Traction of the upper block to the chest or behind the head: which is better?

The traction of the upper block can be performed to the chest and behind the head, but which version is better? According to the research, one version of the exercise is much more effective and safer!

Author: Guillermo Escalante, Ph.D., a certified specialist in power and general physical training

The traction of the upper block is a fundamental exercise for the widest back muscles, especially for those who do not have the strength to pull themselves up. Over the years, the authors of articles on fitness and personal trainers call on athletes not to pull the neck for the head, but to perform cravings for the chest. They argue that the first option is not as effective and increases the risk of injury.

So why in practically every hall do we see people doing the pull of the top block behind the head? Some prefer this option, because it creates conditions for a specific load on the trapezoid, which, in their opinion, leads to better results. Others generally use cravings as exercises for trapezoids, which is fundamentally wrong, since there are a lot of special exercises for trapezius muscles that are much more effective.

Instead of blindly follow the example of colleagues in the gym, do your own research and make sure that your thrust of the upper block is effective and safe.

The right choice in terms of muscle activity

Several studies have been devoted to the subject of our discussion. In 2002, the Journal of Power and Functional Training published a paper in which the effect of various hand positions on muscle activity was studied using electromyography (EMG) during the upper block traction. The following techniques were used: narrow grip, supine (bottom) grip, pulling a wide grip to the chest, pulling a wide grip on the head.

Scientists have concluded that traction with a wide grip to the breast provides better activation of the latissimus muscle of the back than any other version of the exercise. This discovery confirmed that the traction of the upper block to the breast promotes maximum development of the widest muscles.

In another study published in the Journal of Strength and Functional Training in 2009, EMG studied the involvement of the main muscle groups (large chest muscles, latissimus, posterior deltoid, biceps) in three upper arm traction modes. The options were: craving for the chest, for the head and using the V-neck (narrow grip).

The activity of the broadest muscles in all three variants was almost the same, but the involvement of the large pectoral muscle was maximal with traction to the stomach. Accordingly, the posterior deltas and biceps of the shoulder showed maximum activity during thrust beyond the head. Given the main goals of the exercise, the authors concluded that the traction of the upper block to the chest is the optimal choice.

Load on the shoulder joints and rotator cuff of the shoulder

Muscular activity is not the only criterion for estimating the traction of the upper block; the load on the shoulder joints and the rotator cuff of the shoulder is also the most important factor. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Functional Training, when the shoulder joints are in the horizontal position in combination with the external rotation (this we see when the upper block is pulled by the head), the load on the rotational cuff increases. To stabilize the head of the humerus, the muscles of the rotator cuff have to exert more effort, which makes them vulnerable and increases the risk of injuries, in particular, tendonitis and pain syndrome.

In another study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, it was shown that keeping the elbows approximately 30 ° in front of the plane of the shoulder girdle reduces the load on the anterior capsule of the shoulder joint. This is possible only during the thrust of the upper block to the chest.

The traction of the top block behind the head can lead to pain and for other reasons. In one report, it was reported that a combination of external rotation, horizontal shoulder detachment and pronounced flexion in the cervical spine during the traction of the block by the head can lead to temporary paralysis of the upper limbs due to damage to the brachial plexus.

Worse, with too zealous pulling the head in the lower phase of the movement, you can strike the neck with the cervical vertebrae, which is fraught with their bruise and even fracture. A good little.

Given the undeniable evidence, the traction of the upper block to the chest becomes the unconditional winner. Carrying the craving for the chest, you not only get a similar or better muscle activity, but also reduce the risk of damage to the shoulder, neck or nerves.

Moreover, the practical benefit of pulling the top block behind the head is very small; this movement is unlikely to be useful for any sports or solving domestic problems. Consequently, critics are right: there are no compelling reasons to pull the top block by the head, but there are many arguments in favor of not doing it!

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