Training Tip-Improve all of your lifts.
This months training tip comes from TPS' Kettlebell instructor Kevin Delaney. Kevin and I were discussing working out and ways to make our squats, benches, and dead lifts improve. There was one common denominator that we found is frequently overlooked or dismissed that carries over to all these: Upper Back Strength.
Improving strength in the upper back isn't just a concern for strength athletes; it will improve posture and balance in the shoulder girdle to everyone. This is especially true for those who sit at a desk and work on a keyboard all day. We see imbalances all the time with our personal training clients in this area during our initial screenings.
Let's look at the squat and dead lift for a moment. If you aren't too familiar with strength training you would say that these are lower body exercises, and you'd be right. However, the upper back (traps, rhomboids) play a huge role in the squat and dead lift. In the squat, a weak upper back will cause you to bump forward and miss the lift. In the dead lift, you will never lock the weight out. A strong upper back also helps you to have perfect posture at the start of the lift by allowing you to maintain a "Chest Up" position. Anyone who has ever been to a power lifting meet has seen the guy with "The Hunch" miss a squat.
In the bench press, the upper back isn't really actively involved as a prime mover, but does a huge amount of work as a stabilizer. The upper back needs to be squeezed together very tight to keep the shoulder blades retracted. When the upper back gives out, you flatten out on the bench and miss. Another thing with this area is that the more muscle (size) you and to the traps and upper back muscles the less distance you have to bench. Less distance equals more weight.
How do you strengthen this area of the body? Well, there are countless exercises that you can do, shrugs, rows, pull-ups, pull downs, and face pulls will all work well. Squats and good mornings with a safety squat bar will also work wonders. Make sure you shrug your shoulders up and back and hold them there for the whole set when using the safety bar, it will smoke your upper back.
A nice side benefit of adding in specialized upper back work is for the ladies. You will have that sexy "Backless Dress" Back, and for the guys- no more pencil neck for you. A huge yoke increases your awesomeness by at least 15%, get to work!