How Young Athletes Can Build An Upper Body & Upper Back Strength Unlike Anything Else

Young athletes & adolescents are fascinated with what they can see. So in regards to sport and fitness, they want to train everything they can see in the mirror, often neglecting their posterior, which is incredibly harmful

Renegade Row - The Youth Academy

Out of every athlete, I can guarantee you who is going to be the strongest, quickest, and most powerful - the one with the biggest back and biggest butt. Why? Because the posterior chain is the powerhouse of the human body. It is where we hold the majority of our muscle mass, and when you look at those muscles, they’re the prime movers involved in the majority of what we do

And what we want to focus on today is strengthening the back, predominantly the upper back - a weakness for so many kids and young athletes. And like for most things, we have a simple yet not easy answer here at The Academy…

1) Seated Clean & Presses

The seated clean & press is a heavily under-utilised exercise that the majority of the population can benefit from. We love it for our kids and young athletes as it’s simple to teach and learn. It also takes all of the momentum (and legs) out of the clean, causing the clean portion of the movement and therefore the effort to come from the upper back and traps - whilst overcoming inertia (i.e. from a dead stop)

Performing this for lower reps or higher reps is an absolute killer that builds unrivalled power, size, and strength in the upper back, traps, and shoulders

We love to use a box to perform them, just like in the video below. As fatigue sets in, a little momentum is allowed to maintain correct form, but there is never a big ‘swing’ to get the weight up - only a slight hinge at the hip

Face Pull - The Youth Academy

2) Banded Pullaparts/Face Pulls

How can something so simple be so effective… All you simply need is a band, your shoulders back & down, and constant tension through the band and upper back, and you’re good to go

We absolutely adore these and what they do for posture, strength, and size. They’re a part of our "upper-body specific” warmup and will always make their way into at least three training sessions a week

Keep the reps high, the shoulders back and down, and ensure there is constant tension and your upper back will light up and grow like Santa’s Christmas trees. But the best news is those shoulders won’t be rounded for too much longer either

3) IYTW's

We found these thanks to the world-class Joe Defranco - a strength coach who has worked with more NFL and future NFL players than anyone else - the man knows his stuff. These build great size and posture as there is constant tension on the upper back muscles for at least 40seconds per set (longer if desired). And the best news, like the banded pullapart, minimal weight is required. In fact, using just the hands will humble some grown men let alone kids, teens, and young athletes

We love to vary the time under tension rather than the weight on this exercise, but that’s solely our intention. And we find that 3-4 sets of 10-15sec in each position will get the job done well

Deadlift - The Youth Academy

**BONUS** Romanian Deadlift with a Trap/Hex Bar

A Bulletproof Posterior Chain. That’s the result of utilising these bad boys…

We use the Romanian Deadlift here instead of the normal deadlift due to the shortened range of motion and control to the movement, which increases both the safety of the movement and the time under tension. The deadlift (or hip-hinge) is oftentimes the hardest movement pattern for young athletes to pick up, and we find that breaking it down into the “hands in line with knees” portion teaches the movement whilst allowing us to safely add load

The main focus here is on keeping the back straight, keeping the shoulders back and down, and using the glutes (butt) and hamstrings to move the weight. We love to get a good squeeze of at least 2 seconds at the top of the movement, as this helps to activate the glutes and hamstrings even more

We find that 3-4 sets of 6-10 controlled reps are absolutely perfect here for building a bulletproof posterior chain

And there you have it, three simple bang-for-your-buck ways to build a strong and powerful upper back unlike anything else. Throw some banded pullaparts into your warmup and training, some seated clean & presses int twice a week, and the same for IYTW’s - go hard for a month, and rest and recover well and let us know how you go

We know for a fact it will not disappoint 😃

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Nick Maier