How to get a body like Gal Gadot: Shoulders and back workout

 Gal-gadot Top 10 Ultimate Performance

Gal Gadot

‘How do you get a body like Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot?’

This is a question we get asked more than most by hundreds of female clients who come to Ultimate Performance with their own body transformation goals. At Ultimate Performance, we are experts at helping turn corporate professionals into real-life superheroes like Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, in particular, who has become an icon for women everywhere as the super-strong DC Comics character.

Having also played starring roles in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Fast & Furious 6 alongside Vin Diesel and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the Israeli actress and model is undoubtedly most known for her powerful performance as Wonder Woman. Any superhero will need to cope with the weight of the world on their shoulders, so use this workout to ensure you are strong enough. To make sure you are ready, make shoulders and back part of your plan of attack.

Shoulders set the scene for any aesthetic upper body. The back muscles are like our shields strengthening our bodies. This workout is designed to be efficient and effective. We pair sets and use compound movements to do your workouts justice.

The workout

How to perform the exericses

This guide is aimed at trainees with a good knowledge of the exercises and how to train safely and effectively.

To start your life-changing body transformation today, visit any one of our gyms around the world or begin your online training program.

Rack pull

The set-up

  • Find a rack that allows you to set your pin height.
  • Set the height of the pin to a height where you can maintain a neutral spine. Generally a good starting point can be setting the pin just below the knee.
  • Stand with your feet underneath the bar at approximately hip-width apart.
  • Grab the bar just outside your hip width.
  • Sit your hips back, lift your chest and brace.

The movement

  • Maintaining a neutral spine, perform a hip thrust action to stand up with the bar.
  • Once standing, sit your hips back and lower the bar until the bar meets the rack.
  • Keep the arms straight throughout the movement.
  • Keep the bar close to you throughout to help keep the back engaged.

Trainer tips

  • Ensure you come to a deadstop at the bottom of each rep to maximise the movement.
  • You should feel like you are pushing through your heels and this may be difficult to feel in standard running shoes with a cushioned heel. Consider replacing these.
  • Use straps to prevent grip becoming a limiting factor when performing this exercise.
  • Progression through lowering the pins to increase the range can be a great alternative to loading the exercise further.

75-degree incline dumbbell press

The set-up

  • Pick up the dumbbell using a neutral grip and sit on the bench with them resting on your thighs, close to your hip crease.
  • Position your feet shoulder-width apart, under or behind your knees and flat on the floor.
  • Lean back against the bench, using your thighs to help get the dumbbells into position, level with your chest and then up to a stacked position, with the wrist, elbow and shoulder all aligned.
  • Point your chest upwards (but keep the ribcage tucked down) towards the ceiling and tuck your shoulder blades down into your back pockets.
  • Your shoulders and glutes should be touching the bench and there will be a small gap between your lower can and the bench.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • From the stacked position at the top, “pull” the dumbbells down towards your chest with the arms at an angle of 45-60 degrees to your torso.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you can no longer lower the dumbbells without the shoulder rounding forwards.
  • Pause before reversing the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Pause again before repeating for the desired number of reps.
  • On the last rep, lower the dumbbells to the start position, tuck your elbows in and sit forwards using your legs to generate momentum. You can also ask a training partner to take one dumbbell from you at a time.

Trainer tips

  • The set-up and movement are the same as other versions of the dumbbell bench press but this angle places more emphasis on your shoulders.
  • Make sure that the dumbbells do not clang together at the top of the movement.
  • Ensure that you do not ‘shrug’ the weight up at the top. This reduces shoulder stability and increases the risk of injury. Focus on keeping the shoulder blades tucked down throughout.

V-grip lat pull down

The set-up

  • Grip the cable attachment with a neutral grip and sit down on the bench with your upper thighs securely positioned under the padding.
  • Sit up as tall as possible (keeping the ribcage tucked), with your arms fully extended above your head but avoid shrugging your shoulders up to your ears.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • Keeping your torso still, initiate the movement by dropping your shoulder blades down into your back pockets (closing the gap between your armpit and your hips). Think ‘taking the elevator down’ not ‘pinching’ when it comes to the shoulder blades.
  • Draw the elbow downwards vertically (not backwards), maintaining the same torso position and high chest throughout.
  • You have reached the end of your range of motion when your elbows cannot travel any further without your shoulders rotating inwards and upper back rounding.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting the lats by squeezing your elbows into your sides.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Imagine you are taking your shoulder blades up and down like an elevator; allow them to move through their full range of motion rather than yanking the bar with your arms.
  • Use lifting straps to avoid grip becoming a limiting factor in the movement.
  • Watch how far the weight stack travels on each rep as a reference point for your range of motion. If this shortens significantly between the first and last rep, the weight is too heavy.
  • The arm muscles will contribute to this movement, but they should not be doing all the work. Focus on drawing the weight down using the back only; the arms should simply assist in the movement.

Dumbbell lateral raise

The set-up

  • Perform this exercise with your chest supported on a bench. This allows you to maintain a stable position and focus on the movement. Use the closest setting if the bench does not allow you to set it to a 75-degree setting.
  • Pick up the dumbbells, straddle the bench and lean into it so that your torso angle matches the bench angle.
  • Hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip and let your arms hang just outside of your thighs (to maintain a slight level of tension throughout) with a small bend in your elbows.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • Push the dumbbells out to your sides while keeping your shoulders depressed. Your elbows should travel just in front of your shoulders.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot lift the dumbbells any higher without your shoulders shrugging upwards.
  • Pause for a moment before reversing the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Do not use momentum to ‘swing’ the weight upwards. Keep control of the dumbbells at all times.
  • Keep your little finger slightly higher than your thumb throughout the movement to keep maximal tension on your medial deltoid.
  • If you cannot pause briefly at the top and bottom of the rep, the load is too heavy.
  • Single-joint exercises like the lateral raise require less effort than multi-joint movements but make sure to stick to the prescribed rest period to ensure you can maintain performance.
  • This is a complex exercise so start light and only increase the load when you are happy with your technique. Use a mirror to monitor your form.


The set-up

  • Attach a rope attachment to an adjustable cable machine
  • Set the cable to eye level.
  • Grab each end of the rope in an overhand grip with your thumbs towards the end of the rope.
  • Take a step back to ensure tension is kept in the cable.

The movement

  • Standing upright, flair the elbows high and wide.
  • Pull the rope apart and towards you, keeping the cable eye level.
  • Pull until your hands are in line with your ears.
  • Return to the starting position under control.

Trainer tips

  • Ensure you keep the elbows high to maintain tension on the rear delts.
  • Sit your weight slightly back to ensure your body stays stable.

Neutral-grip row

The set-up

  • Attach a neutral grip attachment which is approximately shoulder-width to an adjustable cable machine.
  • Sit at the cable with your knees slightly bent.
  • Grab the handles of the neutral grip attachment and sit upright.

The movement

  • Maintaining a rigid torso, drive the elbows back.
  • Drive the elbows back until you cannot move further or your shoulders round.
  • As you pull, pinch your shoulder blades together and keep your elbows close to your body.
  • Reverse the movement in a controlled manner to return to the start position, maintaining a neutral spine.

Trainer tips

  • Keep your gaze slightly up to maintain good posture.
  • If you feel your shoulders round, consciously think about keeping your chest up.

Cable upright row

The set-up

  • On an adjustable cable machine, set it to the bottom cable and attach an EZ bar.
  • Select your weight and grab the cable attachment.
  • Stand with the cable keeping your spine neutral.

The movement

  • Begin the movement by flaring your elbows out to initiate the movement.
  • Flair your elbows wide until they reach slightly above your shoulder.
  • Return to the bottom where your arms are straight.

Trainer tips

  • Lean slightly away from the cable.

Cable pullover

The set-up

  • Using an adjustable cable machine, set the cable just above head height and attach the EZ bar.
  • Grab the bar with straight arms, and facing towards the cable machine, step back.
  • Lean your body inwards and sit your hips back so your torso is around 45 degrees to match the line of travel of the cable pull.
  • Have a slight bend in the knees to allow you to distribute your weight and maintain balance.

The movement

  • Keeping the arms straight, pull the cable in an arc.
  • This arc should start with the bar above your head and finish with your hands and bar in contact with your thighs.
  • Reverse the movement under control to the start position.

Trainer tips:

  • Sit your weight on your heels to maintain balance.

Why this workout works

The rack pull

A compound movement using the major muscles in your posterior chain. The rack pull is a movement with high strength potential and which allows you to build a back of beauty. The rack pull not only strengthens the back but helps your posture and the way you stand too.

The shoulder press

This exercise is performed at a slight angle to protect shoulder health and allows us to load the movement.

The V-grip pulldown

Used to stretch the lat through a vertical plane and the row is used to focus on pinching the shoulder blades together. Using both angles will leave no room for weakness. The back works in multiple planes and we want to take advantage of this to get everything we can from our workout.

Lateral raise, face-pull and upright cable row:

The shoulders are made up of three muscle heads, each targeted by movements in different directions, so we need multiple plans of attack to develop them fully. We have included the lateral raise, face pull and cable upright row to work on each of these effectively.

Keep the rest to 45-60 seconds to maintain intensity.



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