Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baby Got Back

A good friend of mine wanted tome tips on strengthening her lats/pulling muscles, so I thought this would be as good a time as any to share some of that information with anyone else who might benefit.  So, without further ado, here are a few basic exercises I recommend.

First things first:  Here's a good look at your back muscles.

Most people are fairly overdeveloped in the chest area (slouching over desks, computers, steering wheels, dinner, etc, or suffering from "I only train what I can see in the mirror" syndrome) and get a nice little slouchy, forward-heady posture as a result.  From an aesthetic point of view, training the other side would make you look less like a caveman.

And, of course, there's that added bonus of impressing all the people walking behind you when you're wearing a tank top. 

And then there are the overachievers.

From a functional perspective, it will make you have less pain, will give you stronger shoulders (look at the way the muscles drape, and you can tell why), and will make your lifts better.  How many of you lose it in your back pretty quickly when you deadlift?  Know what a deadlift is?  Lifting something heavy off the ground.  Do you maybe do that sometimes outside the gym?  Think about it...

I wanted to focus on some very basic exercises-- before the pullups, before the rows, before the deadlifts-- to get those posterior complexes stronger so that all those other movements can improve.  Here are some of my favorites.

Scapular pullups/rows:  These are important because they teach your body how to properly retract the scapulae, and strengthen the muscles there as a result.  In most pulling motions, retracting the scapulae for the pull is an important step.  The idea is to pull your shoulder blades down and back (like you're putting them in your back pockets) while you're keeping your arms straight.  You can do this with your arms in most directions.  I'll demo here from a pullup position (side and back view) and a straight row position.

Scapular pullup, side view:


Scapular pullup, back view:


Scapular row:


Batwings: I learned about Batwings from the amazing Dan John many moons ago.  The idea is to lie on your belly on a bench.  Then you do an end-position row with two heavy weights (I like to use kettlebells for this), hold for 5 or 10 seconds at the top, and lower again.  It's not a big motion-- it's just a short row to the top end of your personal ROM, squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling your elbows up as far as possible.  Try to stick your thumbs in your armpits.  Sortakinda like this.

So there you have it-- some good foundational exercises to get those muscles in that back of yours firing properly.  Hope this helps!

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a really helpful post, yes the back is sure do something important but we tend to overlook.