T Nation

Upper Back Compression?


Hey all, ive had this problem for a good few months and it's beginning to become rather tedious.

Basically, ive noticed the problem affecting the following lifts;
Overhead press
Front Squat
Back squat

It feels like my upper back becomes really stiff and tight, almost as if it's winded during these lifts and afterwards, anyone experienced anything similar?




What do you mean by upper back? Where exactly.


Sounds like your upper back is weak to me. Also, doing some mobility and activation drills for your thoracic spine, serratus, and shoulders certainly won't hurt. All of those exercises you listed are ones where it's important to keep your upper back tight so that's why I think this.


^ this. OP how often do you work your upper back and how hard? It's a very important area to keep/get strong in powerlifting.


foam roll your back or see a chiropractor if your back is stiff. both have worked for me but the foam rolling is much cheaper


Yeah I have my wife kneel on my back if I have access to nothing else. Its hard to get the pressure I need unless I use a heavy weight on my chest on top of a roller, but I don't have those at home. On my memory foam mattress, her knee laterally across my back is nearly the same as a weight on your chest on top of a roller.


I do foam rolling often, i have just read top priority for lower traps and am confident this may affect me.

I am doing the activation drills - wall slides, and will eventually move onto lat pulldown iso holds.

@dhickery - Pretty much my whole trap area i guess, from mid back up to my neck.

I am currently hitting my back with deadlifts and rows, and the occasional pull ups.

I am not doing much overhead work with a bar as it hurts my shoulders, i do heavy rows, alternate with moderate rep range, heavy deads, but it seems the middle part of my upper back is flat and out of proportion - under developed. The sides are fine, but that's a big flatness in the middle, which makes me confused.


Do the low/mid traps need to have activation exercises in order for them to provide appropriate shoulder health?


Maybe try Pendlay rows with a narrowish grip. Do these by slumping your upper back, then forcefully contract your lats and upper back while keeping your low back at the same angle. It should be a fairly explosive movement.

Maybe some cable rows with a hard squeeze for a couple seconds too.


Thanks for the suggestion fletch, i am currently doing bent over barbell rows in the pendlay row style fashion, i guess i'll work on more of retracting my shoulder blades which should involve some of the middle traps, does it sound like my symptoms are related to low/mid traps? I sure hope so¬


With any BB row, you want to squeeze your shoulder blades as hard as possible when the weight meets your stomach/chest (depending on how you do them). Your not doing an isometric hold, just squeezing really really hard. This will overload the upper back muscles or something like that.


Right, okay i'll work on doing that. It seems i really need to develop my low/mid traps, they are undeveloped, i guess from not retracting and depressing my scapula enough?

I was thinking of throwing in some additional exercises to help work on the area, such as incline db shrugs or dip shrugs.

You see the thing with rows is, i pushing the shoulder blades back and down is limiting the ROM and when i go to have my arms fully extened, to get a longer ROM i have to have them, i guess flaring out, but this is more than likely not the safest way to do things.


Basically anytime I'm in the gym, I do about 100 reps of "rows/reverse shoulder flys" to my chest with a band (holding it in front of me and moving my arms back and out), usually in sets of 15-20 or so, squeezing and holding full contraction. I've found that not only has ability to hold my shoulders in proper position during benching become easier, but my posture has actually improved.

This is in addition to any other back work I may do on my upper body days.


Thanks for the insight, TRT, today i did some scapula wall slides, dip shrugs, incline db shrugs and some iso holds on the lat pulldown to try and establish some connection and get some development from the traps i had been missing.