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  • Writer's pictureKevin Mullins

2 Back Exercises Everyday - For Healthier and Stronger Shoulders

Merry Christmas! Even if today is not a holiday you celebrate, please rejoice in spending some time with your family. You never know how long you have with your elders, and what the next year may bring, so enjoy every moment you can. It's the simple things that matter most.

Before the blog check out a profile done on me by ActiveLife DC - Right here.

I thought it was kinda cool! Or as Arnold stated in "Jingle All the Way" - "Dat's really cool"

Also, I contributed to a piece on my friend Maggie Winzeler's site. She asked 3 of us to give our Holiday advice - and so.... here that is.

On to the blog --

The thought of training the same muscle group on consecutive days is enough to make your typical gym guy cringe. How could you possibly see those gainz if you don't give a muscle enough time to rest and recover?


You aren't training the muscle, or the movements themselves, to failure. In fact, you are doing only two or three sets of these exercises in an effort to activate crucial muscles in the upper back and shoulder.

These muscles, specifically the rhomboids, serratus anterior, rear deltoid, lower trapezius, lattisimus dorsi, and three of the four muscles in the rotator cuff, are critical for the health and wellness of the shoulder joint. Your performance is impacted too!

Healthy shoulders create more force, more often.

These muscles are critical for controlling the scapluae (shoulder blades) throughout all ranges of motion, impact posture by aiding in the "setting" of the shoulder blades into the down and back position, and balancing out much of the internal rotation that occurs during pressing movements.

If you are one of those guys in the gym who trains chest and shoulders twice a week, every week, then there is no reason why you shouldn't be doing these movements every day you find yourself in the gym.

What are the two movements?

The neutral grip pull up and the cable face pull.

The neutral grip pull up is going to allow for you to train the shoulder blades to go throughout an entire range of rotation, elevation, and depression. The emphasis of the movement is not maxing out reps, adding weight to a belt, or any other focus for that matter. Rather, two or three sets of controlled repetitions that allow for you to actually feel your shoulder blades move throughout the movement is the goal.

Working on these movement patterns can be very beneficial in mastering the overhead press. The pull up and the overhead press have similiar scapular action, thus loading it with a different direction of force can be very beneficial.

If you can't do a pull up, then have no fears. Do a narrow grip pull down on a cable machine. Two standard handles will allow you to simulate the hand position and scapular movement until you can pull your bodyweight!

The face pull, done with the cable rope attachment, allow for you to experience complete retraction and protraction of the shoulder blades against a force that is horizontal to the active muscle groups. This activation pattern is an excellent counter to the flat bench pressing that is found in most training programs.

You are essentially loading the same motion with a different direction of force, which aids in training the muscles of the upper back to retract forcefully.

Retraction is critical to successfully benching your best!

Don't overload the cable either. We should maintain a stiff, rigid core with our feet solid to the ground. The pull should come from the shoulder blades and biceps only, and not from humping the air in order to sling weight through space. Be modest and feel the squeeze.

Check out the video below from Nick Tumminello of Performance University explaining the face pull and some cues on how to execute it perfectly!

Credit: Peformance University - Nick Tumminello

Side Note: A lot of people ask me why I don't do my own videos for certain exercises and use them on my site - well simply put, I don't know what I could say that would top Nick's explanation. This nails it.

Squats and Deadlifts too

It's more than just your pressing motions that the face pull and neutral grip pull up can benefit. In fact, your squat pattern and deadlift can be critically impacted by mastering control of your shoulder joint.

Gaining better external rotation, retraction, and depression can make finding the ideal bar placement in the back squat much easier! A tight upper back, and a rigid core allow for much better hip and knee action underneath appreciable load.

Just the same - mastering how to "pack" your shoulders back and down to create tension in the lats and stability in the upper spine is imperative to successfully pulling a great deadlift off of the floor.

Drake stands for Don't Retract and Kill Everything

These facts are exactly why you should train the neutral grip pull up and the cable face pull every single day you are in the weight room. Sure, there are other movements that should be done to boost the strength, performance, and muscularity of your back and shoulders.

However, you'll be hard pressed to find two other movements that have such direct impact on your posture and performance.

No more than two or three sets of eight to ten repetitions will be the perfect way to start every workout you do from now until eternity. Focus on the feel of the movements, and not the style points you get from doing them.


Taking the time to care for your shoulder joint and thoracic spine are critical for the long term success of a training program. It doesn't matter if you are a 110 pound girl who mostly does cardio, or the 250 pound behemoth that literally moves mountains in the gym - you need to take time to care for your shoulders.

In a society full of desk jobs, traffic jams, and text messages - our shoulders find themselves in a comprimised position. Trying to go straight into hardcore training without cueing better posture is a recipe for disaster! Don't cheat yourself!

Happy Holidays to all!


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