Back Exercises Not Involving Your Biceps

Target your back with exercises that don't involve your biceps.
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Your back can be roughly divided into the upper back, middle back and lower back. The latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and trapezius are the three significant muscles of the upper and middle back, but it is not unusual to come away from your upper and middle back workouts with a tremendous biceps pump and your lats under-worked. Back exercises that don't involve your biceps give you a more focused and thorough upper and middle back workout.


The barbell deadlift is one of the classic strength-building exercises and targets the erector spinae of your lower back. A variety of other muscles are involved: your glutes and quadriceps assist the movement, while your upper and middle trapezius, rhomboids, together with your abs and obliques kick in strongly as stabilizers. The activation of so many muscles explains why deadlifts make you stronger, thus improving your ability to perform other exercises. Ensure you maintain proper technique when you do deadlifts. Keep your head up, shoulders back, hips low, back straight and knees in line with your feet.

Straight-Arm Pulldown

The straight-arm pulldown is an isolation exercise that solely targets your lats with no involvement of your biceps. To perform straight-arm pulldowns, grasp the bar of a high pulley machine with a shoulder-width grip. Bend your knees slightly, push your butt back, and lean forward from your hips keeping your back straight. Bend your elbows slightly, and pull the bar down with straight arms, until it touches the front of your thighs.

Bench Pullovers

The cross-bench pullover was performed extensively by old-time bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu and Frank Zane. There is debate whether the exercise primarily targets the upper back or pectorals, but the movement involves an upward and downward rotation of your sacpulae that activates your upper and middle back muscles. Perform the exercise with a barbell or dumbbell. Lie cross-way on a bench and grasp a barbell with a shoulder-width grip. Alternatively, balance the inner-end of a dumbbell between your thumbs and forefingers with your hands overlapping. Hold the weight above your head with elbows slightly bent, then lower the weight behind your head in a controlled fashion, before returning to your starting position. The stress on the shoulder joints is significant, so don't do cross-bench pullovers if you have a shoulder injury.

Machine Pullovers

The Nautilus pullover machine was invented by Arthur Jones in the 1970s as the resistance machine equivalent of free-weight pullovers. According to T Nation, bodybuilders such as Dorian Yates and the late Mike Mentzer made machine pullovers an essential part of their back workouts. If your gym has a pullover machine, include machine pullovers in your biceps-free back workout. The exercise gives you a tremendous stretch in your lats. Don't do machine pullovers if you have a shoulder injury.


Stretching exercises for your back don't involve the biceps and ideal for finishing your back workout to minimize the risk of injury, maintain flexibility and accelerate recovery. To do a simple lat stretch, place your hands on a bar set roughly at waist-height. Step back until your arms are straight, then hinge forward from your hips by pushing your hips back. Depending on your flexibility, stop when your head is between your arms. You should feel a strong stretch in your lats.

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