Accessory Work (Weightlifters Need Strong Backs)

By Jake Sterny

It was the week of April 1st and Masters Nationals was being held in Buffalo, NY. Myself and two athletes that I work with arrived on Tuesday, but neither competed until later in the week, leaving me ample free time to work on Social Media Content, General Content and Programming. After writing a handful of programming for my athletes back in Colorado I felt like throwing together an article discussing some general accessory work I use to build back strength and compliment the classic lifts(Snatch and Clean & Jerk). Keep in mind most of this will depend on where an athlete is in a yearly training cycle.

Back Strength and Shoulder Stability
To build upper back strength, endurance and protect the shoulder girdle I tend to program Banded work in the higher rep ranges(15-20). Implementing Banded face pulls to develop the Trapezius/Mid-Back, Banded Pull Aparts to develop the Mid-Back and Banded Lat Pull Downs to develop the Lattisimus Dorsi(Lats) Muscles, goes a long way towards creating overhead stability in the lifts and injury prevention. Another area where theses exercises are valuable is in helping an athlete build awareness in the Lats and upper back which in turn will teach the athlete to use these muscle groups to keep the bar close to the body during the pull/finish and maintain an upright torso during the dip and drive portion of the Jerk. Other pieces can be used such as classic Barbell Rows, Single Arm DB Rows, Ring Rows, Pull-Ups, T-Bar Rows, Chest Supported Lat Drills and so on.

Lower Back Exercises
In addition to building the upper back I also program a lot of exercises to build strength in the lower back. Strengthening the lower back(and whole back really) helps an athlete further protect the spine when completing any movement programmed be it strength work or the classic lifts. It also assists an athlete in their lift-off or pull from the floor. Having a weak lower back makes it hard to set and keep ones chest up during their pull from the floor and also makes it even more difficult to “sweep” or move the bar from the floor closer to an athlete’s center of mass during the pull. Here I’ll use a plethora of exercises but my favorites at this time are the classic controlled Back Extensions, Weighted Back Raises, Good Mornings(both classic and single leg versions) and Romanian Deadlifts(Snatch Grip for more Lat development and Single Leg Versions as well). The Back Extensions or Back Raises are done in Rep ranges of 15-20, Good Mornings are performed in sets of  5-8(heavier for Strength Work) and Romanian Deadlifts in sets of 8-10.

Baby Got Back
You’ll notice that a few of the exercises listed will also hit the muscle groups of the Posterior Chain as well but that will be covered in my next article. Strong backs are important in Weightlifters. A lack thereof can lead to injury and inefficient movement patterns. Most athletes will be able to build stronger backs through performance of the classic lifts but to compliment and strengthen the area further, accessory exercises are extemely valuable. Even though they are usually added at the end of a training day in my programming this is one area of accessory work an athlete should not ignore. Your lifts and injury prevention will increase if you don’t.