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View Full Version : Favorite mid-back exercise (isometric focus)


Emily Mattes
05-25-2010, 08:52 PM
My upper-back is pretty developed, my lower back is pretty strong, but when pulling off the ground I buckle in the middle.

What are your favorite exercises to fix this? Should I focus on isometric stuff, like snatch-grip RDLs, good mornings, and back extensions? Kroc rows? Everything at once? I'm hearing and reading a lot of different things on whether I need more isometric work, hypertrophy, pulling off plates, or what.

Geoffrey Thompson
05-26-2010, 04:20 AM
What's your goal here? The answer is different for powerlifters and weightlifters. The powerlifter might want to consider using roundback deadlift form (embracing the buckling rather than fixing it). But I think you're a weightlifter. How bad is it? Only for max cleans?

Brian DeGennaro
05-26-2010, 06:17 AM
I like rows, DB or BB, and deadlifts to the knee (snatch or clean grip) with a BIG focus on big chest and set back. Repetitions are good to build the endurance, I like to do upwards of 5-10 reps on the deadlifts and sometimes 20 on the rows. They've definitely helped me with the same exact problem you have.

John Alston
05-26-2010, 07:23 AM
Big fan of db rows here. Lots of ways to do them. The one heavy long set, ala Kroc is a great finisher, you feel it right away. I also like the run the rack, where you start with light weight and move up, lowering the reps along the way, until you finish with some singles, minimal rest along the way. Done at the end of a workout it's solid.
Also, honestly, if you've already done a squat/push/pull intensive workout, I have found the hammer seated low row hits the middle back perfectly. Yes, a machine, but after squatting, pulling, and pressing I don't always feel the need to hit my lower back with more isometric work as it would get during a barbell row.

Dave Van Skike
05-26-2010, 08:26 AM
Big fan of db rows here. Lots of ways to do them. The one heavy long set, ala Kroc is a great finisher, you feel it right away. I also like the run the rack, where you start with light weight and move up, lowering the reps along the way, until you finish with some singles, minimal rest along the way. Done at the end of a workout it's solid.
Also, honestly, if you've already done a squat/push/pull intensive workout, I have found the hammer seated low row hits the middle back perfectly. Yes, a machine, but after squatting, pulling, and pressing I don't always feel the need to hit my lower back with more isometric work as it would get during a barbell row.

+2 for the hammer row machine. doing them rest pause style gets a lot of work done quickly...wake up call for the midback, i walk around very aware of my posture after doing them.

if you were a powerlifter, i'd suggest heavy sloppy barbell rows. those are great.

Alex Bond
05-26-2010, 09:40 AM
I also like machine rows, especially ones where the bar path of the machine is similar to the bar path of the bench press. The guy who owns my gym is a 500# raw bencher, and he swears by these for helping out the bench. Obviously, a weightlifter doesn't really care about carryover to the bench, but it's not nothing. I like to do the machine rows fairly strict and for 5s, then do sloppier DB rows for high reps.

Frankly, though, if you are buckling in your pull off the ground, then pull off the ground more. Deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts, etc. A good trick might be to find out at what height the bar is at when your back buckles, then deadlift the bar to that height and just hold it there for a second or two.

Ian Gallimore
05-26-2010, 10:10 AM
Nothing has ever given me back strength like heavy, high rep (30-50) dumbell rows, using straps if necessary, with the opposite hand resting on the knee rather than on a bench and making sure you retract the scapulae at the top. The end result is being able to pull my max deadlift (210kg) off the ground with an upper back that's just as flat as if I was pulling 60kg. As an added bonus doing them with the opposite hand on the knee also gets in some decent ab work. Last year that was the only upper/mid back work I did, and I put 30kg on my dead in that time.

Brian DeGennaro
05-26-2010, 10:40 AM
That's how I do all my DB rows too. The Chinese apparently like them in that fashion as well.

John Alston
05-26-2010, 01:07 PM
That's how I do all my DB rows too. The Chinese apparently like them in that fashion as well.

yeah, Chinese row is high and way back I think, more rear delt even? Kroc row is more mid back and lower, but heavier.
http://www.muscletech.com/resources/videos/60seconds/images/60som_17_matt_kroczaleski_rows_SML.jpg
Both have their fun. When at home I do the Chinese style with my 60lb db.
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/141/405683960_74214c25a6.jpg

Donald Lee
05-26-2010, 01:28 PM
If lower back fatigue is an issue, you could also do them while lying face down on an incline bench. I know some powerlifters do something like that (with barbells) when they run out of weight on the machines and don't want to fatigue their lower backs.

John Heaton
05-26-2010, 01:38 PM
I have just switched to weightlifting competing from bodybuilding and have found the same problem, more so with snatches than cleans. I just cant quite get my mid/thoracic region into extension in the snatch grip.

Do you think the heavy rows will help? I am pretty good at barbell rows from my bodybuilding days and have always had good back development but I suppose my muscles and more show than go!;)

Emily Mattes
05-26-2010, 03:55 PM
Looks like high-rep dumbbell rows are the answer. When you say 20-50 reps, do you mean per set? Then how many sets do you do? And how many times a week do you do it?

Also, definitely looking to keep a flat back--I won't be embracing the rounded back any time soon!

Allen Yeh
05-27-2010, 03:14 AM
You pick a weight you can row once then repeat that effort 20-30 times. If you gave it your all out in your other set chances are your 2nd set should be much less.

Gant Grimes
05-27-2010, 08:16 AM
DB rows are nice. I was pulling my truck with a boat rope a couple weekends ago and felt it in my rhomboids the next day.

But, for isometric work, a heavy set of 10-20 squats will light your back on fire.

Steve Shafley
05-27-2010, 10:07 AM
Another cheap and easy drop-in is inverted rows, either suspended (rings, trx, etc) or a straight bar in a rack.

Ian Gallimore
05-27-2010, 10:24 AM
Looks like high-rep dumbbell rows are the answer. When you say 20-50 reps, do you mean per set? Then how many sets do you do? And how many times a week do you do it?

Also, definitely looking to keep a flat back--I won't be embracing the rounded back any time soon!

Yes, 20-50 reps per set. When you get to 50 reps use a heavier dumbell and start over next session. I currently just do one all-out set, once per week, but last year I was doing 3 sets to max once a week. Stopped doing that because I was spending too long in the gym (high rep DB rows are pretty much the only thing that make me want to barf, so my rest periods were taking up too much time).

You can switch it up though - one week go for 20 reps with a really heavy weight, next week go for 50 with a lighter weight. The high reps give you something to shoot for too, so say you got 25 reps with the 25kg bell one week, next week you'd not stop until you'd got at least 26 reps. One extra rep onto a set of 25 is nothing compared to having to double your max, even though there's only one rep difference in both. Before you know it you're rowing the heaviest dumbells in the gym and everyone thinks you're weird.

John Alston
05-27-2010, 10:25 AM
Good all around back article here
http://beyondstrong.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/06/the_back_is_whe.html

Alex Bond
05-28-2010, 07:19 AM
50 reps? Really? That's not a little over the top? I would stay in the 15-30 rep range so you can actually use a decent weight.

Ian Gallimore
05-28-2010, 09:30 AM
50 reps? Really? That's not a little over the top? I would stay in the 15-30 rep range so you can actually use a decent weight.

Nothing to stop you doing 50 reps with a decent weight, except pain and nausea ;-). I don't have any choice but to go up to 50 though as the DBs at my gym stop at 50kg. One set of 50x50 is enough though!

Brian DeGennaro
06-02-2010, 05:46 AM
Also, Emily, the biggest thing that may help is doing lots of scapular retraction exercises to build strength and endurance there, which ultimately may be your issue. Make sure in the start and throughout the lift you're retracting your scapula together in order to set the back better.

Emily Mattes
06-03-2010, 10:37 PM
Good thought Brian, I'll check to see if I do that and adjust my form accordingly.

Brian DeGennaro
06-04-2010, 05:41 AM
I've noticed that no matter how hard I set my back, if my scapula don't stay retracted, it will get soft anyways. My training partner also mentioned that the tighter you keep your legs in the start, the tighter your back is as well.