Having a strong back is crucial to developing and maintaining a healthy strong body regardless of the goals of the individual. The posterior chain is something that is too neglected with much of the general population when looking to develop an optimal level of fitness and a rock solid foundation of strength. Now having said this there are layers involved in building a strong back…and one big layer involves making sure your shoulders are as stable as iron.
One of the driving factors in preventing injury and building optimal strength for yourself is making sure you understand how to go about packing the shoulder. The shoulder girdle is a complex joint consisting of 4 articulations (joints).
The shoulder girdle consists of…
The glenohumeral joint (a ball and socket joint at the head of the humerus and the glenoid cavity of the scapula).
The acromioclavicular joint (AC Joint) where the clavicle meets at the acromion of the scapula.
The sternoclavicular joint (SC Joint) where the clavicle meets the chest bone, or sternum.
The scapulothoracic joint where the scapula meets the ribs on the back side of the chest.
Even though the glenohumeral joint is the ball and socket portion of the shoulder it is almost like a floating joint with all four articulations working together for the function of mobility and stability.
Because there are multiple moving parts to the shoulder girdle it’s essential for you to understand how to pack the shoulder when performing pressing and pulling related movements.
When it comes to building a strong back this is especially important as the shoulder girdle can be significantly stabilized by you being able to fire the lats. Case in point…
Engaging The Lat During The Row
There are many ways you can go about strengthening your back. Deadlifts, pull ups, static bar holds, lat pulls, kettlebell swings, etc. are all great ways to go about building a strong back. One method for significantly strengthening the back is by performing single arm rows.
The reason single arm rows are effective is because this drill can more readily get you into a position to learn how to engage the lat with minimal equipment and space. The single arm row can be performed with a dumbbell, kettlebell, cable, etc.
When practicing the single arm row you are essentially putting your body into a position to perform the pull as if you are cranking a lawn mower. To give you a feel of how to perform the single arm row while effectively engaging the lat refer to the video here below.
As you can see the common issue with performing the row for many people is being too bicep, or arm dominant. The exercise is not solely an arm drill. The whole purpose is to learn how to innervate the lat muscle during the pulling action of the drill.
The common trap that many will fall into when performing the single arm row is not stabilizing the head of the humerus and allowing the shoulder girdle to float, or to be a bit unstable during the pulling portion of the movement.
There are two ways to overcome this problem when performing the single arm row. The first is to make sure that you allow the elbow to pull past the ribcage upon the ascent of the movement as you can see in the video. The second is to turn your thumb away from your body (supinating your hand) so that you can more effectively pull the weight by engaging the lat muscle.
When it comes to being strong you’ve got to have a strong back, but the path to developing a strong back MUST involve you being able to stabilize the shoulder girdle during the process. You don’t want to be too stiff in the movement. Remember that there is stiff, but then there is stable. Good technique is about understanding the difference.
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