Three Upper Back Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Three Upper Back Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders

June 19, 2011

The shoulder lets you perform a myriad of sports skills, such as throwing a football and serving in tennis, because it has a greater range of motion than any other joint in the body. However, to achieve this range of motion, the shoulder sacrifices some stability.

In the illustration below, notice how the entire arm is attached to the scapula (shoulder blade), which in turn is attached to the clavicle (collar bone). This provides little structural support to the joint, so it must rely on upper body muscles for stability.

To build this stability, most athletes focus on training their deltoids and rotator cuff muscles. These are important, but you also need to develop the muscles in your upper back that support the scapula, like the trapezius and rhomboids.


In fact, the muscles that move the scapula are the source of many shoulder movements. Weakness in them can lead to problems in other areas of the shoulder joint. According to a study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, weak scapula muscles cause three critical problems:

  • Increased stress to the front of the shoulder
  • Increased risk of rotator cuff injuries
  • Decreased performance

To strengthen these muscles, regularly perform exercises that target the upper back. When doing so, remember to retract your shoulder blades and relax your upper traps by keeping your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible. Pull with your back muscles instead of your arms, and imagine that you are squeezing an orange between your shoulder blades throughout each movement.

DB Single-Arm Rows

TRX Inverted Row

Half-Kneeling Face Pulls

(Videos Above)

Photo:  Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Sources:  Paine, M., & Voight, M. [1993]. The Role of the Scapula. Journal of Othopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 386-391.; livestrong.com

Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is an Associate Content Director at STACK Media. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is an Associate Content Director at STACK Media. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Bench Press Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

How Functional Training Has Overly Complicated Strength Training

Top 5 Baseball Strength Training Myths

7 Strategies for Faster Workout Recovery

3 Explosive Exercises Designed to Increase Pitching Power

7 Best Lower-Body Strengthening Exercises

Kyle Lowry's 12-Week All-Star Training Program

4 Sure-Fire Ways to Build a Strong Core

3 Sandbag Training Mistakes Athletes Make

Master the Lateral Lunge to Improve Your Hockey Stride

7-Exercise Core-Blasting Workout

How to Design a Greco-Roman Wrestling Training Program

Female Athletes: Get Strong, Not Bulky, With These Workouts

Build Powerful Pecs With This Multi-Angle Chest Workout

Break Through Plateaus With the 1-10 Drop Set Method

Build Full-Body Strength With 5 Suspension Trainer Exercises

A Better Way to Train Your Core

The Best Single-Leg Exercises for Youth Athletes

The Simplest Bodyweight Workout Ever

7 Ways to Work Out Competitively Without CrossFit

These 3 Single-Leg Movements Will Improve Your Squat Technique

5 Isolation Exercises Your Workout Is Missing

7 Strategies for Dealing With a Meathead in Your Gym

Perfect Your Squat Technique With the Unloaded Squat

Never Bench Press With Your Feet in This Position

Blast Through Plateaus with Tempo Sets

Improve Your Back Strength with the Inverted Row

5 Softball Catcher Drills for Throwing Power

4 Exercises to Build True Lacrosse Power

Get Faster by Improving Your Core Mobility

4 Deadlift Variations to Increase Your Pull

Get a Ripped Core With 6 Advanced Dead Bug Variations

10 Ways to Get Stronger With a Sandbag

Dominate Your Bench Test With This Strategy

4 Weaknesses That Can Ruin Your Exercise Technique (With Fixes)

3 Nordic Hamstring Curl Exercises to Boost Your Performance

Make Lifts More Challenging With Resistance Bands

Don't Train Your Arms Until You Can Do These 4 Things

How Often Should You Vary Your Exercise?

3 Post-Activation Potentiation Combos for Explosive Strength

The Science of Building Muscle: 2 Ways to Maximize Hypertrophy

4 Lifts to Build Wrestling Strength

Notice On-Court Results With This Basketball Core Workout

7 Exercises That Safely Build Shoulder Strength