Heavy rows and pulldowns are the go-to lifts when it comes to upper back development. But a lot of lifters will pull with their arms as opposed to engaging the upper back.
People tend to favor their strong points during compound lifts. For example, rowing variations engage a combination of your back, biceps, and forearms. If you have strong arms and neglect optimal rowing mechanics, you’ll naturally pull with your biceps instead of your back.
This can happen as a result of the wrong grip. The tighter you squeeze something, the harder your forearms will work. And the harder your arms work, the less your back has to work.
So, how do you pull with your upper back instead of your arms? Take your grip out of the equation. Here are a couple ways to do that to maximize upper back development:
1. Handless Face Pull with Resistance Band
2. Handless Band Pull-Apart
- Pretend your hands are hooks. This loosens up your grip. You’re probably squeezing too tight, which is causing you to pull with your arms instead of your back.
- “Pull” with your elbows. Initiate the pull by moving your elbows back first. You’ll be amazed at the difference this little tweak makes.
- Use lifting straps. This is the usual protocol when you’re lifting weight beyond your ability to grip, but your back can still handle more load. If you’re rowing or pulling puny weights, I’d steer clear from using straps (at least for now).