One Good Thing: Upper Back Strengthener

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This move, called the single-arm row, targets the back and the back of your shoulders. Practice this move regularly and you’ll strengthen your latissimus dorsi, teres major, trapezius, rhomboids, biceps brachii, and rear deltoids! And all of that extra strength will help you safely lift heavy objects like suitcases (not to mention firm up dreaded back fat.)

Step 1:

Stand in a lunge position, right leg in front of the left. Keep both knees slightly bent. Hold one heavy weight in your left hand and lean forward with a straight back resting your right hand on your right thigh. Keep your chin tucked in toward your neck.

Step 2:

With your palm facing your body, bend your left elbow and draw it up toward your waist. Stop when your elbow moves just above your back. Feel your shoulder blade move in toward your spine. Then slowly lower and repeat. Then switch sides.


  • Hug your upper arm in toward your ribcage.
  • Hold your shoulder down and your chest high so that you do not scrunch or round your shoulders.
  • Choose a weight that is heavy enough to challenge your target muscles, but not so heavy that your joints feel strained.
  • Start with dumbbells that are at least 3 to 8 pounds, depending upon the exercise, and gradually work up to heavier weights as one set of exercises becomes easier to complete.
  • Start by doing 1 set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. The move should feel challenging by the time you reach the last few repetitions of each set.
  • Rest for 1 to 2 minutes before performing another set of 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Start by performing one set of each exercise, and as you get stronger work up to doing three sets.
  • Do this exercise two to three times a week with a rest day in between.


  • Yank your elbow too high, which can cause you to hyperextend your shoulder joint.
  • Round your back. Instead of bending over, lean forward with your ribs held high and your lower back elongated.

Martica Heaner PhD is a nutritionist and exercise physiologist and an award-winning health writer with a weekly column on She is a research associate at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and is the co-author of Cross-training for Dummies and Lean Mommy. Follow Dr. Martica on Facebook and Twitter.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.