Believe it or not these five upper body exercises will actually help improve your squat.
Yes, you read that title right and hopefully you’ve read the rest of this series so you understand where I’m going with this. Today we’re going to talk about how to train your upper body to help you with your squat. This is going to include your abs, upper back, lats and traps to get you set to move some weight. Now, I know you’re probably laughing over there thinking, “wow, this guy’s really lost it this time,” but I’m not kidding around. In all seriousness, these exercises will help you stabilize and hold more weight so that your back and core doesn’t give out before your legs do.
1. Ab Wheel Rollouts
For your abs, I really, really hope that I don’t have to explain that they need to be strong so you can stay stable. I’m sure you’ve heard a billion people tell you about core training and all that mumbo jumbo, but let me put it this way for squatting: If your abs are weak you’re going to get crushed, period. You need to be able to keep your mid section braced and keep it stable, and I’m going to show you the exercise that, in my opinion, is the best for this. It’s seemingly very simple, but the ab wheel roll out is my exercise of choice. Keeping your abs tight, push your hips out by squeezing your glutes and reach your hands out as far as you can without sagging your hips, then, pull yourself back. Sounds easy right? Wrong! This is as tough as it comes, so I’m going to give you a demo and a progression in this video.
2. Face Pulls
Now for your upper back. Remember all that talk about pinching your shoulder blades together as hard as you can the whole time? Yeah, guess what area of the body that is. your upper back. And you know what two of the best exercises for improving your upper back strength are? The face pull and band pull apart, neither of which is all that complicated. For the face pull attach a rope to a pulley system and… wait for it… pull it to your face. Lead with your shoulder blades pulling down and back squeezing them hard. This exercise is big time. We use it as a strength exercise and in high volumes with bands, but this video will tell you more.
3. Band Pull Aparts
Band pull aparts are basically standing post delt flies. Typically we do these for high volume to really groove that movement of the shoulder blades pinching together. To do these correctly, grab a band with your arms straight, and by driving your shoulder blades down and back, pull it apart. If you don’t have access to bands try these post delt fly variations. They’ll get the job done too.
4. One Arm DB Shrugs
Now for your traps. Traps serve two purposes:
1. They’re the shelf the bar lays on when you’re squatting.
2. They’re awesome.
Shrugs are great, but One Arm DB shrugs are better. Some stability, mixed in with training a muscle that you see a lot of imbalance with unilaterally, but can still go crazy heavy on? Now that’s cool. Get after these and you’ll see the beauty as well.
5. Pullups and Inverted Rows
Last but not least are your lats. The big two I’ve already gone over: pull ups and inverted rows. I’m not going to take up more time that you could be training and go over that again. If you haven’t read them (and I will find you if you haven’t) go read them now because there aren’t better exercises than these two.
Honestly I know it sounds crazy but these upper body exercises will help improve your squat big time. If you find yourself bending at the hips first or doing glorified good mornings on squat day it’s time to get involved in exercises that really will help you move more weight… even if they aren’t leg exercises. Plus, let’s be honest, a big strong back is definitely awesome.
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