Back/Pulling Progressions:

By Brent Brookbush, DPT, PT, COMT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS


For a comprehensive review of unstable load and surface training:

Relative Flexibility Progression:

Relative flexibility progressions are general guidelines for exercise selection that can be used while correcting postural dysfunction/movement impairment. Individuals exhibiting signs of Upper Body Dysfunction (UBD) may reduce the chance of compensation by integrating pushing movement patterns in the following order:

  1. Sagittal Plane Row
  2. Frontal Plane Pull Down
  3. Horizontal Plane Row

Subsystems Recruited:

The majority of back/pulling exercises require the core musculature to stabilize against a force pulling from posterior to anterior. This requires the ISS for segmental stabilization, the DLS to prevent lumbar flexion, and the POS to prevent forward bending. Standing progressions are recommended for all individuals looking to improve functional strength. Suspension variations are helpful for those recovering from low back pain, as these variations result in smaller amounts of posterior to anterior force on the lumbar spine, and lower erector spinae activity (7).


Sagittal Plane: