Whether you’re looking to build bigger shoulders or just get stronger, adding some variety to your upper back training is a great way to improve.
Cable exercises are ideal for training your upper back because they allow you to adjust the amount of resistance at any point during the movement, making it easier to control the amount of work you’re doing.
This means you can focus on the negative portion of the lift, which is where you’re most at risk of being injured, while also getting
Upper back cable exercises are a great addition to your workout routine because they give your shoulders and neck a total workout and are a safer alternative to weight training.
The upper back is a large and complex group of muscles, including the trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboid major, and the rhomboid minor, which is located between the scapula.
Because of the size of these muscles, they are highly prone to injury. Most upper back
Cable Exercises for the Upper Back
1. Straight Arm Pulldown
This straight arm pull down exercise is one of the best arm exercises out there because it works all your biceps at the same time. This is a great exercise to strengthen your upper back and forearms while working on building muscle in your arms, chest and shoulders.
Here is how you do this exercise:
- Start by grabbing a bar with an overhand grip, your hands should be a little more than shoulder width apart.
- Lift the bar off the rack and slowly lower it to your chest.
- Once the bar is at your chest, tuck your elbows in close to your sides and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- From here, slowly raise the bar back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 8-10 reps.
In the end, the cable straight arm pulldown works just as well if not better than the regular motion for more muscles in less time. It is also less stressful on your shoulders. The best part about this exercise though is its effect on blood pressure. The blood pressure elevates very quickly during this exercise, which can help lower blood pressure throughout the day. Hence to say, it is a great exercise to do!
2. Cable Face-Pulls
Cable face-pulls are used in weight-training exercises to structure and strengthen the muscles of the face. By creating tension on the face when lifting heavy weights, cable face-pulls can be a valuable aid in building strength in the facial muscles.
Here is how you do proper cable face-pull exercises:
- Start by standing in front of a cable machine, with the weight stack at about shoulder height.
- Attach a rope handle to the high pulley, and hold it with your palms facing each other.
- Step back a few feet, so that there is tension on the rope.
- keeping your core engaged, pull the rope towards your face, leading with your elbows.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement, and then slowly release them back to the starting position.
This rather intense movement is ideal for warming up the lats, rhomboids, and upper back. While it might look easy because you aren’t swinging weights, the Face-Pull is one of the best exercises to develop your posterior chain and can be used at any stage of your training routine.
3. Twisting Cable High Row
The twisting cable high row is used to work the back of the upper body and chest. This exercise trains the muscles of the back by adding a twist to your pulling motion. It helps to add tension to your target muscles and develop more size, strength, and power in your lats and traps. The twisting cable high row also causes a lot of stress on your shoulders which maximizes gains in mass when performed correctly.
To do proper twisted cable high row exercises
- Attach a single handle to a low pulley.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Bend forward at the hips and grasp the handle with an overhand grip.
- Keeping your back straight, pull the handle to your chest while twisting your torso to the left.
- Pause for a count of one, then return to the starting position and repeat the movement, this time twisting your torso to the right.
This exercise targets the entire back side of the upper body, with emphasis on the upper lats, rhomboids, and rear delts. There’s also some great activation of the core involved, making it a total-back builder. The key is to do this exercise in a full range of motion, as it really whips your body into shape!
4. Single Arm Cable Low Row
The single arm cable low row is a great exercise for targeting the lats, triceps, and even your forearms. It works your entire upper back and has benefits for shoulder health as well. This exercise can also work directly over your wrist joints which can help prevent carpel tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries due to the movement of that flexure joint in the wrist.
To do this exercise:
- Attach a single handle to a low pulley.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Bend forward at the hips and grasp the handle with your right hand.
- Keeping your back straight, row the handle up to the side of your chest.
- Pause for a count of two, then slowly lower the handle back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch sides and repeat with your left hand.
This highly effective exercise can be used to build up the back muscles and help bring balance to your physique. It is ideal for shaping your obliques, the muscle at the side of your hips and waist, which needs to be well-developed for that sought-after V-shaped torso. This exercise can be used by beginners as well as advanced bodybuilders. Once you have completed a set you should feel the muscle fatigue in your left shoulder, indicating that this area is receiving adequate stimulation during training.
5. Kneeling Cable Lat Pulldown
Kneeling cable lat pulldown is a superb exercise that works your back, biceps, and forearms. It tones the chest, shoulders, and triceps and is great for building muscle. All you need are a pair of dumbbells, a bench or chair that you can squat down onto, and a cable machine.
Here is how you do this exercise:
- Start by choosing the weight you want to use on the machine.
- Then, take a rope and attach it to the machine.
- Get down on your knees a few feet away from the machine, holding the rope out in front of you.
- Start the move by bending your elbows and bringing your shoulders back.
- Pull the rope toward your upper chest, keeping your elbows out.
After pausing for a moment, go back to the starting position. The cable lat pulls down is an isolation exercise that focuses on the posterior muscles of the upper body. Unlike the barbell back squat, the cable lat pulldown places a greater emphasis on lower back activation than quadriceps recruitment. During this exercise, you’ll feel a strong stretch in your lats, deltoids, and traps while also feeling low back activation. Remember to breathe through each of these movements during each set and focus your attention on engaging your muscles to get the most out of this exercise.
Upper Back Anatomy
The upper back refers to the area around the neck and shoulders. The bones of the spine (vertebrae) protect the spinal cord, which is the main communication pathway between the brain and the body. The muscles of the upper back support the spine and allow for movement of the arms and legs. The nerves of the upper back provide sensation to the arms and legs.
The bones of the upper back include the cervical spine (neck), the thoracic spine (upper back), and the shoulder girdle (shoulder blade and collarbone). The muscles of the upper back include the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and erector spinae. The nerves of the upper back include the brachial plexus and the spinal nerves.
The cervical spine is made up of 7 bones called vertebrae. The first 2 vertebrae (C1 and C2) are called the atlas and axis. The atlas is the bone that the head rests on. The axis is the bone that the atlas pivots around. The next 5 vertebrae (C3-C7) are numbered sequentially. The cervical spine allows for a large range of motion of the head and neck.
The thoracic spine is made up of 12 bones called vertebrae. The thoracic spine is attached to the ribs and provides support and stability for the upper body. The thoracic spine also protects the organs of the chest.
The shoulder girdle is made up of 2 bones, the clavicle (collarbone) and the scapula (shoulder blade). The shoulder girdle connects the arms to the body and allows for a wide range of motion of the arms.
The trapezius is a large, triangular muscle that extends from the base of the skull to the middle of the back. The trapezius stabilizes the shoulder girdle and allows for movement of the arms.
The latissimus dorsi is a large, flat muscle that extends from the lower back to the upper arm. The latissimus dorsi stabilizes the shoulder girdle and allows for movement of the arms.
The erector spinae is a large muscle group that extends along the length of the spine. The erector spinae stabilizes the spine and allows for movement of the trunk.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that extends from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. The brachial plexus provides sensation to the arm and hand and controls the muscles of the arm and hand.
The spinal nerves are a network of nerves that extends from the spine to the arms and legs. The spinal nerves provide sensation to the arms and legs and control the muscles of the arms and legs.
Wrapping It Up
Doing exercises to strengthen and build muscle should be the foundation of any good workout program. Upper back muscles like the traps and lats are used in many upper body exercises, and should be trained as such. When working out your upper back, remember to choose multiple sets of exercise that target almost all regions of this major muscle group.