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...

Featured Videos

Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Views: 588,674
Learn to Hit Open Three-Pointers With Damian Lillard's Baseline Drift Drill Learn to Hit Open Three-Pointers With Damian Lillard's Baseline Drift Drill Views: 241,770
Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Teach Any Athlete How To Squat Properly Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Teach Any Athlete How To Squat Properly Views: 286,393
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

Most Popular Videos

Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,920,844
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,252,646
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,164
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 6,099,366
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,009,040

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
2015 Summer Training Guide: Track

2015 Summer Training Guide: Track

Marcus Mariota's Speed and Strength Workout

Marcus Mariota's Speed and Strength Workout

Why You Should Add Depth Jumps to Your Workouts

Why You Should Add Depth Jumps to Your Workouts

Olympian Carrie Tollefson's Core Workout

Olympian Carrie Tollefson's Core Workout

2015 Summer Training Guide: Soccer

2015 Summer Training Guide: Soccer

The Most American Workout Ever

The Most American Workout Ever

Why Reverse Lunges Are Better Than Forward Lunges

Why Reverse Lunges Are Better Than Forward Lunges

Mix Up Your Workout With Unique Partner Exercises

Mix Up Your Workout With Unique Partner Exercises

Fix 7 Common Problem Areas with Exercises From Todd Durkin

Fix 7 Common Problem Areas with Exercises From Todd Durkin

Build Elite Strength With This Training System

Build Elite Strength With This Training System

Building Functional Balance for Figure Skaters

Building Functional Balance for Figure Skaters

2015 Summer Training Guide: Baseball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Baseball

Troubleshooting the Lunge: How to Fix Your Form

Troubleshooting the Lunge: How to Fix Your Form

2015 Summer Training Guide: Football

2015 Summer Training Guide: Football

2015 Summer Training Guide: Wrestling

2015 Summer Training Guide: Wrestling

How to Build Strong Neck Muscles

How to Build Strong Neck Muscles

7 Trap Bar Exercises You Should Try

7 Trap Bar Exercises You Should Try

2015 Summer Training Guide: Lacrosse

2015 Summer Training Guide: Lacrosse

Are You Using the Right Weight for Every Exercise?

Are You Using the Right Weight for Every Exercise?

2015 Summer Training Guide: Basketball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Basketball

What Sport Coaches Need to Know About Strength and Conditioning

What Sport Coaches Need to Know About Strength and Conditioning

A Modern Twist to the Original Burpee

A Modern Twist to the Original Burpee

2015 Summer Training Guide: Volleyball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Volleyball

Go Against Traditional Workout Order for Bigger Gains

Go Against Traditional Workout Order for Bigger Gains

5 Things to Remember When You Wing Your Workout

5 Things to Remember When You Wing Your Workout

Building Brakes for More Speed

Building Brakes for More Speed

Improve Your Power With These Hardcore Methods

Improve Your Power With These Hardcore Methods

The 10-Minute Grip Strengthening Workout

The 10-Minute Grip Strengthening Workout

10-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up for Any Workout

10-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up for Any Workout

Build Lower-Body Power with This Squat Workout

Build Lower-Body Power with This Squat Workout

Why Single-Arm and Single-Leg Training is Better for Athletes

Why Single-Arm and Single-Leg Training is Better for Athletes

2015 Summer Training Guide: Softball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Softball

Bulletproof Shoulders: A Shoulder Training Guide

Bulletproof Shoulders: A Shoulder Training Guide

Strength Isn’t Just How Much You Can Lift on a Barbell

Strength Isn't Just How Much You Can Lift on a Barbell

9 Ways to Improve Your Squat Technique

9 Ways to Improve Your Squat Technique

Use Single-Leg Strength to Enhance Soccer Performance

Use Single-Leg Strength to Enhance Soccer Performance

Battle Rope Workout That Will Get You Shredded

Battle Rope Workout That Will Get You Shredded

YardBarker