Your Strong Back Blueprint

We should be stronger pulling than pushing. Many masters athletes and older adults find themselves hunched over from time and work and they aren’t as strong as they should. Doing vertical pulling wrong is like building without a blueprint. By avoiding or fixing these problems you’ll have happier, healthier shoulders, and you’ll get the strength and size you’re working for. This article is really part 2 of your strong back blueprint. Part one was the shoulder dipping article. The exercises we’ll be addressing are; your pull-ups, chin-ups, and lat pull down exercises. While you don’t typically have shoulder dipping occur with this movement/exercises there are a few things you should avoid when doing this exercise.

The Problem/s

  1. The first and worst is having an elevated shoulder blade/s (scapulas). It’s fine to have yourback-blueprint¬†shoulders come up at the top of the lift. The problem lies in leaving them there. The muscles you want to really target are your latissimus dorsi (lats), to do that you need to depress or lower your shoulder blades as you start the lift.
  2. The shoulders start creeping back up. Often I see clients start out the lift with their shoulders pulled down, but as they move through the exercise the shoulders start creeping back up.
  3. Finally, the rounding of your upper back to get the end range (chin over the bar). This is usually caused because of #1 and #2. When your lats contract think of them sticking your chest up and out and almost arching your lower back. If you are hunched over the bar those muscles are stretched out, not contracted-which is what you want. Make sure your chest is high and shoulders are down and back at the bottom position.

How to Fix Your Chin-Up/Pull-Up

  1.  Lighten the weight and focus on controlling the movement and using the shoulder blades correctly.
  2. Create a better mind-muscle connection. This is best accomplished at lighter loads and more reps (~8-15 reps).
  3. Do scapular pull downs. This is done when you just do the first phase of the lift. You start from a dead hang/arms straight overhead. And you pull your shoulders down without bending your elbows. Like this,

  4. Break up the movement into 2 distinct parts. First, the shoulder depression (lowering out of the ears). And second, the pulling of the weight to the shoulder/chest.
  5. Do isometric holds at the bottom of the exercise. If you can master a 30 sec hold with good form (chest up, shoulders down and back), you can usually put together a few beautiful reps that work your back and keep your shoulders happy.