Saturday, September 27, 2014

Upper Back Training for Powerlifters, Part Two






Upper Back Training for Powerlifters
 by 
Greg Reshel (1994)

 Last month's article mentioned that the muscle groups that stabilize the upper back are important for all three powerlifts, and by strengthening them you will indirectly cause all three of the powerlifts o move forward. A deep foundation in upper back training will allow you to achieve a much higher potential in your sport. Simply, you will be capable of much higher lifts and totals. Do not neglect to introduce upper back training into your routines.

I will be describing three different upper back training routines over the next three articles in some detail to try to outline the specific way to perform each of the exercises. The first routine will target deep off-season training and will work accessory movements with heavy weights. While you are performing this off-season training, your powerlifts will decrease because the upper back stabilizers will be fatigued and you will be shaky in your powerlifts.

 
 Don't worry. As soon as you move into another training phase and stop training the upper back as intensely you will notice a tremendous increase in your ability to handle the heavy weights in the powerlifts.

The second routine will target upper back from a muscle hypertrophy (bodybuilding) perspective. You will increase your upper back stabilization by increasing the mass of the muscle groups that stabilize the upper back. In getting larger stabilizers your direct leverage as well as attachment angles may improve allowing heavier lifts.

The third routine will target maintenance of the upper back muscles during a powerlifting strength or peaking cycle. This routine will pump and flush the muscle groups of the upper back so that you will recover between heavy powerlift training sessions. Faster recovery means longer and heavier power and peaking cycles that translate into bigger gains.


Routine #1
Intermediate Level Off-Season Upper Back Training

(Note: this workout is designed to be accomplished as quickly as possible).
Use heavy weights, but you must maintain absolutely strict form and smooth delivery in all exercises. The key is to work this routine in your schedule once a week for 6-8 weeks. Each time you perform the routine you must work faster, with less break or rest between sets, performing the required work in less total time. The first time you do the workout if may take you 50 minutes to complete. After 8 weeks of practice you should be able to complete the same amount of work with the same weights in 25-30 minutes. 

The upper back muscle groups that we are targeting with this workout need greater endurance as much as absolute strength to increase our potential in the powerlifts. When you perform the workout with the same weights in significantly less time you are creating an endurance and stamina foundation in the upper back muscle groups as well as increasing their strength levels. 

The first three exercises are to be performed as a superset. After performing the second set of Shrugs, add in a set of Seated Bentover Lateral Raises immediately after the Shrugs with no rest. After the third set of Shrugs perform the Seated Bentover Lateral Raises and the Seated Alternate Dumbbell Presses with no rest between these sets. Rest after completing the Presses. All further supersets will include the first three exercises in succession with no rest until after the Presses.


1) Barbell Shrugs, 6 sets of 10 reps with moderate to heavy weights.
This exercise is designed to be performed with a slight forward lean of the torso at the hips so that your back is flat, not rounded in any way, and you are lifting your shoulder blades up and back behind your ears with your arms mostly straight and no heaving, hitching, and bouncing of the weights. Hold the bar at arms' length as you shrug your shoulders up as far as possible behind your ears. Always keep your head facing forward and slightly down. Lower the weight slowly. Do not bend your elbows as you shrug your shoulders as the bar is only there for resistance and not to be raised to a certain height.

2) Seated Bentover Lateral Raises, 5 x 8 with heavy weights.
Sit at the end of a bench with your legs and feet together in front of you. Bend forward so that you are folded on top of yourself. Maintain the fully bent forward position and keep elbows slightly bent throughout the exercise movement. Lower the weight slowly.

3) Seated Alternate Dumbbell Presses, 4 x 12 with moderate weights.
Your elbows should be vertically beneath your hands at all times and the dumbbells should start alongside your body outside your shoulders at shoulder height. See-saw motion. The motion of the dumbbells is contained within a vertically parallel path.

These first three exercises are to be performed as a modified superset. After performing the second set of Shrugs, add in a set of Seated Bentover Lateral Raises immediately after the Shrugs with no rest. After the third set of Shrugs perform the Seated Bentover Lateral Raises and the Seated Alternate Dumbbell Presses with no rest between these sets. Rest after completing the Presses. All further supersets will include the first three exercises in succession with no rest until after the Presses.

The following exercises will be performed in pairs in superset fashion so that there is no real rest between the first and second exercises but there is rest before returning to the first exercise of the pair. 

4) Steep Incline Circular Path Front Dumbbell Raises, 3 x 10.
Sit on an incline bench set at 10-20 degrees from vertical with your shoulders squeezed back together and your shoulder blades pressed back tightly against the pad of the bench. Raise the dumbbells simultaneously forward and outward so that they describe a circular pattern in front of your body. At the top the dumbbells should touch head to head with your palms down and our thumbs toward each other. A circular motion, raising up, out and in. Lower the dumbbells in the same path slowly. Always maintain your shoulders pinched back together and your shoulder blades pressed back tightly against the pad of the bench.

Superset with

5) Wide 30-36" Grip Upright Rows, 3 x 8.
Grip the barbell overhand at the appropriate width, cock your wrists back so that your palms face the floor and lock your wrists in that position. Keep your shoulders maintained in a locked back and down position so that your shoulder blades are pinched close together and pulled down toward your hips. Your chest will be thrust forward in this position. Stay in that posture with your back flat and leaning slightly forward from the hips as you raise the bar to the level of the bottom of your pecs. Remember to keep your shoulders pinched back at all times and to keep your wrists locked back at all times. Lower the bar slowly. 

6) Front Barbell Raises From Chin Height, 3 x 8.
Stand or sit with a barbell at chin height and several inches in front of your face. Your elbows should be thrust forward so that they are vertically under the bar. Your elbows should be maintained forward at all times. You may feel line you are squeezing your elbows together in front of yourself to maintain a position with your elbows vertically under the bar at all times. The bar should be pressed to a position several inches in front of your body and nearly arms' length overhead. The bar path is always vertical and the bar never goes rearward to go above your head, but rather stays in front of you at all times. Lower the bar slowly in the same path.

Superset with

7) Palms Down Overhead Flyes, 3 x 12.
Stand or sit with your head thrust forward and your arms outstretched to the sides, and your palms facing the floor. You should be holding dumbbells in your hands with the thumbs facing forward. Your shoulder blades should be pulled back and down so that you are at the bottom of a shrug motion with your shoulders squeezed back at all times. Lift the weights out to the sides and overhead until the backs of your hands are nearly touching and your arms are nearly behind your head with your palms facing outward. Now lower the weights slowly until your arms are again horizontally out to the sides at shoulder height.

8) Chest Supported Elbows Out Barbell Row, 5 x 7.
Lie face down on a bench high enough so that when you lie face down on it your hands barely touch the floor. Place a loaded barbell perpendicular to the bench and underneath it. Lie face down on the bench and grasp the bar with an overhand grip ad your index fingers bout 28-34 inches apart. Raise your head off the bench and press your chest into the bench so that your shoulder blades are squeezed back together and down, shortening your back and lengthening your neck. Lift the bar by raising your elbows out to the sides so that your upper arms are at right angles to your body at all times. Stop raising the bar when it contacts the bench. You may wish to cock your wrists back so that your palms face the floor as this will help you to maintain the position of your upper arms straight out to the sides. Lower the bar slowly until your arms are fully extended but do not release your shoulder blades. They should remain squeezed back fully at all times. 


Remember to take as little time as necessary to rest after each superset and to work as heavy as possible but only with weights that you can handle with good control. Cheating these exercises will not help your upper back stabilizing muscle groups, as cheating in this case will only put the stress on different groups, not stimulating the upper back stabilizers to grow.     
 











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