Upper Back Exercises for Women

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The muscles of the upper back may not get as much attention as six-pack abs or stellar legs, but they’re just as important. If you’re worried about adding too much bulk, stick with one to two sets of eight to 15 repetitions of each exercise, suggests the American Council on Exercise. Whether sporting a bikini for a day at the beach or that little black dress for a night on the town, a toned upper back helps you make a memorable exit.


Dumbbell Shrug

Shoulder shrugs with dumbbells work the trapezius muscles, or traps, running down your neck and along your spine. If you don’t have dumbbells at home, substitute a high-tension resistance band instead. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Start with your shoulders relaxed, and as you exhale, shrug them up toward your ears. Hold the position for a few seconds before relaxing your shoulders as you inhale.

Balance Ball Push-Up

Traditional push-ups work your chest and shoulders, but by switching up the angle of the exercise, you’ll target your latissimus dorsi muscles, or lats, running along the sides of your upper back, as well as your traps and the backs of your shoulders. Lie face-down on top of a balance ball with your hands and feet on the floor. Carefully walk yourself back until your upper abdomen sits on top of the ball and your legs and torso form a straight line. Position your hands flat against the surface of the ball directly beneath your shoulders. As you exhale, extend your arms, pushing your body up away from the ball. Inhale as you lower back toward the ball.

Cable Row

Cable rows target the lats and rhomboids, the muscles between your spine and shoulder blades on your upper back. Look for a resistance band with a door frame attachment to perform cable rows at home. Attach your band to the door at the same level as your upper abdomen when you sit on the floor. Sit in front of the bands with your knees bent slightly and your back straight. Grab one handle in each hand with your palms facing each other, and gently pull the handles toward your sides. Keep your elbows close to your torso as you pull them backward. Inhale while you extend your arms back into the starting position.

Reverse Fly

The reverse fly works your rhomboids and the rear portion of your shoulders. Kneel on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand. Lean forward while keeping your shoulders pulled back and your back straight. With your elbows slightly bent, raise the dumbbells out to your sides until they’re level with your shoulders. Hold briefly, and return to the starting position.

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