12 Best Back And Shoulder Workout For Upper Body Strength

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A fitness freak is doing pull-ups

12 exercises | Sample plan | Benefits | Tips

Targeting the back and shoulder muscles is crucial for a bodybuilder or an athlete who aims to build a muscular physique. These muscles play a key role in overall upper body strength and development. Also, they are among the largest and strongest muscles in the body.

This article will teach you the benefits of training back and shoulder muscles together. In addition, we’ve provided a back and shoulder workout routine for upper body strength designed to build strong, muscular back and shoulder muscles.

Exercises for the back and shoulders: Building up the upper body

The strength of the back and shoulder muscles [1]National Library of Medicine: Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Shoulder depends heavily on every workout for performance. Building these muscles takes a lot of effort and patience. 

Below we have listed 12 shoulder and back muscle exercises for building a muscular body:

1. Chin-ups 

Target muscles: Biceps brachii, brachialis, latissimus dorsi, and teres major

How to do a chin-up:

  1. Find a chin-up bar, then place your hands on it with the palms facing your body.
  2. Lift your body until the chin is above the bar. 
  3. Lower yourself until your arms are straight using a slow, controlled motion.
  4. Repeat for desired number of sets and reps.

Summary: The chin-up is a bodyweight training exercise that primarily targets the latissimus dorsi muscles in the upper back. It’s very similar to a pull-up, but with the palms facing the body (supinated grip) instead of facing forward.

chin ups
Source: YouTube

2. Pull-Ups

Target muscles: Lats deltoids, rhomboids, and core

How to do a pull-up:

  1. Place your hands on the pull-up bar with palms facing away from your body (overhand grip). 
  2. Keep your hands slightly further than shoulder-width apart. 
  3. Then, slowly raise your feet off the floor while pulling your belly button in toward your spine to activate your core muscles. 
  4. Bend your elbows as you raise your upper body toward the bar until your chin is over the bar. 
  5. Return back to the starting position.

Summary:  Pullups are a great way to build upper body strength. It uses the pronated grip (palms away from the body) to engage the muscles in your back, biceps, arms and forearms. Therefore, it is also known as one of the best back and bicep workout. Avoid swinging your legs around or shrugging your shoulders up while performing this exercise. You want to ensure your shoulder blades remain back and down throughout the exercise.

pull ups
Source: YouTube

3. Lat pull-downs

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, lower and middle trapezius, brachialis, brachioradialis, teres major, rhomboids, biceps brachii, infraspinatus

How to do lat pull-downs:

  1.  Sit down comfortably on the pull-down seat with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Take hold of the bar with a wide overhand grip. 
  3. Now, pull the bar down until it’s leveled with your chin. 
  4.  Engage your core muscles and  keep your spine straight as you pull the bar. 
  5. Then, gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and  return  the bar to the starting position.

Summary: Lat pull-downs can help to improve upper body strength and posture, and can be modified with different grip widths and hand positions to target different muscle groups.

lat pull downs
Source: YouTube

4. Dumbbell shrugs

Target muscles: Trapezius muscles

How to do dumbbell shrugs:

  1. Hold the dumbbells on your sides with your palms facing inwards.
  2. Ensure to keep your feet hip width apart.
  3. Now, try raising your shoulders by shrugging as high as possible. 
  4. Keep your chin up straight and engage your core muscles. 
  5. Lower your shoulder back into the start position and then repeat. 

Summary: The dumbbell shrug is an effective back and shoulder exercise for building traps, as it puts maximum tension on the muscle at the top of the movement. Moreover, this exercise doesn’t need a lot of weight to provide the muscles a good workout.

dumbbell shrugs
Source: YouTube

5. Lateral raise

Target muscles: Lateral deltoid muscles

How to do lateral raise:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in towards your body.
  2. Lift the dumbbells out to the sides until they are level with your shoulders. Maintain a slight bend at your elbows as you do so.
  3. Hold this position for a moment, then slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Summary: Lateral raises can be done as part of a shoulder or upper body workout. They can be done for high reps to build endurance or lower reps with heavier weights to build strength.

lateral raise
Source: YouTube

6. Bent over rows

Target muscles: Latissimus dorsi, the middle and lower trapezius, the rhomboids, and the posterior deltoids

How to do bent over rows:

  1. Hold a barbell, bend at the knees and hinge your hips, bending forward until your body is parallel to the ground. 
  2. Ensure to keep your core muscles tight and your back straight. 
  3. Pull the barbell up to your chest, lower, and then repeat. 

Summary: The bent over row is a compound exercise that activates muscles groups throughout your body. Bent over rows train your upper arms as well as your back and shoulder muscles. These can help to improve upper body strength, posture, and back definition. The exercise can be performed using dumbbells, a barbell, or other types of weights.

bent over rows
Source: YouTube

7. T-Bar rows

Target muscles: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, posterior deltoid, rhomboids

How to do T-bar rows:

  1. Step onto the T-bar machine and stand on both sides of the platform. Ensure that your feet are hip distance apart. 
  2. Keep your feet flat, slightly bend your knees, and hinge forward. Ensure to keep your back slightly arched. 
  3. Now, grasp the t-bar row with both hands by keeping your arms straight. Lift the bar until your torso is at a 45 degrees angle to the ground. 
  4. Bend your arms and pull the t-bar towards your chest. Keep your wrists straight while you lead the bar with your elbows. 
  5. Fully extend your arms and repeat. 

Summary: T-bar rows help you build a thick, dense muscle in your upper body. This exercise targets all major back muscles. It can be performed with a variety of different weights and can be modified to suit the individual’s fitness level.

T-bar rows
Source: YouTube

8. Bent-over reverse fly

Target muscles: Posterior deltoids, rear deltoids

How to do a bent-over reverse fly:

  1. Hold a dumbbell of your preferred weight in each hand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge your hips forward and bend slightly parallel to the ground. 
  2. Let the weights hang straight down and then raise both arms to your sides until your upper arms are in line with your upper back.  
  3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together as you pull them toward the spine. 
  4. Keep your chin tucked for a neutral position, then lower the weight back and repeat. 

Summary: Bent-over reverse fly helps to increase your range of motion, and improve the stability of your shoulders. As a result, this exercise can help reduce shoulder pain or discomfort, and allow you to perform activities with improved form and technique.

bent over reverse fly
Source: YouTube

9. Deadlifts

Target muscles: Hamstrings, glutes, back, hips, core, trapezius

How to do deadlifts:

  1. Stand behind a barbell with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hinge at your hips, bend slightly at your knees, and keep your back flat.
  3. Now, grab the bar with palms facing your body. Ensure your hands are also shoulder’s width apart.
  4. Pull the bar by keeping your neck neutral to your spine. Do not look up or down.  
  5. Squeeze your butts and engage your core muscles when you stand up. Ensure to keep the bar close to your body. 
  6. Now, return to the squat position and stand up again. 

Summary: Deadlifts are great for the back and shoulder, but this workout also works to help you gain definition in your glutes and hamstrings. This exercise is one of the three powerlifting exercises.

Source: YouTube

10. Overhead press

Target muscles: Pectorals, deltoids, triceps, trapezius 

How to do overhead press:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells in each hand.
  2. Bring the dumbbells to your shoulders with your palms facing each other.
  3. Engage your core and press the dumbbells straight up overhead, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your shoulders.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Summary: The overhead press is an upper-body weight training exercise in which the trainee presses a weight overhead while seated or standing. It is mainly used to develop the anterior deltoid muscles of the shoulder and is a great way to test your strength and conditioning. You can use kettlebells or a barbell in place of the dumbbells.

overhead press
Source: YouTube

11. Back extensions

Target muscles: Posterior chain muscle group, erector spinae muscles, quadratus lumborum

How to do back extensions: 

  1. Step on a hyperextension machine and secure your ankles on the footpad.
  2. Adjust the upper pad so your thighs can have some space to bend without any waist restriction. 
  3. Keep your body straight on the machine and cross your arms or you can also keep your hands behind your head. 
  4. Now slowly start bending forward as far as you can. Keep moving until you feel  a nice stretch in your hamstrings. 
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat. 

Summary: Back extensions are an isolation exercise that primarily works on your lower back. It is a type of stabilization workout that improves your posture. This workout also activates the glutes and hamstrings of muscle groups.

back extensions
Source: YouTube

12. Seated cable rows

Target muscles: Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, biceps brachii

How to do seated cable rows:

  1. Adjust the seat and the pulley on the cable machine so that the handle is at waist height. You may also want to attach a straight or bent bar to the cable for a different grip.
  2. Sit on the seat with your feet flat on the ground and grab the handle with an overhand grip (palms facing down).
  3. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and abs engaged throughout the exercise.
  4. Pull the handle towards your body, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your elbows close to your sides as you do this.
  5. Return the handle to its starting position and repeat. Keep your back straight and your chest out as you row. 

Summary: Seated cable rows target the middle back muscles, as well as your biceps and forearms. The seated cable row also engages the core muscles, enabling you to stabilize your body as you perform the exercise. 

seated cable rows
Source: YouTube

Sample back and shoulder workout plan

We have created a one-week back and shoulder workout plan below to help you incorporate the above exercises into your workout routine. 

DaysBack and shoulder workouts
MondayChin-ups and Pullups: 2-3 sets of  4-6 reps
Lat pull-downs: 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps
Dumbbell shrugs: 2-4 sets of 5-6 reps
TuesdayLateral raise: 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Bent over rows: 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps
T-bar rows: 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps
WednesdayLat pull-downs: 4-5 sets of 10-15 reps
Bent over rows: 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps
Overhead press: 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps
FridayChin-ups and Pullups: 2-3 sets of  4-6 reps
Bent over reverse fly:3-5 sets of 4-8 reps
Back extensions: 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps
SaturdayDeadlifts: 3-4 sets of 4-5 reps
Back extensions: 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps
Seated cable rows: 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps

Benefits of pairing back and shoulder workouts

Pairing back and shoulder workouts can help you build muscular arms, shoulders, triceps, and trap muscles. Here are some benefits of pairing back and shoulder workouts. 

1. Improves back posture

Everyone needs a strong back [2]National Library of Medicine: Anatomy, Back and shoulder for a good posture, and many people suffer from posterior imbalances. Strengthening the back and shoulder muscles simultaneously encourages better posture and improves overall strength.

2. Helps you build multiple muscle groups simultaneously

Often, during workouts, when one muscle gets too much attention, other muscles tend to get ignored and become weak or even deteriorate in strength. Therefore, pairing back and shoulder workouts together forces those other muscle groups to work simultaneously. This helps them grow stronger and bigger. 

3. It improves other workouts

Most workouts require upper body strength. Improving upper body strength with back and shoulder workouts can help other essential workouts. 

4. Helps you burn more calories

Pairing back and shoulder workouts can help you burn more calories because it allows you to work multiple muscle groups in a shorter amount of time. This, in turn, can increase your heart rate and metabolism. 

Tips to keep in mind while working out your back and shoulders

The most essential things to keep in mind while working out your back and shoulders are: 

1. Use of proper form 

Proper form can help you build better posture and strengthen your spine. A bad form can injure your back or shoulders, leading to spine injury or a dislocated shoulder. 

2. Always warm up before starting an exercise routine

Warming up will increase blood flow to your muscles and allow them to relax. The muscles also become more flexible and pliant during workout sessions, so they can better respond to the stimulus of the exercises. 

3. Duration of your back and shoulder workout

The duration depends on the type of equipment you use and the intensity of your workout. 

If you are doing supersets, training for a shorter period is best. In the case of longer workout sessions, isolated exercises work best instead of compound exercises. 

4. Capacity 

To ensure that your muscles recover, keep the intensity level of your back and shoulder exercises within the body’s capacity.


Your back and shoulders are two of the most important muscle groups in your body, responsible for maintaining good posture, stability, and mobility. Whether you’re an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or just looking to improve your overall health and wellness, working on these muscle groups is essential.

This workout is designed to help you strengthen and tone your back and shoulder muscles through a combination of exercises that target different areas and angles. With consistent effort, you can expect to see improvements in your posture, overall strength, and mobility.


1 National Library of Medicine: Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Shoulder
2 National Library of Medicine: Anatomy, Back

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