Put Your Rack Into It
Strengthening of the low and mid back has become a very common topic and I am seeing more and more creative ways to hit it. One component of mid back strength that I have really become fascinated in is the ability to pattern the use of this new found mid back strength in to some of the bigger lifts. In particular the deadlift. Whether you are a coach or a very observant fan of the iron, I am sure you have seen somebody lift the barbell off of the ground and something just looks different. There is that odd curve in the mid back just as the plates leave the ground. While I rarely look at a bit of a thoracic curve as a hazard, I do look at it as a hurdle in the strength potential of an awesome movement like the deadlift. The rack pull has become my savior when it comes to making the most of your mid back in the deadlift.
The Set Up
I find it tough to dictate a universal set up so I often play with the position based on postural capability. I like to find a position deep enough to allow a healthy range, but high enough to ensure proper extension and engagement of the mid back. Depending on the individual this could be anywhere from the midline of the shin to just above the knee. For hand and foot positions this can be set very similar to your standard deadlift positions whether it is conventional or sumo.
With the lift itself, I usually see it go one of two ways. It is either a well calculated way of lifting, or the shorter range provides an opportunity to stack the barbell and move some weight around. I am guilty of both but if I was to pick and choose I would go with the calculated version regardless of the fun that can be had with plan b. If there is anything I recommend with this lift is to put thought into your action. Take the time to position yourself so that chest is tall, your mid back is firing, and your glutes and hamstrings are cooking before you even get the bar off of the rack. My favorite cues once again are the ability to drive your thumb forward into the bar to help in the retraction and external rotation of the shoulder. I also love driving the feet into the floor to ensure the activation of the back lines of the body. Instead of ripping the bar off of the rack, do your best to keep that set position of the shoulder. Once again you are trying to strengthen and stabilize the mid back, not pull it forward so if it means lightening the weight and compromising your status as the biggest bad-ass in the weight room. The lift finishes at the hip to ensure proper engagement of the glutes as well as stability of the torso. This will also set you up for a proper way down as the shift of the hip will keep everything in check as you make your way down. Depending on your intentions your tempo on the way down can be altered. For general strength, I cannot argue with taking a bit of time on the way down as your eccentric part of the movement has the potential to unlock a lot of strength and stability for the low/mid back region.
Fortunately, my coach Chad likes them as well so he was kind enough to film one of our workouts. When talking tempos this is a prime example as we are using a pause in the midpoint to put a greater emphasis on the low and mid back.