When it comes to bodybuilding and physique development, there is no one single movement that can help you achieve your ultimate success. There are different exercises that can help you focus on different areas.
If you need evidence to support that theory, look no further than the upper back. There are several goals when it comes to that part of the body. People want to be wider, thicker, detailed, bigger overall, and stronger. No one exercise is going to help with all of that. The more movements you can incorporate into your plan, the better.
This eight week program has eight of the best exercises in the iron game that can help you achieve all of the above. It would be tough to do all of those in one session and reap the benefits of them all. So, there are two workouts that you can alternate weekly to help you can see gains that will stay with you.
Workout A is focusing on the thickness, detail, and power. Workout B has exercises that will help you get wider and stronger. Both have barbells, dumbbells, and machine movements so there is variety.
Take note that this program focuses on the upper back only. The lower back will be involved in a few movements for stability but no direct work is applied in this program for that area. If you would like to do something for the lower back, add low back extensions with resistance for three or four sets of 10-12 reps at the end of both workouts.
Workout A (Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7)
|One Arm Dumbbell Row||3||8|
|Wide Grip Lat Pulldown||3||10|
|High Machine Seated Row||3||12|
This is a foundation movement for anyone needing to get stronger and bigger. This old-school movement hits everything in the upper back and also challenges the lower back to maintain stability.
I like doing these with an overhand grip but underhand works well too. The way you hold it is a matter of preference. If you need straps, go for it. Just make sure your hands are a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
You should feel a good stretch in the bottom and be able to pull the bar up without jerking your upper body. Keep your elbows in tight and pull to your stomach. Add weight each set until the final set is the heaviest. You should be able to get five reps but no more than that. If you fail at three or four, try to improve next time.
One Arm Dumbbell Row
Balance matters too and one arm rows are very effective at isolating each side of the upper back. Like the barbell version, you should feel a stretch at the bottom without risking injury. When you pull the weight up, keep it to your side and squeeze the back at the top. Hold the weight at the top for a second before lowering it under control.
Whichever side is your non-dominant or weaker side is the one you should begin the set with. Add weight each set with this movement too.
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
This isn’t a rowing movement but it is effective in helping with thickness in the upper back as well as targeting the lats. It can be a great accessory or assistant exercise when used correctly.
Do your best not to generate momentum when pulling down. If you feel it best when you lean slightly back then you should do it. Just make sure it’s not an excuse to jerk. Get a quality contraction when pulling down. When you let the handle up, make sure you don’t release the tension in the lats before pulling again.
High Machine Seated Row
The theme here is constant motion. Slow and steady reps are what will win the race for you here. Each rep should take around four seconds to complete – two seconds up and two back down.
It might be tempting to stop and regain composure before finishing but don’t do it. It would be better to lower the weight to an amount that you can perform this set effectively with.
Workout B (Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8)
|Single Arm Cable Pulldown||3||12|
Pullup or Assisted Pullup
This is one of the top exercise for overall upper back development. It should be a goal of any athlete that considers this a weakness to get better. That’s why it starts out this workout. You will have the most energy and focus to commit to the cause.
If you can’t do these on your own, use a power band or assistant machine to help. When you go to pull yourself up, imagine that you’re driving the elbows down into the floor. That can help you generate a little more force to get yourself up there.
Lower yourself under control but don’t release the tension in the lats. If straps help you with grip, use them because the focus here is on back development and width. Train your grip another time.
The traditional method of doing this one is by lying with your upper back across the bench and your feet holding your lower body up. If you have lower back problems, go ahead and lie on the bench in the normal fashion.
Don’t exercise your ego here. You don’t have to have a super-heavy dumbbell for this one to work for you. Choose a weight that you could call moderate. Lower it behind your head until you feel that stretch in the lats.
When you lift it back up, do so until the weight is over your forehead. This will make the movement more effective for the lats and minimize chest involvement.
Wide Grip Seated Row
The seated row is a very versatile movement. The way you hold the handles can determine which parts of the upper back you’re working. Using a wide grip and pulling in to a point right above the belly button can get the lower part of the lats as well as the middle of the upper back.
You can use a traditional long handle or use one that has the vertical handles. If you opt for the regular bar, use an underhand grip so you can decrease the activation of the rear delts and upper back. Using the vertical handles if possible is best. Pull in to a count of one but lower it to a count of three.
Single Arm Cable Pulldown
Like the dumbbell rows in the previous workout, the focus here is on balance and making sure each side works on its own without help from the other.
Sit on the seat so the shoulder of the side you’re working is directly over where the cable is. You should be able to reach straight up and grab the handle attached to the end. Pull the handle straight down and twist your pinky in as you do.
Once you pull the handle down, stick your chest out slightly. Feel that contraction before releasing the tension and letting the handle up. Feel a deep stretch at the top but don’t push it to the point you risk getting hurt.
Once you finish all the weight on one side, repeat with the other. If you’re able to, keep alternating without resting until you finish with all the sets for both sides to save time. If you need the rest periods, feel free to take it but keep it to a minimum.