Lately I’ve been getting questions about to go about training for powerful back strength while improving shoulder stability. Since this has been a common thread I decided to pull this older article from the archives to publish up today for you.
The original publishing date of this article was back on May 26, 2016. Believe me this information is still highly valuable and will help you to build greater symmetry in your body for better posture and for a more functionally strong body. Enjoy the read and post up your feedback in the comments section below.
1. What type of training are you currently doing to improve your back strength?
2. Do you currently have shoulder issues and find it difficult to perform pull ups?
3. Are you interested in learning how to really enhance your pull up strength in a different way?
You probably realize by now that back strength development is crucial for function and health. If you are an experienced iron veteran you’ve probably noticed that all too familiar waiting in line at the bench press stations and dumbbell racks on Mondays at most gyms since everybody is looking to get in their chest day. Well today we’re going against the grain and I’m going to show you how you can go about developing lats of steel and to help give you a strong stable shoulder girdle in the process.
Back Strength Development And Stable Shoulders
The first step in making sure that you build a powerful back is making sure that you are able to optimally fire your lats while also maintaining stability at the shoulder girdle. Sure we can get the traps and rhomboids involved in some other ways, but today I want to focus on being a little lat conscious if you are looking to build stronger more stable shoulders.
When it comes to pushing related exercises the bench press tends to get a bit of overuse in many gyms and when it comes to pulling related movements so do pull ups. Pull ups are great… and pull ups are one of the best things we can do for strengthening our back and posterior chain of muscles.
However, over the years I’ve witnessed many folks attempt a so-called pull up while failing to extend their arms beyond 90 degrees. In many cases people end up moving their chin up over the bar with about a 3 inch range of motion (ROM). Of course this does not qualify as a pull up.
Likewise, these days many people like to implement their own version of a kipping pull up which tends to involve a lot more momentum and swinging of the body than any real lat activation for stability and strength. Remember control, tension, and ROM build significant strength…period.
A great way to protect the shoulders and to help you work on keeping the shoulder girdle intact while engaging the lat in a full ROM is by implementing some single arm rows. Case in point.
As you can see this movement is very similar to cranking a lawn mower. Remember that it’s not just an arm exercise. The idea is to learn to fire your lat with the lifting arm. Another simple way to ensure that you can do this is by slightly turning your fist at angle so that your thumb is facing out slightly away from your body when beginning the row. This externally rotates the head of the humerus and puts your shoulder girdle into a much more stable position to perform the movement.
Once you have become proficient at stabilizing your shoulder girdle by learning to engage your lats you’ll then want to test this out on some other more dynamic movements. A great example here would be to start practicing your dumbbell, or kettlebell snatches. Yes, people don’t tend to think, or view, the overhead dumbbell/kettlebell snatch as being such an integral movement in testing lat strength, but believe me… it is.
Now obviously the dumbbell snatch that I’m showing here does require some technical skill. If you watch closely I’m driving force through the ground by using my legs. This is NOT an upright row type movement.
The dumbbell snatch (like the kettlebell snatch) requires hip and leg drive to initiate momentum. Once the movement is initiated through the legs then you’ll notice my arm maintains close proximity to my body with my elbow staying almost right up against my torso as the weight ascends to above my head.
At the same time the key is to perform a sort of “corkscrew” type of motion with the lifting arm to complete the movement overhead with the dumbbell, or kettlebell. As I’m ascending upwards in the movement I’m really firing the lat on the lifting arm to forcefully pull the weight up over my head.
Back Strength: The Takeaway
Give these moves a try and let me know how your back strength improves! What type of strength movements are you currently utilizing for back strength and shoulder stability.
Are you currently utilizing these movements to engage your lat strength?
What type of training are you currently doing?
Please post up and share here below in the comments.
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