Our back is a critical piece of our posterior chain. It is one of the major muscle groups utilized in a variety of movements. While we typically think of pull-ups, ring rows, and other pulling movements as back-dominant, there are also a number of other exercises that draw strength from the top half of our posterior chain. A strong back is crucial not only for pulling but also for squatting, hinging and pressing. By building your back strength you will be able to control and execute gymnastics movements better, maintain posture while moving weight, stabilize all overhead pressing movements, and support your spine! Here is a list exercises that will help you develop strong back muscles:
- Banded Lat Pulldowns. The traditional lat pulldown has a tremendous application to CrossFit gymnastics skills, especially something like the bar muscle up which relies on straight-arm pulling strength. If your gym doesn’t have a lat pulldown apparatus, you can easily set one up by attaching a band to the top of the rig and sliding a pvc pipe through. Set your hands up about shoulder width apart, and while keeping a hollow core and straight arms, pull the bar down towards your hips!
- Pullovers. These can be done with either a barbell or a dumbbell. While some might consider this a pure bodybuilding movement, it actually translates extremely well to a number of gymnastics skills involved in CrossFit. Kipping and chest-to-bar pullups, as well as both bar and ring muscle-ups, have similar movement patterns to the pullover without the use of the lower body. Use this as an accessory exercise or finisher to a workout!
- Bent-over Rows. Dumbbell and barbell rows both have tremendous benefit in CrossFit, specifically for the Olympics lifts. The cue often used in Olympic Weightlifting is to engage the lats or keep the lats tight, however athletes often break or "lose" their back once off of the floor. This exercise then becomes a great way to strengthen the lats as it doesn't let them rest during the movement allowing the athlete to sustain that tight back throughout the lift!
- Rope Climbs. Rope climbs are a skill that tend to show up in competitions for the more advanced athlete. It is important to first work on developing the strength required to pull your body up and down the rope. If you have not mastered the legless rope climb due to strength, you can start by laying on the floor holding the rope with your hands as your legs lay either flat or bent. Try to use just your upper body strength topull yourself all the way up to stranding, and then slowly lower yourself back down!
- Wide Grip Strict Pull Ups.Strict pull ups are an excellent exercise for building strength in general. Widen your grip and you make the movement even harder. This will force your traps, delts, lats, tris, teres major and core to work even more and strengthen your back.
- Dual Kettlebell Front Rack Carry. Place two kettlebells in your front rack with your elbows down and tight against your chest. Be sure to keep your shoulder blades packed to really target the scaps and upper back. Take it for a nice, long, slow walk!