Sunday, November 13, 2016

Upper Back for Show & Go - Ken Leistner (1987)

Taken From This Issue (Nov. 1987)

Note: At the time of this issue's publication Jan Dellinger was now Editor in Chief and John Terpak was listed as Publisher. Dr. Ken Leistner was a frequent contributor to the magazine, along with several other notables in the field of strength, bodybuilding and athletic training. 

Upper Back for Show & Go
by Ken Leistner (1987)

A well-balanced physique must be just that . . . balanced! Nothing looks as odd as a man (or woman) with well-developed pectorals, deltoids, arms and abdominals contrasted by a flat and underdeveloped back. Unfortunately, even dedicated bodybuilders often give only cursory notice to the upper and lower back musculature -- forgetting that the real foundation of one's physique is the back, hips and thighs. And for those more interested in the Powerlifts, or other general feats of strength, the upper and lower back musculature must be developed in proportion to the other upper body muscles in order to give supportive ability to any weight that is supported at the waist or overhead.

The athlete -- the football player, in particular -- must concentrate on developing the neck and upper back areas for protection from injury. Anyone who walks on a football field must accept the possibility of injury. Unfortunately, injuries involving the neck region can produce a lifetime of incapacitation. For this reason, many of the intelligent strength coaches and athletes make neck training a priority.

However, they often forget to include equivalent work for the upper back. Actually, the musculatures of the upper back and shoulders are the areas which transmit much of the force after contact is made with the head. Unbelievably, though, football coaches -- and frequently coaches of other types of contact sports -- understand the need for hip, thigh and lower back work, but relegate the upper back and shoulder work to afterthought status -- or upon completion of the almighty bench press. The fact still remains, though, that concentration on these vital areas will not only add impressive muscle to the upper body, but also contribute to one's deadlifting ability and overall strength increases.

Delts for Show

It's easy to accept the fact that many athletes and physique men put less energy into upper back training, but deltoids . . . the bodypart that sets off the upper body? Most physique people strive to be as 'wide' as possible, forgetting -- or not wanting to accept the fact -- that torso width is very much determined by the length of the clavicles (collarbones). Hence, those blessed with proportionately long clavicles attain shoulder width more easily. So the only recourse for those with short clavicles is increasing the volume of the deltoids, which, in turn, increases the width of the shoulder musculature.

Typically, the majority of physique men and women pursue a course of lateral deltoid development, which contributes to shoulder width, but downplays the role of shoulder thickness and overall strength. In order to have maximum visual effectiveness -- and, of course, maximal strength expression -- all three parts of the deltoids should be developed. Be advised that those who spend an inordinate time on the bench press will have a disproportionate amount of anterior (front( delt development, and will find that it takes a real effort to similarly develop the posterior portion, which contributes to the appearance and function of the entire upper back.

Scapulae Retractors

These are the muscles that draw the scapula (shoulder blades) together, a movement of extreme importance to competitive deadlifters. The scapulae must be stabilized during the entire lift, being drawn together during the lockout phase if one is to maintain the proper relationship between the hips and shoulders -- as well as lock the upper extremities into an efficient pulling position, hold the bar as close to the body as possible throughout and best utilize the initial thrust of the hips and thighs as the bar leaves the floor.

The rhomboids and middle and lower fibers of the trapezius muscles are the primary shoulder blade retractors. However, it's easy and wise to work scapulae elevation -- which involves the levator and trapezius -- with as much determination as the retractor phase -- which involves the same muscle groups in conjunction with the latissimus dorsi, pectorals and serratus anterior. 

Click to Enlarge

Thus, working all aspects of scapulae movement will encourage growth in the upper back region, while most functional strength training movements and competitive lifts will benefit from work given to the retractors and elevators. 

The following is a brief and very intense upper back routine, which can be incorporated into one's overall program for rapid gains. As always I suggest that one train very hard -- so hard, in fact, that no more than one or, at most, two sets of any single exercise will be necessary to stimulate maximal increases in muscular size and strength. Few, if any, legitimate studies have indicated that the volume of training is positively associated with gains in tissue mass and strength. However, the intensity of training -- defined here as one's ability to train any particular set to a point that allows no further movement of the bar . . . or reaching momentary muscular failure -- will lead to the sought after gains.
Going "all out" in each of three weekly workouts -- and perhaps two sessions for those with poor recovery ability or difficult employment schedules . . . doing a relatively limited number of sets due to the demanding nature of each -- will bring startling but rewarding gains. As far as other general recommendations go, as usual the hips and thighs should not be worked more than twice weekly and the lower back once a week for best results. But above all, remember to train as heavily as possible for the suggested number of reps, and to use whatever equipment is available. Certain types of machines may offer a mechanical advantage, but the only real requisite for fostering improvement is a willingness to do so, and the ability to transform that desire into positive action. 
Overhead Press - 
warmup, 1 x 8, 1 x 6.
Leverage Row or Prone Row - 
1 x 8.
Shrug - 
1 x 15.
Front Raise - 
1 x 6.
Leverage Row or Prone Row - 
1 x 6.
Leverage Neck Machine - 
1 x 15 each way.
Day One begins with an overhead pressing movement. We use the Nautilus Double Press unit, but a seated press behind neck or strict barbell presses can also be used effectively. In addition to deltoid and triceps work, there is involvement of the trapezius due to scapulae rotation. 
The row follows, with shrugs after that. Most trainees do not strive to get maximal scapulae elevation when shrugging, preferring to use weights that are far too heavy -- achieving only short range partial shrugs -- thereby failing to stimulate the traps and levator scapulae completely. An attempt should be made to pull the "points" of the shoulders to the ears, make a definite pause and return to the starting position. Using dumbbells or a Nautilus Leverage Shrug machine allows for a greater range of motion than a bar, which must be dragged along the thighs and subjected to the resultant friction. [Note: You might also want to try a Shrug Bar.].  
A regular barbell, dumbbells or manual resistance can be used for front raises; however, a thick bar will increase the intensity of the exercise even more. But the most important point concerning the execution is to avoid "swinging" the weight to a point of contraction. Elevate it slowly and smoothly, pause and lower under control. Neck movements should likewise be done in a controlled, "non-jerky" fashion in order to protect the vulnerable cervical spine.
Barbell or Leverage Pullover - 
1 x 12, rest one minute and then do a 50% set.
Note: Here's a great explanation of the 50% set from Paul Carter - 
I first read about this technique many years ago from Dr. Ken Leistner.  He used it in a bench specialization routine with great success for himself and a lot of the guys he trained.  I worked it in to my routines also with great success. It's pretty simple.
After you run the over-warm up, go to failure, or close to it on your down set/working set and then rest 60 seconds, and go again.  On the second set, try to get half the number of reps you got on the first set, i.e. 50% of your first set. So, you have a goal for the day that gets set after the first set ends. 
Pulldown Behind Neck - 
1 x 12.
Pulldown to Chest, supinated grip - 
1 x 8.
Seated Dumbbell Press - 
1 x 10, 1 x 6.
Upright Row - 
1 x 8.
Rear Deltoid Raise - 
1 x 6.
Day Two kicks off with pullovers. The Nautilus Leverage machine allows for a greater range of effective motion, but heavy pullovers with a barbell are a definitely underused (but very result producing) exercise. Although it's seldom seen in most gyms, pullovers must be done through a complete range of motion. Doing otherwise limits the number of fibers brought into play, thereby reducing the value of the exercise. Pulldowns performed with a supinated grip -- palms facing the chest -- place the biceps in a more efficient pulling position, permitting a higher order of work than the preceding exercise.
We do upright rows with a strap that is looped through the hole in our York Olympic plates as this places the wrists in a more comfortable and natural position when pulling to the top position. [Once you set it up right, there's a great idea.] 
The dumbbell press hits the delts, traps and triceps. The rear deltoid raise (done with dumbbells or cables) is another often improperly performed movement, as most trainees begin the lift by invoking body swing. This is to be avoided. Actually, manual resistance is perhaps the best way to do this one, allowing for even and concentrated tension throughout. 
Eight-Second Overhead Press or 70 Degree Incline Press - 
1 x 8.
Leverage Row or One-Arm Dumbbell Row - 
1 x 12.
Shrug - 
1 x 15.
Lateral Raise - 
1 x 8.
Leverage Neck Machine - 
1 x 15 each way.
Day Three begins -- and for many, figuratively ends -- with eight-second presses. A machine allows for better control and concentration in this particular movement. As the name implies, the weight is lifted overhead to the contracted position over an eight-second count, paused, and then lowered to the start position over another eight-second count. When done properly, it's a brutal and very underrated means of stimulating growth. For variety, a very steep incline press can be used instead of going straight overhead.
The one-arm dumbbell row -- done with emphasis placed on keeping the elbow as high as possible -- is an excellent basic upper back exercise. Like front raises, lateral raises can be done against manually applied resistance or with conventional equipment, but it must be done slowly and deliberately. Neck work "finishes" the program.
Please keep foremost in your mind that the exaggerated training programs of the champs sometimes seen in articles are so far beyond reason as to be ridiculous. Even if such programs are done prior to a contest, it should be understood that they are, for the most part, designed to prevent atrophy -- not stimulate hypertrophy -- while the bodybuilder is fine-tuning for a contest. Whereas working fast and hard, taking each set to the limit, on basic exercises will result in larger and stronger traps, shoulder and upper back musculature . . . along with greater resistance to injury on the athletic field.     



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