Saturday, June 26, 2010

Upright row strengthens forearms and back

Upright row with barbell
Nine months after starting weight-training, in May 2009, I added the Upright Row to my list of exercises. Previously, I was concentrating on building my chest and shoulders, but I realized that this could still lead to a shoulder injury due to an imbalance of upper body muscles. If I strengthened those muscles on the front of the shoulder, I also needed to strengthen the muscles of the upper back. The upright row does exactly that. Standing straight with hands shoulder-width apart and palms down, a barbell is lifted from the weight bench supports up to the arm pits. I keep the bar as close to my body as possible. This exercise has always frightened me a little, because the weight is great and the palms-down position of the hands could lead me to drop the bar if I'm not careful. I remember when I first started that this exercise caused wrist pain. My brachioradialis muscles in the forearms, that function to keep the wrist straight, were not strong enough and my wrists bent as I lifted the barbell. Obviously this hurt--it felt like I was pulling the joint apart. Weight-lifting gloves with tightened Velcro wrist-wraps and of course, stronger muscles, have now proven to be effective against this problem.

Reviewing Delavier (2006) again as I write this, I see that I have been using a relatively wide-grip style of upright row. With hands shoulder-width apart, I am strengthening the deltoid muscles of the shoulder more than I am the trapezius of the upper back. I am really enjoying learning more about my own body's anatomy.

By adding the upright row to my workout, I increased the gross weight being lifted in each workout. I keep a log of these statistics, and in May 2009, I broke a weight-lifting record 6 days in a row as I increased the repetitions of the upright row from 1 rep on May 17th to 11 reps on May 27, 2009. I was using a lot of weight at the time; my bench press weight had increased from 85 pounds in mid-March to 100 pounds in late May 2009. I used the same barbell for the upright rows, so I started that exercise using 95 pounds in mid-May and increased it to 100 pounds at the end of the month. Looking back, no wonder this exercise frightened me a little; the weight really was heavy and I should have started with half that until I gained strength. But it all worked out, didn't it? I gained the strength I needed.

Also in May 2009, my work began to require a lot of hiking and I included this in my workout log. Hiking on flat land is not really a cardiovascular exercise, but it still burns calories and the terrain was not always flat. In May 2009 I broke monthly records in (1) gross weight lifted per day (1,742 pounds), (2) abdominal crunches per day (30 per day), and (3) calories burned during exercise per day (338). Due to the low intensity hiking I was doing, I did not set a record in exercise intensity, but it was respectable. I did better in March 2009 when I mixed hiking and walks with time on a stationary bike. 

The above records represent monthly averages. Here is what I was doing day-to-day in late May 2009:
  • Bench press: 15 reps @ 100 pounds
  • Rotator Cuff elastic band stretches: 34 reps
  • Dumbbell fly: 2 sets of 15 reps @15 pounds
  • Biceps curl: 15 reps @ 25 pounds
  • Dumbbell lateral raise: 2 sets of 15 reps @5 pounds
  • Abdominal crunches: 59 reps divided into two sets
  • Upright row: 9 reps @ 100 pounds
  • Bicycle ride: 75 minutes burning 769 calories with maximal heart rate reaching 127 bpm (intensity = 769/75*cardio multiplier 2 = 20.5)

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