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Free Weight Exercises for the Upper Back

Updated on March 16, 2011

Build a Stronger Back

Free weight exercises for the upper back are weightlifting movements that can be performed with barbells, dumbbells, or bodyweight. They do not require any special machines or equipment which allows them to done almost anywhere.

The major muscle group of the upper back is the latissimus dorsi or as they are simply called the lats. The main function of the lats is to pull objects toward you. In this article we will be explaining the basic free weight exercises that target the upper back muscles, and how they can be incorporated into your weight training routine to build a larger stronger upper back.

The pullover is a simple movement that works all the muscles of the upper back as well as the chest and triceps. To perform this exercise you will need a dumbbell and a bench. Lay vertically across the bench with only the upper back touching, Hand position is, two hands placed on the underside of the dumbbell head. The dumbbell should be held straight above the body and then lowered with arms straight to just behind the head. The dumbbell should be lifted to the starting position for the repetition to be completed.

The bent over row is an upper back exercise that can be performed with dumbbells or a barbell. This exercise is considered to be what the bench press is for chest but for back. The basic bent over row is performed with a palm down grip on a barbell with hands placed at shoulder width. Knees should be slightly bent, with a flat back, and the upper body should bend about seventy degrees at the hips. The arms should hang in a vertical position to begin the repetition with elbows being pulled up next to the stomach area to complete the exercise. Dumbbells and varying the hand grip width on the barbell can be used to change where the exercise stresses the upper back muscles.

The dumbbell row is another upper back exercise that works the entire back. To perform the exercise a bench and dumbbell is needed. With one knee placed on a bench the upper body should be placed horizontally above the bench allowing one had to support the body. The other hand should hold a dumbbell straight down, with the palm facing in. The lift is performed by pulling the dumbbell up to the upper rib area and lowered back down to the starting position.

These free weight exercises for the upper back can be performed once to twice a week for two to three sets each. For upper back strength it is recommended to keep the repetition range between four and six repetitions, six to ten repetitions should be used for upper back mass, and to build upper back muscular endurance ten plus repetitions per exercise is recommended.

back muscles diagram
back muscles diagram


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