Increasing Upper Back Strength Will Protect You From Spine & Shoulder Injuries

Upper Back Strength Training Will Help Prevent Spinal Injury

In a previous article, I talked about the importance of strengthening you’re lower back to both improve your performance on the track and prevent serious injuries (seeing how back injuries are among the most common injuries for motocross athletes).Rider Fitness Upper Back Strength Featured Image

I’ve since been asked by a few readers about strengthening the upper back – is it important, what does increasing it do, and which specific workouts are best?

Yes, you do need to focus on strengthening your upper back, too.  It’s just as important as your lower back and shoulder strength.  And just like its lower relative, your upper back not only helps you to balance and maintain control on your bike, it is also prone to injury.

That being said, you’re not looking to have an upper back like a Greek god.  You just want to strengthen the muscles that support it.  That way, you have an ample amount of protection from injury and a boost to your overall performance on the track.

3 Exercises For Strengthening Your Upper Back

Exercise #1: Pull-Ups

If you perform only one task for your upper back, this should be the one you use. There’s a reason pull-ups are in virtually every strength-building regimen.  They work like gangbusters!

  • illustration of Pull UpsFind a bar (or sturdy limb or wooden beam or anything else) that will comfortably support your weight.
  • Grip the bar using a standard overhand grip (the back of your hands face you) and with your arms about shoulder-width apart.
  • (Optional) If at first, you need assistance, find a bench or other raised surface that you can use for support.  One foot will rest on top of this raised surface throughout the exercise.
  • Play dead.  Let your body hang with your arms fully extended and your shoulders back.
  • Pull yourself up by squeezing the bar with your hands and constricting your upper back. Pretend you’re cracking a walnut between your shoulder blades, and try and resist the urge to pull solely with your arms.
  • Once your chin has fully cleared the bar, slowly lower yourself back into your initial hanging position.  This completes one rep.
  • Perform three sets of no more than ten reps.

Exercise #2: Lat Pull Downs

I’m with the majority that thinks most machine-based exercises aren’t nearly as effective as their free weight counterparts.  But lat pulldowns are one of the few exceptions.  Next to pull-ups, lat pulldowns are the next best thing.  And they’re often the go-to alternative for those who can’t yet do pull-ups.

  • Illustration of Lat PulldownsSit down at the pull-down machine with your back straight and chest out.
  • Grip the pulldown bar with your hands shoulder-width apart in an overhand grip (backs of hands facing you).
  • While keeping your elbows pointed straight down, constrict your lats (again, think to crack a walnut between your shoulder blades) and pull the bar down towards your chest.
  • Lower the bar to just below your chin.
  • Slowly allow the bar to rise back up to its original position.  That’s one rep.
  • Perform three sets of 8-12 reps.

Exercise #3: Darts

This exercise is more of an introductory exercise for those who can’t quite do a pull-up and don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine.  While it’s not near as effective as the other two, it’s a good starting point.

  • Lie on your stomach with your arms by your side.
  • Constrict your upper back (once again, think to crack a walnut with your shoulder blades) and slowly lift your chest and arms off of the ground.
  • Hold that position for approximately 2 seconds, and then lower your chest and arms slowly back to the ground.  That’s one rep.
  • Perform three sets of 8-12 reps.

If you have any questions or anything to add, please leave them in the comments or on our FaceBook page!

Keep Reading – Shoulder Strength

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