Elbow lift exercise

Elbow lift

Exercise details

  • Target muscle: None. The back in general. See synergists
  • Synergists: Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Teres Minor, Infraspinatus, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids, Posterior Deltoid, Sternal (Lower) Pectoralis Major
  • Dynamic stabilizer: Triceps Brachii (long head only)
  • Mechanics: Isolation
  • Force: Pull

Starting position

  1. Place two low chairs side by side, with a gap between them.
  2. Sit between the chairs, on the floor, with your legs straight.
  3. Place the backs of your upper arms onto the chairs and raise your butt off the floor so that your body is straight and rigid.


  1. Keeping your body rigid, exhale as you lift your body by pressing the backs of your upper arms down onto the chairs.
  2. Hold for a count of two and squeeze your back muscles.
  3. Inhale as you lower your body to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

Comments and tips

  • The elbow lift is a poor back exercise, with a very short range of motion. Use it at home only if you can’t make it to the gym and if you do not have a barbell with which to do the bent-over barbell row, dumbbells with which to do the bent-over dumbbell row, or a chair under which to do the inverted row.
  • Do not allow your butt to sag. Keep your hips straight and rigid.
  • Make the elbow lift exercise easier by bending your knees.
  • Do not flare your elbows out too much. If your elbows are perpendicular to your torso, you will target your posterior deltoid instead of your back muscles.
  • This exercise is also known as the reverse push-up. However, “reverse push-up” is also used to describe a bunch of other exercises, including the inverted row.

Elbow lift video

The demonstration of the elbow lift (called a reverse push-up in this video) is at approximately 2:55.


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