Barbell Shrugged

How to build a bulletproof back

Doug Larson

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  • Love the concept of odd object lifting. As a staff in our collegiate setting we use things like sandbag carries and KB farmer’s walks often at the end of the workout as a challenge set and for mental toughness. Do you try to incorporate the odd objects into the workout, say in a circuit style, or do you typically save it for the end and finish with a couple sets of carries, walks, presses, etc? Just wondering if you have seen it work within the workout as well or if too much odd lifting exhausts the energy system for the end.

    Thanks and keep up the work.

    • I pinged Z. He’ll be on to answer.

      You can finish with it, but you can certainly work strength with odd objects. That would possibly work best if you’re lucky enough to have incremental loads, or adjustable equipment.

      • Buddha Master – TRUTH.

        Some people ONLY have a light tire or a light sandbag….. If that’s the case, it will need to be used for reps or as the “dynamic effort” method.

        I remember training Lehigh this past winter, the Football weight room had lots of tires outside, most were very tall and weighed about 350 – 450 or so.

        That’s not very heavy so let’s say I started a workout like this w/ those guys AFTER a warm up:

        1A) Power Clean + Hang Clean 5 x 1 + 1

        1B) Box Jump 5 x 2

        1C) Plyo Push Ups 5 x 2

        2A) Tire Flips 3 x 3

        2B) Battle Ropes 3 x 15 / 15 (2 exercises at 15 reps each)

        2C) Dumbbell Farmer Walk 3 x 150 ft.

        3A) Bulgarian SPlit Squats 3 x 6 / 6 (holding dumbbells)

        3B) Back Extensions 3 x 15

        3C) Power Curls 3 x 6 – 8

        4) Abs / Grip Finisher

        It changes often, and, not just according to equipment available, but also to what that athlete specifically needs.

    • Justin, great questions.

      It depends on the athlete (s).

      Some athletes are in need of more odd object work for mental toughness so sometimes those athletes go all in for a session with tire flips, keg and sandbag work.

      I am a VERY intuitive Coach, so I never have a problem removing or adding stuff from my “white board” on the fly.

      But, in a nut shell, odd objects can be either:

      – main lift

      – finishers

      Both of the above options work.

      I might even do a podcast answering these questions more thoroughly to help you guys understand more so.

      • Z & Buddha – thanks for the response guys! This is definitely something I am going to try and mix in with some of our turf workouts. Appreciate the time and look forward to reading more.

  • Keep seeing folks recommend barbell rows and single arm/leg lifts. Need to keep these incorporated into my programming. Awesome article, Zach.

    • Yes. ALL lifters and sport athletes MUST use unilateral lifting.

      It is great for creating greater balance, reducing injuries and adds atheticism.

      Sometimes our unilateral lift is our MAIN lift such as a dumbbell clean and press, where you can move some damn heavy weight!

  • Great article. Proud owner of Underground Strength book!

    Why supinated rows? Supinated rows only when doing barbell rows, or mix in consistently with overhand rows on the barbell?

    • The idea is that you probably already use a pronated grip most of the time with barbells. If you don’t train supinated, you’ll have a very weak grip. See Shrugged episode 190 for more information.

    • Yes, MOST people never get away from pronated chins.

      EVERY set of pull ups we do at The Underground gets a different grip. EVERY SET.

      Neutral, pronated, supinated, mixed grip, holding ropes, holding hand grenades, finger tips and more.

      This helps avoid overuse injuries.

      Remember, I train primarily sport athletes, MUCH of their sports movements are repetitive and add stress more and more as each season and year passes by.

      The healthiest athletes are often the most successful!

  • I agree with your belief that you should encourage incorporating diversity and variation in your routine, such as with deadlifts or kettlebells. This not only helps with breaking past plateaus, but also makes training more fun and interesting. Nice article.

  • When I first started getting serious about lifting again a year and a half ago, I did tons of loaded carries and trap bar deadlifts before I tried to deadlift with a barbell. Besides that, mastering intra-abdominal pressure is a big key to lifting heavy without injury.

    • Oh, and as a side benefit, if you hang on to the loaded carry as long as you can at the end until your forearm(s) are just absolutely on fire, your grip strength will go through the roof. I almost never have my hook grip fail on a deadlift.

  • Would you reccommend doing a trap bar deadlift if using high volume of deadlifts in your training to minimise stress to the lower back?

  • I love these methods of training but haven’t Implement them into my workouts since Ive crossfitted way back when. Im mostly into weightlifting. Im coming back from a back injury (auto accident) and found that my back is weak since ive babied it for over year. Now when i squat or snatch I end up with a sore back even with good form. I found tons of bodybuilding workouts online for bigger back, but i believe i would benefit more from this type of workout. Can you give me a few back workouts i can do throughout the week for a stronger back, especially lower.
    Keep up all the Awesome work! Wish id found your site years back.

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