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Upper Back Strength

Hi guys,
Recently my front squat has stalled and I’m pretty sure it’s because the upper back gives away once I’m at the bottom. I was wondering if any of you know any good exercises for upper back strength .

Im not really inclined on doing big compound lifts like good mornings, stiff leg deadlifts or barbell rows because a) they target more of a lower back and b) I squat 3 times a week and I simply do not want to sabotage my recovery abilities with an additional huge back exercise., especially when my back squats are going great. I’m looking into smith. more specific to the upper back, maybe some seated rows or smth? Thanks in advance for any input…

Kroc Rows, Seated good mornings, Pull-ups, in no particular order. These are just examples. A bunch of light face pulls or high pulls should do you well too.
I feel like block deadlifts help aswell, but since you already squat 3x a week it wouldn’t be easy to implement them.

EDIT : haven’t tried Zercher squats yet, but I think I read they work the upper back well too (to be confirmed).

[quote]Kraky wrote:
Kroc Rows, Seated good mornings, Pull-ups, in no particular order. These are just examples. A bunch of light face pulls [/quote]

I’ll add tons of band pull aparts to this list. Rows, band pull aparts and face pulls are what I’m using for an extra upper back day currently. I also do 100 band pull aparts each day.

Band pullaparts and face pulls as others said. Ill add heavu bent over fly’s are awesome too, wide grip barbell rows to the chest with medium weight for higher reps (20-30) these should fry that upper back.

Also…heavy front squat holds would do you well. Use well over your max and build up to just stadning with the weight for up to 30 seconds. Check STB’s log for reference on that its awesome.

Don’t forget your vertical pulls aside from the rows, band work, etc. One arm stuff wouldn’t hurt, and it’d make sure you’re not going too big and complex.

does anybody do wide grip t-bar rows for upper back?

x2 on seated gms. Upper back GMs with an SSB work wonders. My scaps are never more lit up than after very heavy RDL’s or DLs

Could be form.

The upper back will always be the limiting factor in front squats (unless you have the quads of a 10 year old girl), nothing unusual about that. Do more front squats if you want to get better at them.

Lie on your stomach with your arms out i front of you and then lift your chest and arms off the floor by extending your thoracic spine.
So like an upside down crunch, or if you’re familiar with “supermans” as a lower back exercise, a variation of that.
Do it for reps or for time.

Thanks for the advices. I can’t, really squat more often than I do now. I do full body sessions three times a week, if I start squatting more often it will simply hinder and hurt smaller muscle groups that I would have to train along, such as chest and shoulders. If I was only squatting, then yes, but I’m doing quite a bit of upper body work aswell.

I have done some weightlifting for a few months, and, at that time I squatted every day, because I was doing only three exercises, squat, snatch and C&J and they were explosive and low volume. My original question asked for upper back specific exercises, but I believe that I just might have to drop one squat session and do some solid fullback training , like deadlifts , krok rows,stiff leg dead lifts etc. my training woul look smth.

Like that:
Monday: back squat. Wednesday: front squat. Friday: eg.: deadlifts. Saturday and Sunday off.
I didn’t want to drop my squat workouts before, but after doing front squat session yesterday, and, again, seeing that it’s not going anywhere I decided instead of doing some specific workout for my back after every squat workout, just change 1 squat session into a full back session.
P.S. just so you would have an idea what weights I’m talking about:
BS 165 kg Olympic style
FS 152,5-155 kg
Deadlifts about 230 kg

Do the band pull aparts really make that big of a difference?

Just out of curiousity if your only doing three movements a session why not just add a simple back exercise at the end of the day.

Say Monday Wide Pull Ups or Pulldowns some thing mid sets and reps.

Wednesday Barbell Row or Face Pulls High Reps 3-4 sets.

Friday Kroc Rows or Shrugs Heavy.

This would literally add at most 5-10 mins if you drag it out at the end of every session. I may have missed something in your post why you can’t do this bit its very reasonable to me.

[quote]StormTheBeach wrote:
x2 on seated gms. Upper back GMs with an SSB work wonders. My scaps are never more lit up than after very heavy RDL’s or DLs[/quote]

Could you please explain what you mean by “upper back GMs” with an SSB? That sounds…different. Although with your track record I have no doubt they work.

OP – one thing you can look into is something I feel has helped me, and that is to perform your rows, pull-aparts, pulldowns,etc with a 2 second pause at the peak contraction (that would be like a mental 3 count since we all rush the count when tired), and taking low rest periods between sets. Don’t use any weights that you can’t hold with your chest up and arched (squat position style), and your shoulders/shoulder blades slammed back. If you start rounding the shoulders over or you can’t squeeze and hold for 3 count, it’s too heavy.

I’m aware that this flies in the face of most PL style back work–and it’s obviously bodybuilding inspired–BUT this is something I picked up from CT and it really, really helped my ability to stay tight.

The reason I believe it worked is that it is a high volume, low rest approach on a group of muscles that is very susceptible to early fatigue in front squats, AND that it teaches you to hold and squeeze the shelf really hard. The combination of working on muscular endurance with low rest periods (reps are still in the 8-10 range, not high), and holding contractions when fatigued really helps you lock in the shelf when you need to.

I like heavier back work for the most part, so I would not say that this is a permanent style thing, but I think it will help to do for about 8 weeks. I typically use a set/rep approach of 4x6 (or 4x8), 2x8 (or 2x10) for each back exercise, pick two and go. Rest periods are 30-45 seconds for me, max. This will surprise you if you aren’t expecting the fatigue, but your back will become very resilient towards fatigue with the approach.

The other thing I do is I use upper back work in all my warm-ups for every workout, legs, bench, back, everything. That assures I get at least 3-4 sets in every time I’m in the gym, even if I cut the workout short.

[quote]Aragorn wrote:

[quote]StormTheBeach wrote:
x2 on seated gms. Upper back GMs with an SSB work wonders. My scaps are never more lit up than after very heavy RDL’s or DLs[/quote]

Could you please explain what you mean by “upper back GMs” with an SSB? That sounds…different. Although with your track record I have no doubt they work.[/quote]

I think he might be talking about 4:11.

To Reed,
I posted only three lifts , but I actually do 5. So I allways start with squats, then I proceed to bench press and military press. I alternate the sequence of the BP and MP. One day I’ll do first bench press and then military press, the next day - other way around. After these three exercises I finish with four sets of pull ups for as many reps as I can and then few sets of bicep curls. I understand what you mean when you say that I might do one back exercise at the end of every session, which will not take much time aswell, but my concern is, whether squatting three times a week I will be able to recover after every workout, because you know, back takes some time, even if it’s only one exercise per workout especially when bench press, military press and pulls ups allready work back to a certain degree ( well, lats atleast ) I am thinking maybe a better approach would be to drop one squat session entirely and devote it to back training. I would do it on Fridays so I would have two days off to recover. But you never know, your idea might work aswell, I need try and see…thanks anyway…

could just move on from fullbody

No problem waas just a suggestion everyone responds differently to different routines… but in my honest opinion unless your training to compete in Oly lifting I strongly second Rampantbadger suggestion and say start using a split system like westside. I don’t really respond to well to full body training unless for conditioning purposes. And westside/ conjugate training is superior(IN MY OWN OPINION) Even if you don’t have the bands and chains to work with.

[quote]BHG wrote:
The upper back will always be the limiting factor in front squats (unless you have the quads of a 10 year old girl), nothing unusual about that. Do more front squats if you want to get better at them.[/quote]

I’ve front squatted 475 at a bodyweight of 200 lbs, just so you know I’m not talking about stuff I don’t know about. And what you’re saying is simply not true for many people. Most people’s form just sucks on front squats.

[quote]hungry4more wrote:

[quote]BHG wrote:
The upper back will always be the limiting factor in front squats (unless you have the quads of a 10 year old girl), nothing unusual about that. Do more front squats if you want to get better at them.[/quote]

I’ve front squatted 475 at a bodyweight of 200 lbs, just so you know I’m not talking about stuff I don’t know about. And what you’re saying is simply not true for many people. Most people’s form just sucks on front squats. [/quote]

The one I find myself guilty of a lot is trying to sit back too much and not keeping my elbows up.