Shoulder raises

Shoulder raises


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the shoulder muscles

Trained muscle:   Trapezius, deltoid

Focused muscle:   Trapezius

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Free weight exercises


 

Shoulder raises represent an effective exercise for the trapezius muscle, especially the upper part. In some variations the deltoid muscle will be activated as well.

Shoulder raises

Shoulder raises should not be practised by beginners. We can either workout with dumbbells, a barbell, or a curl bar in standing position. Some variations also allow the training on the cable machine.

Shoulder raises with dumbbells

For shoulder raises with dumbbells we either choose a shoulder wide stand with slightly bent knees or get in lunge position. Hold the dumbbells with tight grip and long arms on the sides of your hips. Tense the arm muscles to stabilize the elbow joints. Also tense the trunk muscles and keep your back upright. Pull up your shoulders maximally in a controlled movement. You could also perform circular motions (shoulder rotations). Here, the shoulders will be pulled upward and to the back maximally. The arms stay extended.

Shoulder raises with dumbbells

Shoulder raises with dumbbells

 

Shoulder raises with barbell

Shoulder raises with barbell work out the deltoid muscle as well. We take the same standing position. Hold the barbell or curl bar in narrow grip with both hands in front of your body. Keep your back upright and tense your trunk muscles. Pull up the bar toward the chin. The elbows pull upward to the outside. In the end position the elbows will be above our hands and the shoulders pull up maximally. The exercise can also be performed on the cable machine with the cable coming from below.

Shoulder raises with curl bar

Shoulder raises with curl bar

 


Antagonist: Chest muscles

Stretching: Upper back stretches

 

 


Deadlifts

Deadlifts


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the leg muscles, the butt muscles, complex exercises

Trained muscle:   Lower back muscles, thigh front, adductors, butt muscles

Focused muscle:   Lower back muscles

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Free weight exercises


 

Deadlifts represent one of the basic exercises within the weight training area, together with squats, bench press, and pull-ups. It is an effective exercise for the muscles of the lower back (lumbar region). At the same time it is a complex workout that additionally trains the upper part of the trapezius as well as the muscles of the buttocks, the front of the thigh, and the adductors.

Deadlifts

Deadlifts should not be practised by beginners. It not just represents an effective exercise for the mentioned muscle groups. Its motion sequence also is very similar to a back-friendly behavior in our daily life. The deadlift teaches us to lift properly. Especially the variation with dumbbell gets very close to this clean movement. The basic version of the exercise is practised with barbell.

Deadlifts with barbell

The deadlift starts in shoulder-wide or slightly wider standing position. Get as close to the barbell as possible with your shanks touching the bar. Your toes point straight to the front or slightly toward the side. Grab the bar with extended arms. For heavy weights it is reasonable to use a mixed grip. Performing deadlifts with barbell, always choose your grip to have your arms on the outsides of your knees. A wider stand requires a wider grip as well.

From this position lower your buttocks and keep your trunk upright. Look straight to the front or slightly upward. Tense your trunk muscles and especially your back and pull the weight upward with the power of your legs. Keep your back straight (slight hollow back) and the barbell close to your body (still touching the legs). Above of your knees the bar will slide up on the thighs. At the end of the motion we stand upright. Pull your shoulders slightly to the back.

Deadlifts

Deadlifts

 

Deadlifts with dumbbell

Deadlifts with dumbbell require the same body posture and motion sequence. The dumbbell stands on one side between our feet. The only difference to the deadlift with barbell is that we now have our arms between our feet. So we now choose a wider stand.

There also exists a variation of the deadlift that keeps the legs extended during the exercise. Please be careful! Here, the lower back will be strained significantly. It is not recommended to perform this version.


Antagonist: Abdominal muscles

Stretching: Lower back stretches

 

 


Rowing

Rowing


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the shoulder muscles

Trained muscle:   Latissimus, Trapezius, deltoid, middle back muscles

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Rowing represents an effective exercise for the latissimus muscle. It also works out the trapezius, the middle part of the erector spinae, and the back part of the deltoid. Also the biceps of the upper arm an the brachioradialis of the forearm will be activated when we row.

Rowing

Rowing can be performed in many different variations. There are many machines specifically for rows, but we also could work out at the cable machine. Furthermore we can work out with a barbell or dumbbells in standing, kneeling, or lying position. All these variations make the training quite diverse.

Rowing on the machine

Rows on specific rowing machines can already be performed by beginners. Such machines provide a good stabilization of the body and support an upright position due to the chest cushion we lean against. Please note, that the workout with high weights can cause uncomfortable pressures on the chest. Sit upright and lean against the chest cushion. Tense the musculature of the trunk and especially your back muscles actively. In controlled movements you start to pull the handles toward the body. In the reverse movement don’t extend your arms completely.

Rowing on different machines

Rowing on different machines

 

For all rowing variations the workout with both arms close on the sides of the body activates the latissimus significantly. The further we lift our elbows toward shoulder hight, the less the latissimus and the more the trapezius, the middle part of the erector spinae, and the back part of the deltoid will work. The variation with raised elbows is very similar to the exercise reverse flys. All versions could be intensified if worked out in small impulses in the area of highest muscle tension when the arms are pulled backward maximally (please see best form of exercise).

Rows on the cable machine shouldn’t be practised by beginners. Sit upright tensing your trunk muscles tightly. Because of the missing chest rest we have to do a lot of stabilization work. In the beginning we sit close to the cable with our feet on the platform in front of us. Grab the handle and slide backward in a controlled movement. Keep your knees at least slightly bent. Row backward smoothly against the resistance with both arms close on the sides of your body. Again, don’t extend the arms completely in the reverse movement. At the end of a set release the weight with straight body posture. Do never drop the weights in a sudden or uncontrolled movement.

Rowing on the cable machine

Rowing on the cable machine

 

Rowing with free weights

Rowing with dumbbell kneeling on the bench is very effective for the latissimus. Rest with the forearm and shank of the same side of the body on the bench. Set the standing leg diagonally to the side onto the floor to stabilize your body optimally. In that position we grab the dumbbell and row backward with the arm close to the body. The back of our hand either points backward or to the side. Do not extend your arm completely in the reverse movement.

Rowing, one-armed on the bench

Rowing, one-armed on the bench

 

With barbell we could either work out rows lying or standing. Lying in prone position on the bench is the more stable version. Your head remains free above the upper end of the bench. Your legs pull upward to prevent a hollow back. You can fixate them on the foot of the bench. Working out with wide grip (back of our hand points to the front) focuses on the trapezius, the middle part of the erector spinae, and the back part of the deltoid. A narrow grip (back of our hand points backward) especially activates the latissimus. Lift the barbell maximally in a controlled movement. Bring it back down to complete one repetition but don’t extend your arms completely.

Rowing, on the bench with barbell

Rowing, on the bench with barbell

 

Rowing standing with barbell additionally activates the lower part of the back (muscles of the lumbar region) significantly. The execution is quite challenging so solely experienced athletes should practise standing rows with barbell. We stand slightly wider than shoulder width bending our knees a little bit. The trunk leans forward. Tense your abdominals tightly and keep your back straight. Also tense the back muscles and pull the barbell toward the body in a controlled movement. Bring it back down smoothly to complete one repetition. Don’t extend your arms completely.

Rowing, standing

Rowing, standing

 

With wide grip (back of your hand points to the front) you pull the weight toward the chest. With narrow grip and the back of your hands pointing backward you pull it toward the stomach.

Rowing without equipment

There also exists an isometric rowing variation that is exercised without any equipment. We sit upright on a chair, bench, or the floor. Our hands grab the knees right below the joints in a surrounding grip. Our body leans forward and our arms start to pull backward building up strong muscle tensions in the back. Increase the tension until you have reached a decent training intensity. Avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways). This version can also be practised on a machine. Here, you pull a weight you can’t overcome.

Rowing isometric

Rowing isometric


Antagonist: Chest muscles

Stretching: Lat stretches, Upper back stretches

 

 


Head presses

Head presses


Muscle group:   The back muscles

Trained muscle:   Upper back muscles, trapezius

Focused muscle:   Upper back muscles

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Head presses are very easy to perform and represent a highly effective training for the muscles of the cervical spine. The upper part of the trapezius muscle will be activated as well.

Head presses

Head presses can be practiced anywhere you would like to. A very effective variation is head pressing against your own hand resistance. The exercise is executed in seated position. Sit straight up with your abdominal muscles tensed. Cross your hands behind your head. Slowly you start to press your head against your hands until you have reached an intense training pressure. Your chin points toward the chest. Keep your breathing calm and abort the exercise if dizziness and/or nausea occur. Hold the pressure for up to one minute or stop at a rate of perceived exertion of high.

Head presses

Head presses

 

Head presses variations

Head presses can also be exercised against a headrest, preferably with back cushions. This variation can be intensified by adding pressure with your hands. Here, you would have to press your hands forward against a wall or similar. It is also possible to work out with a partner who is applying pressure against your arms from the front.

Head presses against rest

Head presses against rest

 

Head presses can also be performed in a lying supine position. Here, you would be pressing your head against the floor. Use a gym mat to make the exercise more comfortable.

Head presses against floor

Head presses against floor

 

Head presses become dynamic by moving your head to the chest and back up again. Resistance will be applied by your hands. Please do not overstretch your cervical spine toward the back and stop the motion when your entire spine is aligned in one line. Hold the pressure against your hands during the entire exercise.

Head presses against hands

Head presses against hands

 


It is important to not work out with maximum resistance! Spare your cervical spine by carefully dosing the pressure on your head.

Stretching: Neck stretches

 

 


Reverse flys

Reverse flys


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the shoulder muscles

Trained muscle:   Trapezius, deltoid, middle back muscles, upper back muscles

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Reverse flys represent an extremely effective exercise for the trapezius and rhomboideus, the middle and back part of the deltoid, and the upper and middle part of the erector spinae. There are different variations and intensity levels we can choose from performing reverse flys.

Reverse flys – lying

Reverse flys can be exercised in lying or sitting position. In lying position you could either work out on a bench, the floor, or similar. We start in prone position. On a bench please make sure to fix your legs under the seating surface. The head faces downward. Our upper arms could either rotate inward or outward. The inward rotated reverse flys exercise is more effective for the upper and middle parts of the back and (in most variations also) the deltoid. Outward rotated reverse flys are more effective for the trapezius. But still, all versions of the exercise represent a good workout for all mentioned muscles.

Reverse flys outwards rotated

Reverse flys outwards rotated

 

Reverse flys inwards rotated

Reverse flys inwards rotated

 

To exercise reverse flys move your arms as far as possible to the back at highest muscle tension. The shoulders pull towards each other. Bring your arms back forward onto shoulder level to complete one repetition. Intensify the exercise by working out with extra weights, like dumbbells or weight plates. Further increase the intensity by remaining in the area of highest muscle tension performing small up and down movements.

Reverse flys on bench, inward rotated

Reverse flys on bench, inward rotated

 

Reverse flys on bench, outward rotated

Reverse flys on bench, outward rotated

 

Reverse flys – sitting

Reverse flys in sitting position can be exercised in the same way. Here, you either work out on the machine or freely on a bench, the floor, or similar. Keep your back straight up and your abdominal muscles tensed.

Reverse flys, seated on bench

Reverse flys, seated on bench

 

Reverse flys on the machine

Reverse flys on the machine

 

The seated version can also be exercised reversely on the chest machine for flyes. Both arm alignments (inward and outward rotated) are possible. The intensity of the free variations can also be increased by having a training partner apply pressure on the arms from behind (sitting) or above (lying).

Reverse flys variations

Raising the upper body and tilting the pelvis (hyperextensions) when we perform reverse flys in lying position would activate the lower back significantly. If we now combine this with back leg lifts we would get a very complex exercise that works out almost the entire backside of your body. Furthermore we could perform rowing in reverse fly execution.

Reverse flys and back leg lifts in combination

Reverse flys and back leg lifts in combination

 

Reverse flys, variations

Reverse flys, variations


Antagonist: Chest muscles

Stretching: Upper back stretches

 

 


Lat presses

Lat presses


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the shoulder muscles, complex exercises

Trained muscle:   Latissimus, trapezius, deltoid, middle back muscles, lower back muscles

Focused muscle:   Latissimus

Fitness level:   Beginners, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Lat presses represent an extremely effective and intense exercise for the latissimus dorsi. The trapezius and rhomboideus, the deltoid, and the erector spinae are activated as well practising lat presses.

Lat presses

Lat presses with the feet and butt remaining on the ground represent the easiest version of this exercise and can already be practised by beginners. Start in supine position. Heels press into the floor. Your knees are bent at an angle of approximately 90°. Bend your elbows the same way and keep your arms as close to your body as possible. Tilting the pelvis deactivates the abdominal muscles what causes more tension for the lat. From this position press your elbows strongly into the floor what raises your upper body. Remain in that position with your lat tensed actively. To add more intensity you could perform small up and down movements. The exercise becomes easier by erecting the pelvis and tensing the abdominal muscles supportingly.

Lat presses variations

Lat presses can be performed more intensely (for advanced athletes) by lifting your feet from the ground as well. In this version (butt still on the floor) you could keep the pelvis tilted. Highest intensity can be achieved by lifting the butt (just for experienced athletes). In this version your body would solely rest on your heels and elbows. The body pulls towards the head. Please erect the pelvis and tense the abdominal muscles performing this variation.


Lat presses are extremely intense. The arm flexors remain deactivated what puts more tension on the latissimus dorsi. In other popular back exercises, like pull-ups or lat pulldown the arm flexors are activated significantly making the workout less intense for the lat.

Antagonist: Chest muscles

Stretching: Lat stretches

 

Lat presses variations

Lat presses variations

 

Lat presses

Lat presses