Part Three : Barbell Exercises for the Upper Back
Exercise No. 16 - Standing Press Behind Neck
This exercise contributes a thickness and depth to the upper back muscles and the rear shoulders.
Start with the barbell held across the rear shoulders, and note that the hand spacing is considerably wider than shoulder width. It can be performed strictly, or in a cheating, 'push press' version.
Exercise No. 17 - Seated Press Behind Neck
In the standing version, the body position can be altered to some degree or shifted so as to ease the upper back strain, and the legs can be used to help push the weight at the beginning of the lift. In this seated version, such alteration of an upright stance or use of the legs is impossible, and the upper back and shoulders must bear the brunt of the work.
Even though you can cheat more in the standing version and handle heavier poundages, in the end the upper back receives just as much work in the seated style due to the more direct muscle action.
The standing version will build more all around power, however, and it is a good idea to practice both in your workouts, performing the standing version for a few weeks and then switching over to the seated.
Exercise No. 18 - Shrug
Can be performed strictly, with a short hold at the top position, or with large weights and some body motion to assist in the shrugging action.
Exercise No. 19 - Seated Upright Rowing
While the regular upright rowing is generally considered a direct shoulder exercise, when the seated style is employed it really can make the latissimus dorsi muscles work. No doubt the explanation is that, other than the different starting position of the seated version, the standing variety lends itself to swinging the body and helping lift the weight by lower back action. In the seated version no such body swing is possible, the exercise begins from a dead start, and the latissimus is forced to work harder, but -- being that the deltoids are the weaker muscle units, there is still enough work for them, so they are indeed influenced.
To perform the seated upright rowing exercise place a barbell across the thighs while seated on a flat exercise bench. Grasp the barbell with a very close grip, the palms of the hands facing the body. Next, pull the barbell up to under the chin. Lower to the starting position and start again from a dead stop.
Besides the narrow grip, you can practice with a shoulder width as well as a wide 'snatch grip' hand spacing, all with excellent results.
Exercise No. 20 - Bent Forward Rowing
What the bench press is to the front upper body muscles, bent forward rowing is to the upper back muscles. There are a number of varieties of the movement and all of them are superb. This exercise and the two following it will explain those which can be performed with a barbell.
The regular bent forward rowing exercise is performed as follows : Bend forward until your upper body is at right angles to your legs. Keep the knees stiff. Grasp a barbell at the floor with a normal shoulder width grip. The palms of the hands are facing the body. Raise the barbell a few inches off the floor by lifting the upper body slightly. The arms are to remain stiff while you do this. Next, maintaining this position strictly, pull he barbell up until the bar touches the chest around the nipple area. Lower the barbell to arms' length toward the floor again, but do not permit it to touch the floor and then repeat the movement again.
Besides the normal shoulder width hand spacing, a wide as well as a narrow grip can be used effectively. As you advance in your training and the weights get heavy in this exercise you may experience some strain on the lower back if you keep your knees stiff and locked. A good idea then is to bend the knees slightly, just enough to take the strain off the lower back.
To cheat in this exercise you employ considerable body motion, pulling up with your upper body to help your arms to get the weight started and then you snap the upper body downward so that your chest touches the bar at slightly lower than the starting position.
For power training you can employ the rebound principle, in which the barbell is either rebounded off two rubber pads on the floor, or else two boxes, which will be explained in the next exercise to follow.
Exercise No. 21 - Rebound Rowing
The plate ends of the bar are placed on two low boxes so the bar is at approximately a height below the knees. In this version the knees are bent quite a bit and the upper body is held much in the same position that it would be when performing the regular deadlift.
Now, with a combined pull of the upper body and power from the arms, the weight is raised toward the chest. The upper body is allowed to lower once the weight has gained some momentum and does so until the bar touches the chest. Then the weight is lowered and permitted to rebound off the boxes, control of the bar is regained and the weight is brought once again to the chest.
This exercise, like all rebound and partial movements is intended primarily for breaking sticking points in training and will serve that purpose best. Use a comfortable hand spacing, one which permits you to use the most weight.
Exercise No. 22 - End of Bench Rowing
This is a direct action upper back exercise intended for promoting 'isolation' more than for either power or size. Lie on a long, high exercise bench and grasp a barbell placed on the floor underneath. The palms of the hands are facing the rear and the hand spacing is about shoulder width. Slowly and with mental concentration pull the weight up until the bar touches the underside of the bench Then lower to the starting position without touching the floor and repeat. A wide grip works the upper back muscles in a different manner and should be employed from time to time.
Exercise No. 23 - Continental To Shoulders
More on the Continental Style Here:
This is a real power builder, one which will give you a wide latissimus spread. To perform it properly you must affix a strong belt, one with a wide buckle, around your waist. You next lift a barbell from the ground and support it at your waist, upon the buckle of the belt. Next, bend the knees slightly and bend the body forward and now, briskly straighten the knees and snap the upper body back, pulling with the arms at the same time, and raise the weight to the shoulders where you hold it as you would for a regular standing barbell press.
Lower the weight back to the waist and repeat lifting it to the shoulders. An enormous amount of weight can be handled in this exercise and the latissimus dorsi are worked strenuously. This is a real advanced movement, and not intended for beginners. Do not confuse this with a 'pretty' movement. Grind and grit is what it's about here.
Exercise No. 24 - Kneeling Clean
This is a more direct latissimus movement than the previous exercise, but it is still a very advanced movement and will build all around power and a wide upper back. Start the exercise kneeling on the ground and grasping a weight with the palms of the hands facing the body. Now, straighten up the upper body and while doing so pull up and clean the weight to the shoulders. Lower to the starting position and repeat.
It is also possible to utilize the rebound principle, bouncing the barbell off the ground, once you have mastered the normal style. High level, long-talking, khaki-panted MFers have shown this movement to be inappropriate. What better recommendation do you need.