• Evan Schwerbrock

Y-W-T-I’s: A Low Impact Upper Back Developer For Better Strength and Posture

I first came across this exercise via Joe DeFranco, a fantastic strength coach with a lot to learn from. I have since used it with countless clients to build upper back resilience while taking unnecessary pressure off of the back. With a visual impairment, this exercise can be hard to understand but I will explain it in depth so you too can garner the benefits of this exercise sequence.


Start Position:

Start on your stomach on a comfortable surface. Keep your face pointed straight toward the floor, keeping your neck in line with the rest of your spine. Do not let your face poke forward toward the floor or rest your head on the floor. This will result in some bonus work for good neck posture. Keep the low back, glutes and legs relaxed and leave your legs and feet on the ground.


The “Y”

First is the Y hold. From your start position, lock out your arms in Y position. This should be a happy middle ground between your elbows next to your ears and your arms outstretched straight to your sides. From this position, keep your thumbs pointed to the ceiling and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep your hands and arms as high off the ground as possible without arching in the lower back. Maintain this posture for the prescribed number of seconds. Then transition straight to the W position.


The “W”

Second is the W hold. From the Y, bend your elbows, sending them down towards your glutes. Keep those thumbs up and squeeze the shoulder blades together even harder. This should result in your upper arm angling toward your feet from the shoulder and your upper arm and hands pointed in the same angle as your Y. Hold as long as prescribed then move on to the T position.


The “T”

For the T hold, keep your thumbs up and stretch your arms out straight to the sides as wide as you can. The thumbs up will sneakily work shoulder external rotation and shoulder blades pulled together continue the upper back muscle tension and also stretch the chest muscles. Hold for the prescribed time and go straight into the I hold.


The “I”

For the I, put your locked out arms next to your sides then raise your hands as high as possible toward the ceiling while still squeezing those shoulder blades together. This is the only hold where you won’t have your thumbs towards the ceiling. Instead, you can face your palms toward the ceiling or the floor. Some people feel better contractions with one over the other so choose the one that is best for you. Or, if you are indecisive like me, feel free to mix it up set to set or even during the same hold.


Sets and Reps Explained

Because the Y-W-T-I consists of holds, we can’t do normal numerical reps. Instead, time domain becomes necessary. A great starting point is 3 sets of 10 seconds each position where one set consists of holding the Y for 10 seconds, W for 10 seconds, T for 10 seconds, and I for 10 seconds then relaxing and resting for the next set. Try this workout, resting as needed to see how it affects you. Then you can progress sets and time while controlling rest periods.


Try this progression once you have gotten used to the exercise:

Workout 1: 3 sets of 10 seconds each, 30 seconds rest between sets

Workout 2: 3 sets of 11 seconds each, 30 seconds rest between sets

Workout 3: 3 sets of 12 seconds each, 30 seconds rest between sets

Workout 4: 3 sets of 13 seconds each, 30 seconds rest between sets

Workout 5: 3 sets of 14 seconds each, 30 seconds rest between sets

Workout 6: 3 sets of 15 seconds each, 30 seconds rest between sets


Perform a workout every other day. Once you have completed this progression, add a 4th set and start over or add very light weight, even soup cans in your hands, and repeat.


Can’t wait for your results after a few short weeks of this!


Evan