I will start out this three part series on "Building The Back" with the upper back. The muscles of the upper back include:
• Levator scapula
• Upper fibers
The upper fibers originate from the base of the skull and insert at the lateral third of the clavicle. These fibers are responsible for elevation of the scapula. Knowing this, the two most obvious exercises for developing the upper fibers of the trapezius would be the upright row and the shrug.
• Middle fibers
The middle fibers originate about at the base of the neck in the spinous process of the seventh cervical and upper three thoracic vertebrae. They insert just below the upper fibers on the medial border of the acronium process and upper border of the scapular spine. The middle fibers also work to elevate the scapula, but also serve as strong scapular adductors. Thus, not only will the upright row and shrugs hit the middle fibers, but any exercises that is done by moving the pulling the shoulders back, like pronated (overhand) or neutral grip bent over rows, pronated or neutral grip dumbbell rows, and seated cable rows with a pronated or neutral will further activate the middle fibers of the trapezius muscle.
• Lower fibers
The lower fibers of the trapezius originate just below the middle fibers at the spinous process of the fourth through twelfth thoracic vertebrae. It inserts in the middle of the back at the triangular base of the scapular spine. Since the lower fibers also work best as scapula adductor, the bent over row, dumbbell row, and seated cable row all with a pronated or neutral grip work very well to strengthen these fibers.
• Shoulder shrugs; or
• Upright rows
To hit the middle and lower fibers of the traps and the rhomboids we can do any one of the following:
•Bent over rows (pronated or neutral grip);
•Dumbbell rows (pronated or neutral grip); or
•Seated cable rows (pronated or neutral grip)
1. Chek, P. (1997). Rows, pulls, chins, & the deadlift. In: Gym Instructor Series, v3. Chek, P. Prod. La Jolla, CA: Paul Chek Seminars.
2. Thompson, C.E. and Floyd, R.T. (1994). The shoulder girdle. In:
of Structural Kinesiology, 12th ed. Smith, J.M. Ed. St. Louis, MS:
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