Friday, March 20, 2015

If you're upper back is weak, you just outed yourself...

I'm sure that readers of my blog know that I'm generally a fan of keeping things involving my training somewhat simple.  After all, one of the whole points to my blogging is to show off to the world how much worthwhile training can be accomplished with less equipment than the rest of the world would have you believe.  This minimalist mindset often times leaks over to advice I dispense. 

So, that's probably why I find the deadlift form check videos on my facebook feed could throw me into a frothing rage if I had slightly less self control.  Simply put, deadlifting is taking shit off the floor.  Doing that properly isn't esoteric knowledge or missile-construction complex.  Still, this is weight training and people find a way to complicate things.  A few  reasons why people's deadlift sucks come up and one interests me at the moment:  upper back weakness. 
Me, doing 360 lbs for 12, not really giving a shit about getting form checked. 

Gyms, and their inhabitants, these days make me want to scratch my head...or smash their heads.  Just like collective senility set in about picking heavy things up properly off the ground has infected the houses of iron, so has the inability and lack of desire to work hard.  If anyone's wondering about how I connect the dots of lazy and bad pulling, it's simple:  if you're opining that your upper back is weak, you've just told the world you don't work hard enough. 

An upper back is made strong by a variety of movements.  You can build muscle back there with a shocking variety of rows, pull-ups, rope climbing, carrying heavy stuff, just about all deadlifting, lat pull-overs, etc.  Things that some people might consider to be THE BASICS

Next, most of this stuff works best if done in high volume.  Very simply put:  the upper back muscles can take a pounding.  So, to get them to grow and get strong, you've got to force them to do a lot of work.  Not only can they do a lot of work in a single session, it's possible to work them 3-4 times a week in such a fashion with  no detrimental effects.  

So, if the key to getting a strong upper back is doing the basic strength training movements with enough volume often enough, what other conclusion could be arrived at for having a weak one in the first place?  

Since I'm not in the blogging-business of mindlessly ranting about everyone's shitiness without giving solutions to the problems (to me that qualifies as being an asshole with no redeeming quality), I'll give you a few things that I like to do to keep my upper backs strong when I throw upper back work into my prayer sessions.

  • I heard about this from either Chip Conrad or Matt  Kroczaleski (I can't remember who; look I can spell his last name!):  100 pull-ups.  Do 100 pull-ups, however many sets but do 100.  Try to keep the time down to do it.  Being Matt Kroczaleski, he claims 5 sets of 20.  I generally do a set of 15 and 10 until I hit 100.  It ususally takes me around 12-14 minutes. 
  • I've blogged about my take on pyramid sets in the past.  I've also got a weighted pull-up take on things.  I'll normally start at 50 lbs pull-ups for 10.  Then, I'll add 10 lbs and drop off two reps until I get to 90 lbs (which would be for two reps).  Then, I'll do 90 for two until I can't do any more sets.  Then, I head back down. 
  • Pedlay Rows.  I love these with an axle.  Its pretty much the most idiot-proof row that can be done without machinery.  5-8 reps...until I just can't do any more sets (generally 8-12 sets). 
  • Double rope climbs.  Oh, this is a latest favorite of mine.   I've got two-1 inch ropes hanging in my garage.  Each hand has  rope.   I've got several ways I'll attack this.  Sometimes, I do just bodyweight, several trips up the rope.  Other times, I'll grab some 10 lbs chains, wrap them around m body, bandoleer style, and make trips up the rope, pyramid-style as described above with the weighted pulls.  Other times, I'll just put 20 lbs on and go up for five trips. 
  • Bent Pressing.  I'm still using a 100-110 lbs (either kb or db) for accessory work for my deadlifts.  I'll do three on each side, three times.  A bent press "rep" is a lot of time under tension.  So three sets of three on each side can be killer.
So, there's my normal variety of familiar with an odd twist or just flat-out odd.  You don't need to be this strange, even if I highly recommend it.  Just pick out a movement and do as much as your body will allow you to do...and a bit more after that.  I can't guarantee that this will fix your deadlift form since using your head doesn't come from upper back strength.  At the very least, I can hopefully instill a work ethic. 

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