By BJ Gaddour
There are lots of things that are up for debate in fitness. But one thing that most fitness experts can agree on is that you can never get enough upper back work.
Why is that? Most guys suffer from poor posture due to desk jockey occupations and because they’ve been bench pressing their eye balls out from a young age. But dedicated upper back training can help transform you from a hunch-back to a jacked-back in no time.
One of my favorite upper back builders is the face pull using a triceps rope on a cable machine. Though you can certainly perform the move with an overhand grip, I prefer using an externally-rotated, thumbs-up grip to more effectively target the rotator cuff and improve shoulder mobility and stability.
Pull the handles past your face and do a rear double biceps hold, squeezing your shoulder blades together as hard as you can for 2 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Do sets of 10 to 15 reps or use work periods of 90 to 120 seconds for the best results.
Related: 6 Back Exercises You Should Be Doing
Be sure to avoid these 3 form fails:
1. Don’t shrug your shoulders: Shrugging your shoulders upwards allows the often dominant and overdeveloped upper traps to take over. Be sure to keep your ribs and shoulders down throughout the movement.
2. Don’t hyperextend your lower back: In an effort to pull all the way back and achieve full range of motion, it can be easy to fall into the trap of overextending at the lower back. Prevent this from happening by blocking your feet together, squeezing your legs together, clenching your glutes, and crunching your abs.
3. Don’t go too heavy and too fast: Most guys make the mistake of going too heavy and using too much momentum on these. As a result the bigger muscle groups like your lats and upper traps take over, preventing your smaller rotator cuff and scapular muscles from getting a training effect. Lighten the load, slow it down, and make yourself feel your rear delts and upper back doing the work.
You can implement this move as a warmup drill, a filler between other non-grip-intensive exercises like presses and squat, or an accessory exercise later in your workout. Either way, please be sure to do it on the regular. It will bulletproof your shoulders and blow up your upper back, in a good way.