The 8 Best Upper Back Exercises For Strength, Size, And Posture

The upper back is one of the most important muscle groups in your body. It helps strengthen your neck and shoulders, plus it gives you that coveted “V” shape. In this article, we’ll go over 10 different exercises that will help build up your upper back, including some movement styles you may not have tried before.

The trap bar deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is a great exercise for strengthening the lower back and upper back. It also helps improve posture and balance, as well as reduce lower-back pain.

To perform this exercise, you’ll need:

  • A trap bar (if you don’t have one, you can buy one here)
  • A weight bench (or another platform) for resting your feet on when using it as an assistance tool

Neutral-grip pull-ups

A neutral-grip pull-up is done with a narrow grip, which gives you the most back and arm strength for this exercise. To do it, grab the bar with your hands about 3 inches apart from one another. Keep your elbows pointing forward at all times, and squeeze your shoulder blades together as hard as possible to support yourself against the bar.

If you’re doing weighted versions of this exercise (which we recommend), you should use a heavy dumbbell or barbell that’s close enough in weight to where it feels like you’re lifting just over 20 lbs per hand (or even less).

Inverted rows

Inverted rows are an exercise that can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or a resistance band.

In an inverted row, you have a weight on your back and then raise it up to the point where it’s resting on your neck. You should not use momentum to lift the weight higher than this point because it will put too much stress on your body (and potentially cause injury). You should also avoid arching your back during this movement–this will strain the spine and may increase pain in the lower back area.

One-arm bent-over rows

One-arm bent-over rows are an excellent exercise for strengthening your back and core. The one arm allows you to focus on only one side of your body at a time, which helps prevent injuries.

To perform this exercise, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold onto a barbell or dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing away from each other). Pull yourself up into the air by extending one arm straight out in front of you while keeping the other bent at 90 degrees under it so that it’s parallel with the floor. Lower yourself back down until you feel the tension in your abs throughout both sets before going again!

Barbell shrugs

Barbell shrugs are one of the best exercises for building strength, size, and posture. They’re not only an effective way to improve your upper back but they also help you increase the size of your traps, deltoids, biceps, and forearms.

The barbell shrug is an excellent exercise for developing overall shoulder health since it works all three heads of your deltoid muscle–the long head (lateral), middle head (medial), and short head (lateral). When performed properly with proper form and technique you’ll notice that this exercise improves mobility in all three directions as well as stimulates growth potential within each individual part of your shoulder girdle!

Dumbbell rowing

Rowing is a great exercise for the upper back, but it’s not an easy one to do. If you’re new to rowing, start with light weights and build up slowly. The more weight you use, the less range of motion there will be in your motion–and this can lead to injury if done incorrectly or overused.

Rowing can be done with either dumbbells or a barbell; however, I recommend using dumbbells because they allow for greater variances in movement and are easier on joints than using a barbell would be (or vice versa). Here’s how:

Chest-supported rows

  • Tip: Do the chest-supported row with a slight bend in your knees, so that you can use more weight.
  • Grip the bar with an overhand grip. If you’re using dumbbells or T-bars, rest them on a bench at shoulder height or lower (depending on which exercise you’re doing). You’ll use this position to help pull yourself up into the starting position of each rep.
  • Pull up from where your hands rest until they’re directly under your chin; keep them there throughout each rep for at least one complete arm movement before returning back down and repeating on another side if necessary–this means that there should be no pause between reps!

T-bar row variations

  • Barbell rows
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Seated rows
  • Military rows (military pressing)
  • Machine rows (machine pressing)

These are great for building strength, size, and posture.


The best exercises for your upper back are going to depend on what your goals are as an individual and how much time you have to devote to training each day. You can find plenty of workouts that will help you build muscle and burn fat, but if you want the biggest bang for your buck—and look good doing it—you need to be working out with a focus on establishing solid posture and strength around the shoulders, trunk, and arms.

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