4 Back Training Mistakes Your Athletes Are (Probably) Making

We all know the best movements for building strength, size and power: pressing, deadlifting, and squatting. All are great exercises and should be a staple in every program but without balancing things out with additional pulling exercises, you are setting your athletes up for poor performance and potential shoulder injuries down the road.

In addition, failing to train the back will greatly impede the potential for strength, even for the best exercise for bragging rights in high school, the bench press.

Here are the most common back training mistakes I am seeing with my athletes and how to fix them.

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Back Training Mistake #1: Rounding The Low Back

Most young athletes are never taught to maintain a neutral spine. This is especially problematic when discussing the main lifts, but let’s stick to upper back work for now.

Rounding of the low back during rowing variations takes the spine further away from it’s natural curvature. When the low back is rounded, you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position.

That being said, you must maintain a neutral spine while performing any row variations. Think chest up, butt up and eyes on the floor about 1 foot away from you. If you understand the concept of keeping the low back arched, but still can’t seem to execute, you’re usually in the next category.

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Back Training Mistake #2: Using A Weight That Is Too Heavy

Nobody cares how much weight you can move with poor technique. That ain’t gonna get you better! In most cases, athletes try to use a weight that is way too heavy, the exercise than becomes more of a biceps exercise rather than an upper back exercise.

To really get the back strong and jacked, back the weight down and follow the next direction.

Back Training Mistake #3: Not Fully Retracting The Scapula

As I mentioned before, most young athletes train more of their biceps rather than their backs when trying to perform a row.

In order to train the targeted muscle groups, you must fully retract the scapula followed by protraction while maintaining a neutral spine. Meaning, while keeping a neutral spine (butt up, chest up) squeeze the shoulder blades back as if you were trying to squeeze your spine, then fully stretch the shoulder blades forward while maintaining a neutral spine to ensure full range of motion of the musculature being trained.

Here is how it should look:

Back Training Mistake #4: Failing To Get The Full Range Of Motion

The chin-up is one of the best tests for relative strength in my opinion. They will also let you know quickly if you need to get your body fat in check.

However, most people fail to perform the exercise properly. They start by jumping off the floor and fail to ever fully stretch the lats and shoulder musculature and achieve full range of motion.

When you perform a chin-up/pull-up properly, you begin in a dead hang position.

From there, drive your shoulder blades downward to engage your lats, and pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar, then control back down to full extension and repeat.

Check it out:

To fully benefit from an incredible exercise, perform them the way they are described above. If you can’t do many pull-ups or chin-ups yet, or want to supplement the exercise, use different pulldown variations in the same manner. Full stretch up with control, followed by getting the bar down to your chest.

Kick It Up A Notch

To ensure that you are getting enough back work, perform a pulling exercise for every push you do. I even like to go a step further and do more pulling than pushing in total reps.

For instance, if I prescribe 3 sets of 6 reps on an incline dumbbell press, I’ll follow that up with 3 sets of 8 reps on a one arm row.

You can simplify it by doing a horizontal pull for every horizontal push, and vertical pull for every vertical push. That way, you will always do a set of pulling for every set of pushing.

I want everyone to understand how important it is to properly train the muscles that make up the back. As I mentioned earlier, properly training the back will help keep the shoulders healthy, aid in your ability in your sport and help improve overall strength on your bigger lifts.

If you are a coach and take the time to teach your athletes to properly perform these exercises, I guarantee that your team will improve.

So take the time, have your guys back down the weight and teach them how to execute the movement.

You will be happy you did!

I hope this article helps, guys. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me via email at chris@tutelatraining.com or visit my site at tutelatraining.com. I’d love to help out in any way I can.

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About The Author

Chris Tutela is a strength and conditioning coach in Clark, New Jersey. He is the owner and operator of Tutela Training Systems, where he trains mainly athletes and some regular people. He has multiple years experience as a strength coach at the high school level as well a professionally in the private sector.

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