There are exercises that ride a blurry line between a core exercise and a pulling exercise. The core will be the limiting factor, but the back will still get some significant work. Usually this involves some sort of row with an unstable base. One of the best is the unsupported dead-stop dumbbell row.
Unsupported Dead-Stop Row
- Set up just as you would for a normal three-point row, but place your non-working arm behind your back.
- Perform controlled rows with a pause at both the top and bottom. The dumbbell will touch the floor during the bottom portion of the movement.
- Focus on getting a good contraction in the upper back on each rep while bracing the core to resist rotation.
Since this is meant to function mainly as a core exercise, it’s important to be strict. But this exercise still allows you to row decently heavy loads, translating to a greater stimulus for the upper back.