WATCH: Programming Back Exercises for Mobility, Strength, and Joint Health

TAGS: back size, anterior deltoids, overdeveloped pectorals, CJ McFarland, back development, spinal flexion, shoulder mobility, joint stability, posterior chain strength, mobility

Training posterior chain strength and mobility is one of the most underutilized methods in all training programs. Many coaches collect profit through ebooks on how to develop the "Big Three" or simply how to increase bench strength, but what many fail to insert is the importance of developing the upper back. Lack of strength and/or mobility in this region can lead to spinal injury, spinal erector strains, poor posture, and bad form on several exercises.


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Our daily routines force us to live anteriorly dominant, meaning that everything we do is in front of us, such as driving, opening doors, writing, typing, and reaching or grabbing items throughout the day. This increases our potential to create overdeveloped pectorals, anterior deltoids, and many other factors that will force us into excessive spinal flexion.

Banded Accessory Exercises

If divided, the following exercises can be performed every day and can increase back strength and size tremendously. The main purpose of these exercises is to increase joint stability (shoulder) by strengthening the traps, rear deltoid, rhomboids, and several rotator cuff muscles. In the video above, I explain proper form for the following exercises and share other important info you need to know before adding them to your program.

  1. Band Pull-Apart
  2. Diagonal Band Pull-Apart
  3. Underhand Band Pull-Apart
  4. Banded Face Pulls
  5. Double Band Pull-Apart
  6. Banded Snow Angels

Mobility Exercises

An important piece of shoulder strength is shoulder mobility. This will allow you to not only increase degrees of freedom within the shoulder capsule but also increase synovial fluid production and enable you to train pain-free for an extended period of time. These exercises are also used in my program as a form of injury prevention. As many training exercises are done within the frontal or sagittal plane and are therefore extremely rigid in movement, these exercises reaffirm that the joint will not lose its range of motion over time. In the video above, I explain proper form for the following exercises and share other important info you need to know before adding them to your program.

  1. Prone PVC Pull/Press
  2. Prone Shoulder Handcuff
  3. Prone Swimmers

Header image credit:  ammentorp © 123RF.com


CJ is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Onnit in Austin, Texas. He's had the opportunity to train athletes in the NFL, CFL, WWE, and many other professional and DI athletes. He has contributed multiple articles to T-Nation, Bodybuilding.com, and Men's Journal.
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