toward the scapula (shoulder blade).

Some upper back exercises involve the use of the rotator cuff muscles. For this reason, one should take caution while executing these exercises to prevent injury.

A list of upper back exercises:

Australian Pull-Up
This exercise incorporates several back muscles while using one's body weight for resistance.
Bent-Over Rows (Barbell) Image
Bent-over barbell rows is a great exercise that engages the upper back, outer back, lats, and rear shoulders in one powerful motion.
Deadlifts Barbell Image
Quite simply, deadlifts are the ultimate power exercise; they blast the majority of the body's muscles (especially the quads, glutes, lats, and traps).
One-Arm Rows / Bent-Over Rows (Dumbbell) Image
Working a single side of the back at a time, one-arm rows is a great way to focus on the lats, upper back, outer back, and rear deltoids.
Rear Pull-Ups (Calisthenics) Image
A (somewhat unnatural) variation of traditional pull-ups, rear pull-ups involve pulling "up" to the base of the neck, which puts more emphasis on the upper back (rhomboids and trapezius) than traditional pull-ups.
Seated Rows Image
Seated rows are an excellent back bulk builder. They are a particularly useful exercise for hitting the lower lats.
Shrugs (Barbell) Image
Barbell shrugs are the classic upper back (trapezius) builder but care must be taken while performing this exercise.
Shrugs (Dumbbell) Image
Dumbbell shrugs are a wonderful alternative the classic barbell shrugs for upper back (trapezius) building.
T-Bar Rows Image
A phenomenal exercise that allows for power lifting, the t-bar row focuses primarily on the muscles of the back with emphasis placed on the lower aspect of the trapezius.
T-Bar Rows with Chest Support Image
Useful for targeting the lower aspect of the trapezius, t-bar rows with chest support allow for this exercise to be performed without requiring the use of the lower back to support the rest of the body.
Upright Rows (Barbell) Image
Upright rows are a classic exercise that primarily works the shoulder and upper back muscles.
Upright Rows (Cable) Image
Upright rows are a classic exercise that primarily work the shoulder and upper back muscles.