I think it’s pretty obvious that nobody wants to look like Quasimoto. I mean, the dude’s got serious forearms but that humpback is definitely not worth the tradeoff.
Unfortunately for most of us though, it’s 2017 and we sit too much, look down at our devices too much, and 99% of us lay on our backs and press barbells over our chests too much, which is basically the perfect trifecta for putting us in the fast lane towards looking that way, sans the yoked forearms.
So instead of looking like the creepy brother in Wedding Crashers, it’s time to rethink your training and figure out how to get some balance in there.
When I worked at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, Mike talked a lot about how, in his experience, athletes who had a chin up to bench press ratio of 1-1 tended to have next to no shoulder issues. This means that if an athlete could bench 225 for 5, and weighed 200 pounds, they needed to be able to do chin ups with a 25 pound plate for 5 reps as well. The more out of whack the bench number was in relation to the chin ups, the worse the risk.
My own experience with clients and athletes has mirrored that. This is why, no matter who the person is, if they have the mobility to do overhead work, we get some sort of chin up variation into their programs as soon as possible, even if it’s regressed all the way to using bands, iso holds, or negatives.
If you have access to gymnastics rings, use these for chin ups. They allow for a more natural rotation in the shoulder and feel great. If not, do the majority of your chins with a neutral (palms facing each other) or supinated (palms facing towards you) grip. They’ll be easier on the shoulders than overhand pullups for most people.
On top of putting an emphasis on improving your chin ups, do extra rowing for your upper back and the back side of your shoulders. Number 1, nobody wants to have loose sleeves in a Vneck, and 2, these will help to counteract all the and internal rotation caused by lots of presses, sitting, and typing. Thirdly, your upper back is the platform from which big presses come from.
Getting in extra rowing is easy. Do some sets in between your main pressing exercise of the day on, in between your main lift on lower body days, during your warm up, or after the bulk of your training is done and you’re squeezing in a a few sets for the gunz. These aren’t going to be ball busting efforts, as the exercises aren’t really designed for moving big loads, but they are just what’s necessary. Think of them as pre-hab and pump work, and less as pure strength work. 5 of my favorite exercises to use in this way are:
Throw 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps of one of these exercises in each day, and it won’t take long for your shoulders to feel better and your pressing exercises to feel more solid.
The biggest thing to keep in consideration when performing these exercises is to not reach forward with your head and neck to make sure that you’re really doing the work with the musculature of your upper back and shoulders. Remember, cervical flexion is a compensation for lack of scapular retraction (props to my buddy Kevin Carr for that nugget.)
Lastly, keep the tempo a bit slower than you would on big, compound lifts, and play around with adding holds at the top to accentuate the contraction at the top. This is where the bodybuilding methods of constant tension and peak contraction really fit in.
And don’t forget about addressing your thoracic spine mobility each day, either. But that’s a whole other post for a different day. Until then, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and email list in order to stay up to date with new content. And don’t be afraid to share this on social if you have a buddy who needs this. Remember, big backs win competitions.