How to Do the Y Raise Exercise for a Healthier Back and Shoulders

The Y-raise targets your upper back muscles and shoulders while improving posture.


If you’re bored with rowing and pull-downs in your upper back workout (and even if you aren’t!), Adding the Y increase to your workout is a good idea.

  • What is the Y increase?It is an upper body exercise that shapes and strengthens the upper back and shoulders. You can only do this with your body weight or with dumbbells.
  • Is the Y Increase Effective?The exercise effectively targets the muscles in the upper back and shoulders that tend to be overlooked in many exercise routines and upper body exercises. You can add load to make it harder as you get stronger. Tatiana Lampa, CPT, personal trainer and founder of Training with T, recommends doing the exercise at least twice a week to see your strength building.
  • Which muscles does the Y-raise work?The exercise targets every muscle in the upper back in some way, particularly the lower trapezius, which sits between and extends below the shoulder blades, and the rhomboids (muscles of the upper back between the shoulder blades). It also hits the shoulder stabilizing muscles in the rotator cuff, also known as the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis, as well as the anterior (front), lateral (lateral), and posterior deltoid muscles (shoulder muscles). In other words, you hit the muscles of the shoulder from every angle.

How to do the Y-raise with perfect shape

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  1. Lie face down on the floor. Tighten your chin and pelvis slightly to create a neutral spine. Put your feet together.
  2. Extend your arms up and out at 45-degree angles to form a Y-shape with your body. Position your hands with your thumbs up, palms facing each other.
  3. Keep your head and torso still and squeeze your shoulder blades together so that both arms are off the floor.
  4. Take a break, then lower your arms back to the floor and repeat the process.

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5 Y Increase in training benefits

1. It strengthens your back and your shoulders

Your upper back and shoulder muscles – especially the stabilizing ones – receive extra love with this movement. Strengthening these muscles is key to increasing the depth of your pushups and doing more challenging exercises like pull-ups.

They’re also important for completing everyday tasks, such as dragging heavy trash bags to the curb and grabbing something off the top shelf of your kitchen.

2. It strengthens posture

Desk jockeys and cyclists take note: Sitting hunched over a computer or bike can weaken your back muscles, but the Y-lift exercise can prevent this imbalance by pulling your shoulders back so you sit higher. “Y-raises are very helpful in strengthening your lower trapezoid muscles and improving your posture,” explains Lampa.

It can also help you build muscle endurance – or the muscles’ ability to work longer without fatigue – which will help you maintain strong posture throughout the day.

And because it helps with a bigger back and open chest, this exercise can also promote healthy breathing patterns, which means you have more strength and control to do other strength exercises and cardio workouts.

3. It improves shoulder mobility

Many people tend to have limited shoulder mobility, but strengthening your upper back and shoulders with the Y-raise can help increase your range of motion, says Lauren Sambataro, CPT, personal trainer and instructor at MYX + Openfit.

The stronger you get as you lift in the prone position (lying on your stomach), the easier it is to bring your arms up while standing. This allows you to do other heavy exercises, such as: B. The lat pulldown or bench press, to help you feel better about everyday movements.

4. It reduces the risk of injury

By strengthening the rotator cuff muscles (the muscles that surround the shoulder blade), you avoid imbalances that can lead to injury, says Sambataro.

And thanks to this strengthening of the muscles around your shoulder, the Y-raise exercise can also improve the stability of the shoulder joint, says Lampa. Again, this can protect you from injury, especially if you move things overhead, e.g. B. if you stow a suitcase in a luggage compartment on an airplane.

5. It alleviates muscle imbalances

Making moves like the Y-raise helps balance out muscle imbalances in your upper body by exercising your pull muscles (the ones that tend to get weak from a hunched over posture), Sambataro says. Push exercises like pushups or chest presses work the front of your torso, while pull exercises like pullups or lat pullups target the back of your torso. You want both to be equally strong.

5 common Y raise mistakes

A common mishap that Lampa sees is lifting the shoulders on the ears when the arms come up for the Y. This means that the top traps do all of the work on this exercise – a muscle that is often already overwhelmed by the daily desk posture.

Instead, pack those shoulders down and squeeze your shoulder blades together as tightly as you can to raise and lower your arms.

If you get it right, you will be surprised how difficult it is to do this exercise with just your body weight or a light pair of dumbbells.

If your shoulders reach up to your ears or you have difficulty lifting without moving your lower body, it is a sign that your weights are above what you can handle.

Instead, grab a light set (or skip dumbbells altogether) and see how it feels. Using a lighter set of weights means you’re training for muscle endurance and aiming for higher reps (around 15-20), Sambataro says.

Sticking your head out or lifting your chin could put strain on your neck, Sambataro says. You want to make sure that you keep your chin tucked in and your eyes are on the floor (lying down or standing) to maintain a neutral spine. This allows your upper back and shoulders to do the work too.

Speaking of strong body alignment, you also want your abs to make sure you maintain a neutral spine position, Sambataro says.

Take deep breaths to tighten the core – exhale as you raise your arms and inhale as you lower – and make sure you feel this abdominal muscle activation as you walk.

Also, maintain it throughout the move. If you remember to tilt your pelvis slightly forward, your abs should also be on fire.

Do this exercise slowly and steadily. As you speed up the movement and use the momentum, the exercise may be less effective in exercising the upper back muscles and shoulders.

To slow things down, add a pace as you raise your arms and pause at the top of the movement. This forces you to exercise more control and apply the lift from your back and shoulders.

Lampa says that doing this exercise allows more freedom of movement on a bench than lying on the floor to do the movement.

To do this, set the bench at an angle of 15 to 30 degrees and rest your body against it from your shoulders to your hips. Extend your arms out in front of you, then raise your arms to a Y position. Lower your back down and repeat the process.

To create more tension in your abs, take this exercise off the floor and on your feet.

Get into a hinge position by sending your buttocks back and keeping your back flat. Then do the same Y-lifting motion that you did on the floor, lifting your arms up and out. Then lower it again and repeat.

Take this standing variant and make it one-sided, suggests Sambataro. This movement will heat up the core even more and help you correct muscle imbalances on your left or right side.

To do this, start by standing in a hinge position with your buttocks pointing back and your back flat. Raise one arm up and out in a half Y-raise. Then lower it again. Repeat on the other side and continue alternately.

Both experts recommend grabbing a lightweight set of 2.5 weights to improve the strength benefits of the exercise when you’re ready to do it a little more challenging.

Perform the exercise lying down or standing and raise your arms in a controlled manner to a Y position. Then lower it again and repeat.

Add a balance challenge to this movement by lying on an exercise ball, recommends Sambataro.

You still start on your stomach and do the movement as you would on the floor, but you have a little more room to move around. You will also feel your entire body being activated to keep you hooked, and your front deltas will work harder as well.

Lie face down on the stability ball and support your chest and hips, but your shoulders are away from the ball. Support your legs to stay stable, then raise your arms to the Y position. Lower your back down and repeat the process.

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