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Upper/Middle Back Training

S

Shock

VIP Member
Nov 28, 2015
79
42
#1
I'm looking to concentrate more on working my upper/middle back more, e.g., rhomboids / traps. Does anyone have any exercise suggestions, techniques, and/or implements that work well for this area?

Currently, I do shrugs, high and low unilateral lat rows (Hammer Strength),pull-downs, and hyperextensions. I'm tempted to start doing hex bar deadlifts, but I'm hesitant due to sporadic lower-back spasms.

Maybe incline dumbbell rows or t-bar rows with narrow bar grip?
 
SAD

SAD

TID Board Of Directors
Feb 3, 2011
3,029
1,177
#2
If you’re worried about loading the lower back because of lower back issues, my opinion is that it’ll be hard to really build the middle-upper back.

I herniated a disc 7 weeks ago and have found it exceedingly difficult to hit that area without loading the upper body and bracing at the core, afterall, it’s the first step in the posterior chain after the core.

Heavy squats always taxed my rhomboids and traps heavily, along with power cleans and heavy barbell rows. But I wouldn’t think of doing those right now with my lower back issues.

I’ll be following this closely.
 
S

Shock

VIP Member
Nov 28, 2015
79
42
#3
Yeah. The heavy barbell rows, back squats, and cleans are off of the table. I'm still really tempted to try the hex-bar deadlifts, given that they allow me to stay more upright. If I keep my core tight and don't make the movement all that dynamic, I can probably manage, but I'm not sure it's worth it. I still do straight-leg deadlifts for glutes and hamstrings with anywhere from 225 to about 255 for sets of 8 to 10ish by locking my lower body in place at the hips / iliac crest. Somehow I manage that most days, but some days I tweak it a little if I'm not careful enough.

I was thinking maybe t-bar rows are my best bet because the grip is much narrower and I can start the movement in the center of my upper back without loading my lower back all that much.

I'll just start doing some testing with different angles, grips, and movements and really concentrate on beginning the movement in the middle-upper back and see what I can come up with. I don't want to risk further injury.

Thanks for the input.
 
Gms585

Gms585

VIP Member
Mar 17, 2017
527
247
#4
I go out of my way to not put stress on my lower back on my upper back / bicep day. I do this so I am fresh on dealift and squat day.

I do this
Hammer Machine rows - HEAVY 5's
Wide Lat Pull Downs - 5*12
Seated Machine Revers Flys - 4*8
Neutral Grip Cable Rows - 5*12
Neutal Grip Lat Pulls Downs - HEAVY 5's
Standing Bench Press Width Lat Pull Down Flys - 4*8

Then whatever you want for biceps.
I love this routine it keeps mass and strength in my upper back while putting no weight stress on my core saving me for other days.
 
Superman

Superman

VIP Member
Aug 28, 2012
1,229
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#5
Start with heavy ass bent over barbell rows, do some weighted pull ups, use heavy dumb bells do bent over reverse flys with good form.
 
S

Shock

VIP Member
Nov 28, 2015
79
42
#7
I like my landmine rows.
Going to look these up. I've never heard the movement. I also saw a thing on "Meadows Row" last night. My next back workout, I'm going to do a lot of test and tune with the suggestions in this thread. I think one-arm might be the way to go to get maximum articulation and stretch. Whenever I use anything with both arms, unless it's hammer strength, I can't seem to squeeze the right place.
 
S

Shock

VIP Member
Nov 28, 2015
79
42
#8
Ahhh, it looks like single-arm landmine row is the same as Meadow row. Gotta give it a try.
 
DungeonDweller

DungeonDweller

VIP Member
Mar 21, 2017
436
191
#9
Well, I generally do t-bar rows, but they are similar. Seems like you've got the idea.
 
S

Shock

VIP Member
Nov 28, 2015
79
42
#10
I've had some time now to test a few new exercises and find out what works for me in hitting this specific area while avoiding lower back spasms / discomfort.

- Meadows Rows: I found that these gave me a great amount of body adjustability and the option to almost exclusively weight my inside-leg glute instead of my lower back like in bent-over barbell rows. I'm a big fan of these, especially when using the plated-loaded Hammer Strength trap machine. I grip the lowest handle perpendicular to my body.

- Face Pulls w/ rope: These aren't something that I can use a lot of weight with, but I found that if I concentrate solely on the upper-middle back area, I could hit it fairly well if I started the movement by tensing my lower-trap / rhomboid area.

- Cable Pulldowns: I started leaning back about 20 degrees so I could hit my upper-middle back better. Like the face pulls, I ensured that I tensed my rhomboid / lower-trap area at the very beginning of the movement.

- 20-degree Dumbbell Shrugs: These felt like a decent variation of normal shrugs that added a bit more tension to the target muscle group.

I also continue to use the unilateral high row Hammer Strength machine and the cable row machine. All in all, I'm pretty happy with the newfound exercises and variations of old ones. I feel like I'm getting a more complete back workout while avoiding almost all unwelcome tension on my lower back.
 
PillarofBalance

PillarofBalance

Strength Pimp
Staff Member
Feb 27, 2011
17,052
4,609
#11
I would just add band pull-aparts. I do them just to keep my shoulders and pecs happy but done routinely can make a big difference.

To protect the low back make sure you are doing ab work and glute work heavy as possible.

And for the lower back, add in things like good mornings that directly smash that area. Just start with little to no weight and low volume and slowly build it up over time. Even if you just start doing them with bodyweight and slow tempo for 2 or 3 sets.
 
S

Shock

VIP Member
Nov 28, 2015
79
42
#12
Thanks for the exercise suggestion. I'll insert the band pull-aparts into my workout and see what they're all about.

My lower back injury is just a spasm that occurs at a certain back angle. The first time it happened was early in my military career after few years of pretty intense training. I've had it ever since.

I've been really diligent about doing ab work and lower back work in hopes that it would stabilize my core further and alleviate some of the symptoms: it hasn't, unfortunately. I do hyperextensions to work on my erectors, good mornings on leg day (lock in my glutes and hams),and a few other heavy glute exercises. I'm going to keep doing all of these, as they round out my lower body, and I'll continue to just try to avoid the positions that give me that "zap" in my lower back.
 
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