The following exercises are by no means the king of the crop when it comes to training your back. Exercises such as the deadlift, pull-ups, chin-ups, and rows should comprise the bulk of your back training. The following exercises are “not-so common” but effective exercises that you should give a try.
The Good Morning is one of my favorite accessory exercises for the squat and deadlift. If you back squat with a low-bar placement, or would like to at some point, the good morning allows for a lifter to practice the low-bar placement with a lighter load. During the entirety lift, the lifter must maintain tightness throughout the entire back to maintain control of the bar and to push the load onto the hips (see video). Through emphasizing a low-placement, the center of mass (COM) stays closer to the lifter’s COM allowing the lifter to sit back and load the posterior chain. Through using this technique, not only will the lower back and hips benefit but the mid and upper back will also feel the weight of this exercise.
Chest Supported High Row
The traditional chest supported row is a popular exercise and for good reason. With the traditional version emphasizing a lower row position, it is great way to overload the lats, mid, and upper back while minimizing the load on the lower back.
The high row version of the chest supported row is a great variation to build up the upper back. Using about 60% of the weight used for the traditional version, flare the elbows and pinch together the traps, pulling the weight towards the face rather than the armpits. Your mid and upper traps will benefit from this version.
Like the chest supported high row, the face pull is a great exercise to add to the arsenal for building the upper back. Unlike the chest supported high row, face pulls have the added benefit of strengthening the external rotators of the shoulder. Since the torso is unsupported, the face pull also calls for more core stabilization than a chest supported row.
Face pulls can be done with a number of different stances (half-kneeling, split-stance, seated), and in many different angles/directions (low-to-high, high-to-low, and straight on), and with many different apparatuses (cable station, resistance bands, suspension trainer). My favorite variation is the half-kneeling cable face pull pulling from a slight high-to-low angle (as seen in the video above). I like this because of the ability to brace your body to handle greater weight and the high-to-low angle also emphasizes the mid-back.
Simple yet effective the band pull-apart is one of the best exercises to prepare you for the bench press. I use this exercise mostly as a warm-up exercise to get a “feel” for my shoulder blades pinching as they should during a set of bench press. Keeping the bench press in mind, the band pull-apart should simulate the same technique of creating tightness in the upper and mid-back. When utilizing the band pull-apart, aim for high repetitions and keep some tension throughout the movement. This will not only work as a great warm-up or prep move but it will also help to bring up the rear delts and upper back. I like to use this in a super-set or tri-set of back exercises as well. Another plus side of this exercise is it can virtually be done anywhere as long as you have a band handy. This makes it a great compliment to almost any exercise as a super-set.