Your shoulders and back muscles work together with other muscles in your hip and torso to perform pulling and lifting movements. They rarely move by themselves in everyday activities and sports. Therefore, workouts for your back and shoulders must incorporate other muscle groups and move in different directions, suggests the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
There are two variations of pullups you can do that works on all pulling muscles. To do the standard pullup, grab a pullup bar with both hands facing away or toward you. Exhale and pull yourself up until your head clears over the bar. Inhale and lower yourself down until your arms fully extended. Perform two to three sets of six to 10 reps.
If you cannot perform a standard pullup, you can do an inclined pullup with a low, hanging bar about 2 to 3 feet high, such as a squat bar on a Smith machine. Grab the bar with both hands and crawl under the bar so that your chest is below it. Put your feet on the ground and tighten your buttocks to prevent it from sagging. Exhale and pull yourself up until your chest almost touches the bar. Inhale and lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended. Perform two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Dumbbell Row and Press
This exercise combines the bent-over row and shoulder press exercises, and it works on all pull and lifting muscles. Stand with your legs about hip-width apart, and hold a 20-pound dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Bend your torso forward at your waist and bend your legs slightly so that your arms are extended below your chest. Exhale and pull the dumbbells toward your body near your armpits. Do not round your back or stick your neck forward. Extend your arms below you, and bring your torso upright. Curl your arms to your shoulders, and press the weights over your head without moving your body. Hold this position for one second, and return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise for three sets of eight to 10 reps.
Kettlebell Push Press
This exercise uses your lower body to generate strength and power into your upper body to lift a heavy weight over your head. Hold a 35-pound kettlebell in your left hand near your left shoulder. Keep your elbow close to your body, and stand with your legs about hip-width apart. Bend your legs slightly, and quickly straighten them, pushing the kettlebell over your head so that your bicep is close to your ear. Hold this position for two seconds, and lower the weight to your shoulder. Perform three sets of five to six reps on each arm.
This method works together opposing muscle groups or movement patterns without resting between exercises. Supersets help you increase muscle growth and improve muscular stamina while reducing your workout time. You can do a set of pulling exercise followed by a set of pushing exercise, such as pullups and pushups. You can also do a lower body exercise with an upper body exercise, such as squats and shoulder presses. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each superset.
- "NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training"; Michael Clark; 2007
- "Athletic Body in Balance"; Gray Cook; 2003