My bias towards training has always been about building a big strong back relative to pushing overhead or pushing in front because many of the clients that I see in clinical practice who present with training related injuries or niggles often come about or are compounded by poor programming. When I say poor programming, I mean there is often an imbalance between push and pull movements. Many of these clients present with a 1:1 push to pull ratio for exercises and sets. When it comes to selecting which back exercises one should incorporate into their program, my non negotiables are:

  • Horizontal pulling & variations
  • Vertical pulling & variations
  • Open arcs & variations
  • Face pull variations
  • Straight arm pull down variations
  • Shrugs

Horizontal Pull & Variations

This includes any of the following:

  • Seated row (cable based)
  • Chest supported row (bb or db)
  • Bent over row (bb) or single arm row (db)
  • Horizontal bodyweight row (bb, trx)

Vertical Pull & Variations

This includes any of the following:

  • Chin up / Pull up
  • Lat pull down (cable)

Open Arc & Variations

This includes any of the following:

  • Double arm or single arm open arc (low, mid or high cable)
  • Band pull aparts
  • Bent over db posterior fly

Face Pull Variations

The face pull is an integrated movement that involves horizontal extension combined with external rotation.

Straight Arm Pull Down Variation

This includes any of the following:

  • Double arm straight arm pull down
  • Single arm straight arm pull down


This includes any of the following:

  • Band shrug
  • DB shrug
  • BB shrug

Note: This list is not a complete list and there are many more variations that could be included no doubt. The videos I have selected above are just examples of some of these exercise variations.

From a programming point of view I will generally incorporate 2 vertical and horizontal pull exercises into a program following by 1 exercise for each of remaining. Depending on the person, their injury/complaint, goals etc, I may also look to increase the number of exercises for the other back related exercises.

If you are currently dealing with a shoulder complaint that is aggravated by training, then there is a good chance it is related to your program and technique. Make sure you touch base with one of our osteopaths at the clinic to review your complaint, your program and your technique.

This blog post was written by osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy.

Principle Four Osteopathy is located on Level 4 at 178 Collins St, Melbourne City CBD. Bookings can be made online or by calling 0396709290.