The Unseen Advantage: Train Your Back for Power | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

The Unseen Advantage: Train Your Back for Power

December 2, 2011

Increased power, strength, size—everything you expect to develop from training your back. Yet many people forget about properly training their back, simply because they can't see it (at least without a mirror), and it's not a primary "beach body" muscle, like the chest or biceps. Nevertheless, the back is a critical muscle group, it should not be neglected, and training it can provide a huge advantage for athletes.

The upper back is a large, complex group of muscles that work together to move the shoulder and scapula and stabilize the spine. Almost any upper body movement involves the back muscles, including throwing, swinging and pulling.

The back also plays a role in pressing motions like blocking, stiff arming and even Bench Pressing. Rather than directly applying strength, the back works to support the muscles in the front of the body so you can deploy your full strength.

Below, I recommend a few common exercises that will help you strengthen your back, thereby increasing your overall upper body strength and stability—so you can throw harder, pull down more rebounds, block defenders and reduce your risk of injury.

Pull-Up/Chin-Up
If you can't move your own body, how can you expect to move weight or battle an opponent? Build up your body-moving strength with Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups. They are excellent for developing multiple upper body and back muscles, but they primarily engage the lats, which run down the sides of your back under your arms.

Pull-Ups are performed with a shoulder-width grip and palms facing away from the body. Chin-Ups are performed with a shoulder-width grip and palms facing toward the body; they involve the back but have slightly more bicep activation.

Start both exercises by pulling with your back, and finish by bending your elbows.

Sets/Reps: 1-2x8-12 reps; 1x max without breaking form

Inverted Row
This exercise is effective for strengthening the muscles that support the shoulders, including the rhomboids, which engage when you pull your shoulders back. It is particularly beneficial for athletes prone to rotator cuff problems, such as quarterbacks, pitchers, swimmers and tennis players. The Inverted Row ensures that the muscles around the shoulder are strong and stable enough to eliminate unwanted stress.

Lie on the ground and set a bar (either on a rack or a Smith machine) to approximately an arm's length above you. Keeping your heels on the ground, legs straight and body locked in a straight line, grasp the bar with a slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width grip, and pull your chest to the bar. Keep your body in a straight line and make sure your chest touches the bar. Lower yourself with control—but don't rest on the ground!—and immediately repeat.

Sets/Reps: 1-2x8-12; 1x max without breaking form

Dumbbell Row
The Dumbbell Row isolates each side of the back, helping you develop balanced upper body strength, critical for preventing imbalance injuries and back pain.

Make sure to maintain a solid three-point base with the same side hand and knee on a bench and the opposite foot on the ground. Keep your back flat, core tight and head up. Lift the weight directly up to your armpit, keeping your elbow close to your body. Avoid rotating your back.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x6-10

Source:  Golding, Lawrence Arthur, and Scott M. Golding, Fitness Professionals' Guide to Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Human Movement. Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning, 2003.

Michael Palmieri is the president and founder of The Institute of Sport Science & Athletic Conditioning. He has lectured for several major organizations and associations, and written numerous articles for multiple media outlets. He is also a state chairman for the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a state director for the North American Strongman corporation and a judge for the International Natural Bodybuilding Association. A former powerlifter, Palmieri has been in the industry for more than 20 years, and is pursuing his master's degree as a biomechanics graduate student at UNLV.

Michael Palmieri
- Michael Palmieri is the president and founder of The Institute of Sport Science & Athletic Conditioning. He has lectured for several major organizations and associations...
Michael Palmieri
- Michael Palmieri is the president and founder of The Institute of Sport Science & Athletic Conditioning. He has lectured for several major organizations and associations...
Must See
RGIII Talks About His Legacy
Views: 20,424,760
How to Perform the Euro Step With Iman Shumpert
Views: 80,542
Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout
Views: 1,218,556

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: University of Kentucky Views: 224,492
Add Core Power for Basketball With Damian Lillard's Med Ball Throws Views: 4,255,154
Path to the Pros 2015: The Journey Begins Views: 26,383
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

3 Nordic Hamstring Curl Exercises to Boost Your Performance

Nordic Hamstring Curl: Whether if you're looking to rehab an injured hamstring, develop the glute hamstring separation for a bodybuilding contest, or...

Bench Press Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

7-Exercise Core-Blasting Workout

4 Exercises to Build True Lacrosse Power

How Functional Training Has Overly Complicated Strength Training

5 Exercises to Develop Soccer Power

Dominate Your Bench Test With This Strategy

7 Farmer's Walk Variations for Improved Core Strength

7 Ways to Work Out Competitively Without CrossFit

12 Strength Moves from NFL WR Harry Douglas's Full-Body Workout

7 Best Lower-Body Strengthening Exercises

Kyle Lowry's 12-Week All-Star Training Program

Mike Boyle: 4 Small Muscles That Can Lead to Big Gains

Mike Boyle's 5 Tips for More Effective Workouts

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Exercise

These 3 Single-Leg Movements Will Improve Your Squat Technique

Never Bench Press With Your Feet in This Position

The Science of Building Muscle: 2 Ways to Maximize Hypertrophy

5 Ways to Get a Higher Vertical Jump

Improve Your Squat Depth With 5 Easy Warm-Up Exercises

4 Weaknesses That Can Ruin Your Exercise Technique (With Fixes)

6 Gym Machines That Are Actually Worth Your Time

10 Ways to Get Stronger With a Sandbag

Build Max Power With These Pulling Exercises

Master the Lateral Lunge to Improve Your Hockey Stride

4 Simple Golf Core Exercises to Increase Your Driving Distance

3 Tricks for a Stronger Front Squat

7 Strategies for Faster Workout Recovery

4 Deadlift Variations to Increase Your Pull

A Better Way to Train Your Core

Develop Core Strength for Throwing

12-Week Resistance Band and Chain Workout

Improve Soccer Agility with Lateral Strength Exercises

Perfect Your Squat Technique With the Unloaded Squat

How NOT to Perform a Pull-Up (With Fixes)

Putting Together an Off-Season Workout for Point Guards

Increase Your Explosiveness with the Power Curl

Posterior Chain Fixes to Improve Your Game

Use Eccentric Lifts to Increase Size and Strength

Reach New Training Heights With Resistance Band Exercises

3 Post-Activation Potentiation Combos for Explosive Strength

How to Design a Greco-Roman Wrestling Training Program

Make Lifts More Challenging With Resistance Bands

How Often Should You Vary Your Exercise?

The Best Single-Leg Exercises for Youth Athletes