It can be easy to forget about back and shoulder exercises, since these muscle groups aren’t as visible to you as, say, your legs and butt. But working your upper body (even the muscles you don’t see every day) is important for way more than just establishing a well-rounded fitness routine.
“Having a strong back creates good posture and is the foundation for a strong core,” explains Sammie Mack, a senior instructor at TruFusion. “Because most people spend the majority of their days sitting in a flexed position, looking down with a rounded back and shoulders folded forward, it is important to strengthen your [back and shoulders in] your workouts to counter the long-term effects of being sedentary for most of the day.” In addition to having poor posture, you may also suffer from back pain, thanks to that permanently slouched position.
Working your upper body also just makes you seriously strong, in the gym and out. Whether you’re lifting heavy boxes, shoving a carry-on into an overhead bin, or just working on mastering a pull-up, strengthening the back and shoulder muscles will prepare you for any heavy-lifting activity life throws your way.
Here are 14 back and shoulder exercises that’ll put your upper body to work. Bonus: Many engage other muscles at the same time, like your arms and abs. (For moves that include dumbbells, here’s how to choose the right weights for you. If you have any back or shoulder issues, check in with your doctor before trying out these moves.)