Workout Routines

Your Perfect Body Game Plan: The Back

Get a Strongman's tips to build a strong, wide upper back.

Wide Upper Back
Marius Bugge

A strong, wide upper back doesn’t just look great, says Jeb Stuart Johnston, C.P.T., a Brooklyn-based Strongman. It opens up your shoulders and improves posture. You stand taller and appear more confident.

To get there, Johnston recommends hitting the upper back with some of the same full-body functional movements that are central to Strongman competitions. Loaded carries force every muscle in the body to work together to lift and stabilize heavy odd objects, and much of the load is placed on the upper back. They also provide tremendous cardiovascular benefit. “Any of these would be great as a finisher on back day,” he says, “or try pairing them with sled pulls and car pushes to make your own ‘Strongman Saturday.’”

The first is the farmer’s walk, a Strongman staple that works the entire body, developing powerful legs and hips, increased core strength, and incredible grip strength, in addition to making your back stronger and more stable. To do it, simply grab the heaviest dumbbells or kettlebells you can comfortably carry (half your body weight in each hand is a good starting point) and do it. “Also, nothing taxes your posterior chain and your lungs quite like sandbag carries for distance,” says Johnston. “Simply pick up your sandbag and walk for as long as you can without dropping it. Easy peasy.”

Finally, there’s the snatch-grip deadlift, a deadlift that puts you at a mechanical disadvantage with a wide grip that engages the lats and rear deltoids, and keeps them engaged for more time as a result of the longer range of motion. To do it, set up like you would for a regular deadlift, but take an extra-wide grip on the bar. Always lower in a controlled manner, keeping the back flat through the entirety of the movement.

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