Australian bodybuilding coach and trainer Eugene Teo loves sharing his favorite muscle knowledge from his years of training. He's previously shared his favorite resistance band workouts to torch your lats. And now, he's demonstrating the two best upper back exercises you should do to grow a bigger upper back.
"Training the upper back region properly is probably one of the most misunderstood things about training that I see," says Teo. The upper back muscles Teo is referencing are the traps and rhomboids, which attach through the spine in the middle of the back and shoulder blades.
"These regions between the shoulder blades and base of your neck are some of the most common areas I find people have the most issues and complaint with when it comes to tension and knots, or what many term 'stiff' and 'tight' muscles," says Teo.
These exercises may help alleviate some of those problems, along with building more muscle.
Exercise 1: Any Chest-Supported Row with a Flared Angle
"This could be with dumbbells or cables, machines, bands or barbells... whatever you like," says Teo.
But he does have one essential direction: use chest support. By putting your chest on a bench, you set yourself up for success. "This [position] tends to allow for better output of the target muscles. It also removes the need to stabilize through your lower back," says Teo.
The support should be low and not too wide, so it won't restrict your movement. This will allow for a greater degree of rounding or hunching through the spine, which allows the shoulder blades to move as far forward as possible to take the muscles of the upper back into a complete range of motion.
If you don't have access to any type of chest support, Teo says that doing a single-arm variation can help to achieve a similar effect.
Exercise 2: Upper Back Pulldown
For this exercise, Teo uses cables with handles. That's for a very specific reasoning: "This probably looks like your typical lat pulldown, and it is," he says. "But what we typically call the lat pulldown is usually a lot less lat stimulus and a lot more upper back stimulus due to the alignment created by the machine."
His tip: Think about pulling the handles apart, and not down as you perform the movement. You can also achieve this by looping stirrup handles over a fixed bar.
"When you pull apart, it forces your elbows to pull in an arcing motion, which helps to guide your shoulder blades around your ribcage and into that retracted position," says Teo.
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