Unlike unilateral row exercises, bilateral vertical and horizontal pull-ups like incline pull-ups on barbell rows and seated rows often get all the love and attention. Because that’s where the gains are due to you lifting more weight.
It’s a shame that unilateral row exercises are overlooked or forgotten because they have many benefits, including increased upper body strength, reduced strength imbalances between the sides, and increased grip strength at the back. wrist and forearms.
Here we’re going to uncover little anatomy and function, why upper back strength is essential, and three great unilateral row exercises to build muscle in your upper back – you gotta row to grow, baby.
Upper back anatomy and functions
The lats get all the love there, but don’t sleep on the two muscles between your shoulder blades which we’ll cover below.
Rhomboids: The rhomboids start from the cervical vertebra, run diagonally down the back and attach to the inside of the shoulder blade. Their main movements are:
- Scapula adduction (shoulder blades come together)
- Inner scapula rotation (downward rotation from an overhead press or lateral raise)
- Scapula lift (occurs when you raise your shoulder)
Trapeze: The trapezius (upper, middle, and lower) is a large, flat triangular muscle found on both sides of your shoulder blade, upper and middle back. This comes from the cervical spine and is inserted into the 12 thoracic vertebrae. Their main movements are:
- Adduction of the scapula
- Scapula elevation
- Upward rotation of the scapula (this happens during abduction to allow the shoulder joint to lift during lateral raises and overhead presses)
WHY UPPER BACK STRENGTH IS IMPORTANT
There are enough reasons for this topic to be an article in itself, but here are some brief reasons why having a strong upper back is vital and why you should train it with unilateral row exercises.
- It keeps the spine neutral when lifting or squatting and reinforces good lifting posture with rows and presses.
- An engaged upper back keeps the bar close to you as you lift off the ground, because bad things happen when the bar moves away from you.
- A strong upper back prevents a barbell back squat from turning into a hello.
- An engaged upper back supports and controls the trajectory of the bar during the bench press.
Top 3 Unilateral Row Exercises for Back Strength
These aren’t your one-sided garden variety rows because if you want them, you’ve come to the wrong place. The three exercises below will challenge your stability and improve your upper back strength.