Now this is a very random ramble, but I wanted to write this down because I think it should be shared. For those with "too long, didn't read" -syndrome, read the bolded sentence to get the point. This might not be new to anyone, but there is a chance someone never tought of this much.
It just hit me today while working out. I was doing Pull-ups, and after that, sets of inverted rows. It was also bench press day. Nevertheless, I drifted on driving perfect form rep to rep. Which practically meant I did only singles on overhand pull-ups. They were still awesome. And felt way better than the usual grinding of two-three reps with excess shrugging and loose body overall. What was different? Today, for the whole workout, I focused solely on Scapular stability and upper back tightness. Which ment for every exercise, every rep, I made sure my scaps were adducted and pulled down. I've heard the reference "Back pockets" used when driving your scapulae together and down.
What it did was great. It made my whole back from the high points of lumbar spine to my neck tight and stable, and it worked the right muscles. Never before have I had this good a feel in my lats when doing pull-ups and rows. They were actually working here, instead of the usual biceps and forearm muscles and misc. back muscles. Then I realized:
YOU USE THE SAME UPPER BACK MUSCLES IN EVERY MAJOR LIFT!
To achieve perfect results, you have to make sure to keep the upper back tight, no matter what the big exercise (Theory doesn't work so well on isolations or machines, but to some extent.) Lets see here what does the adduction of scapulae and general upper back tightness do:
1) Posture. It brings the chest up, straightens the thoracic spine and puts you in the most optimal position to perform several different exercises. Control is one more thing. Example is Deadlift. It does use alot of back muscles when done correctly. For one, lats keep the bar close to your body. Once again, chest up. Back muscles help you to pull the weight back, instead of just up. Huge difference. This also covers the area of full-body stability. Keeping the whole body tight is essential in every lift.
2) Shortens ROM. Keeps the reps good, no dead hangs or bench press where your shoulders elevate and several shoulder and back muscles take way too big workload. There's a tension during the whole set. From what we all know, muscle activation and tension does bring us results. There is no excess work, neither in squat or bench, or any movement.
3) Eliminates cheating to some length. Try keeping your upper back tight and cheat on rows or pull-ups. What usually happens is, the isometric work turns into dynamic, and the exercise looks more heaving and you look like a dying-fish (kipping).
What muscles are the most important? Trapezius, mostly middle and lower (not that upper traps ain't important), Latissimus Dorsi, and the Rhomboideus muscles. There are others as well, since there are quite the many muscles that have things to do with scapular movement, but those are the most important ones. These are the muscles that pull your scaps down, and together.
Just something to think about. I would recommend to atleast get some activation work done every now and then without major lifts (Like hanging scapular adductions, or band pull-aparts/behind the neck pull-aparts). Keeping the upper back tight, and improving the strength and endurance of these muscles is essential, wether you want a bigger bench or deadlift. Or do more pull-ups. These days I always include scap adductions and upper back work to my warm ups. No wonder.
Try this stuff out. Think, test and execute.
Physical Preparedness Coach
Co-Owner of UniFit Oy.