I wrote a post a few years ago about how I like to strengthen my back and worked my way up to doing pull ups. You can catch up HERE
Warm up and cool down accordingly. I usually do pull ups and push ups as part of my warm up because thatès when I have the most energy 🙂 They start to suck after a few sets haha
Here’s an updated video and list of exercises I like to incorporate into my upper body routine weekly.
Most of us know this works a lot of the triceps and chest, but in fact it is a full body work out. You need tight legs, core, and a super stable back. Your shoulders, and the rotator cuff in particular, need to be stable and comfortable in the joint, and your whole body assists with this movement. The serratus anterior, rhomboids, middle and lower traps, which are just some muscles that attach to your shoulder blade (scapula) all need to be strong to stabilize the shoulder and avoid winging of the scapula (when your shoulder blade sticks out, it doesn’t mean you’re skinny..well maybe it does, but it also is a sign that your shoulders and back are weak and unstable.
So incorporate this wonderful exercise into your routine. It can be part of your warm up, the meat of the work out, even a finisher! There are a bazillion push up variations. When you master the basic push up, have a look at these. They are some of my favourites!
Reverse Grip Bent Over Rows
This puts a bit more emphasis on the biceps and lats, which are some of the primary muscles you need to pull yourself up. These 2 muscles also attach to the scapula. As you can see, stability is key and the shoulder needs lots of it as it is a very mobile joint. I love these also because I need my core (the front and the back) to stabilize my spine. It loads up my posterior chain so my glutes and hamstrings get nice and warm too.
TRX Neutral Grip Rows
The TRX is a great piece of equipment. You can bring it anywhere and latch it over a door or hang it on a beam like I have here 🙂 You can adjust the amount of resistance using your own body weight and you get a full body work out because you need to stabilize your core and overall body in the movement. The neutral grip is great for getting into the biceps, middle traps, rhomboids, and serratus anterior, as well as the rear delts. ALL these muscles which are involved in pull yourself up!
Lat Pull Downs
Another ‘pumping iron, meat-head, old school’ exercise and equipment I’ve always loved. If you have the machine, then you can use it, otherwise, you make a synthetic one like me with the bands haha. Doing these assisted pull-ups with the TRX also mimics what the lat pull down machine can do. As the name indicates, this exercise works the lats 🙂 Ensure you have a slight lean back and focus on pull the elbows down and towards the body (adduction) to really recruit the lats.
Side Bent Over Long Bar Single Arm Rows
This is a newer one for me. In the past I’ve done the long bar row with both arms or one, where I straddle over the bar. I like standing at the side in this one because it uses my core as it is not symmetrical. I also feel it in my lats and rear delts a lot more.
Standing Single Arm Rows
This is a lower impact and lower intensity exercise. I do it to stabilize my whole torso and really work on, isolating, but at the same time, recruiting the deeper, smaller muscle to perform the row. It requires less if any at all, momentum, so I can really stay in control.
Bonus: Practice Pull Ups to Do Pull ups!
Of course, if you want to be able do pull ups, you have to practice pull ups! Using resistance bands, NOT the assisted pull up machine. That thing supports you TOO much. Practice hanging and your grip strength can improve, slowing down on the negative (eccentric) portion of the exercise, where you lower down from the pull up, all will help with building a stronger back and help you smash those pull ups!