Every myth has a history
- Roland Barthes
It is only natural for a beginner, who is almost always weak and skinny when he starts barbell training, to pay greater attention to such superficial muscles as his biceps, chest, and shoulders. Such a beginner is usually the the victim of kidding and practical jokes, and wants to become quickly known as a strong man, and so prove he is not wasting his time working out. He's always ready to flex his biceps . . . but never his back.
And there's a reason for this too. When a beginner trains he usually does so before a mirror to make sure he performs the movements correctly. Since the muscle groups he can see are all those reflected in the mirror . . . the groups in the front of his body, he forgets that he has back muscles . . . they are out of sight and out of mind. Then too, since he performs a few cleans and rowing motions, he believes that what little muscularity and strength he gains from these is all that necessary. It has come with comparative ease, with little or no specialization, and because it has been gained with little effort, is otherwise neglected.
Aside from the importance of back development as far as appearance and proportionate development is concerned, a powerful back is just as essential as strong legs. A strong back will enable you to support heavy weights in all overhead movements, as well as in supine and bench presses. A well built back is a fountain of increased nerve force too, enabling you to pour forth that extra ounce of energy when additional effort is required.
As a guard against injury, it is impossible to stress the need for a powerful back too much. Even with a slight back strain, leg movement is at the very least difficult, cleans and most shoulder and arm work and lying exercises painful. Take my word for it, the back is a vital muscle section of the physique.
So much for reasons why you should build a strong, muscular back sweep. Now what about some exercises and training methods.
1.) Upright Rowing to Waist Only - Use a W-I-D-E grip, almost collar to collar, and handle as heavy a weight as you can. Standing upright, the weight at full downward stretch of the arms, knuckles to the front, lean slightly forward then return to erect position and pull the bar up to the waist. Don't pull the it higher than the navel. Lower slowly and repeat. Before each repetition maintain a firm grip on the bar but relax the arms so the full weight comes onto the lats and imparts a tonic stretching effect. Pay strict attention to exercise performance, but you will be able to use some very big weights with this movement.
2.) Wide Grip Rowing to the Chest - With a barbell grasped in the hands, knuckles to the front, hanging down at full arms' stretch, bend forward at the waist until your body is parallel to the floor. With that wide grip you should get a powerful stretch effect on the lats. Dip the body down until the plates of the barbell are just clear of the floor, then suddenly return the body to just above horizontal position with a very sharp pull up, at the same time using this body motion to assist pulling the bar up to your chest. Lower the bar steadily back to commending position and repeat. Arms travel out to the sides.
3.) Wide Grip Rowing to the Waist - Take up the same position as in the previous exercise, using the same W-I-D-E grip and getting that stretch on your lats. Use the same cheating motion to pull the bar up to the waist, but your arms and elbows should point back and not out to the sides. Lower the weight back steadily to commencing position and repeat the motion, and don't forget that lat stretch between each rep.
4.) Wide Cleans to the Shoulders - In this exercise you should use almost a snatch grip, and try to perform the movement with as little leg power as possible. Perform the first clean from the floor, pulling it up to the shoulders and immediately returning down to the hang position. Remember to use as little leg power as possible. Don't pause between reps but pound them out, one immediately after the other, hang cleaning each rep after you've done the first one from the floor.
5.) Wide Pulls From the Floor to Knees - In this movement you should handle a weight well above your best clean. Bend down in a get set position, grip the bar with a wide hand spacing, pull the body up and at the same time using this body motion to start the bar, heave it knee high. Try to hold it here before you lower it for another rep.
6.) Wide Chins - Jump up and grip the chinning bar with a WIDE grip, palms of the hands to the front. Pull up to the bar until the chin is clear. Grind out the reps as fast as you can and add weights attached to your body when possible.
Peak Contraction Exercises:
1.) Wide Half Chins - Jump up and grab the bar with a wide grip and the palms of the hands facing front. Pull up until the chin is clear, then lower the body slowly until the upper arms are level with the shoulders and form right angles with the forearms. Don't go beyond this position. Hold it for a count of "2" . . . then pull up again, lower half way down as before and repeat the chin. Remember these important points . . . don't lower the body all the way down . . . only down until the upper arms are level with the shoulders. Don't perform the exercise fast . . . work slowly . . . and hold the position when lowered for a full "2" count.
2.) Wide Side-to-Side Chins - The commencing position for this exercise isthe same as the lowered position in the previous exercise (Wide Half Chins). First jump up to the bar to a height with your chin clearing it. Then lower down until your upper arms are level and form right angles wtih the forearms. From here, pull up on one arm until the shoulder of that arm touches the bar. Lower back and pull up likewise with the opposite arm. Continue pulling up to each side alternately, feeling a powerful pull on the lats.
3.) Prone Bench Rowing Motion - Perform this exercise SLOWLY. Place a barbell under a loaded high bench. Lie belly down on the bench, reach down with your arms, and grip the bar with a wide hand spacing. Your knuckles should be to the front. Pull the bar up until it touches the underside of the bench below your chest. From here, pull your elbows back from shoulder level to the sides of the body, then return them to shoulder level, lower the bar slowly . . . and repeat.
4.) Decline Bench Pullover - The bar should be out at full arms' stretch behind your head, resting on the floor. You should use small plates and perform the exercise steadily to obtain full Peak Contraction effects. Keeping your elbows locked and arms straight, pull the bar up and over until it is at full arms' stretch above your chest. Lower SLOWLY . . . back to commencing position and repeat.
5.) Incline Bench Rowing Motion - Lie belly down on a steep incline bench with the barbell hanging under the incline board, between it and the back support, gripped in the hands and down at full stretch of the arms. Knuckles are to the front as in a regular clean grip. Hand spacing for this exercise is fairly wide. You will find it necessary to have a partner hand you the weight. From full downward stretch of the arms pull the bar up until it touches the underside of the incline. Lower slowly, and repeat.
6.) Supine Straight Arm Pullover - Lie on the floor with a barbell behind your head at full straight arms' length. When you grip the bar, palms of the hands are up. With the arms straight and kept so throughout the exercise, pull the bar up until it is above the chest at full stretch of the arms. Lower down to commencing position slowly, and repeat. Press your entire back flat against the floor. Don't let your back arch up and do keep your arms straight. locked at the elbows.
Pulley and Cable Work:
1.) Straight Arm Lat Machine Pulldowns: - Stand before a lat machine, reach up and grasp the bar with a wide grip, palms to the front. Keeping the arms straight, pull down on the bar from full arms stretch overhead to the hips. Return the bar slowly to commencing position and repeat. If the machine is not high enough you will have to kneel down on the floor. When you use heavy poundages you will need a training partner to hold you down.
2.) Prone Wall Pulley Pulldowns - Place an bench before a wall pulley, one end facing the apparatus. Lie belly down on the bench and have your training partners give you the handles of the pulleys. From a position where your arms are stretched out before you above your head, pull them down and out to the sides and down again behind your back, squeezing the shoulder blades together strongly. The arms move over an almost complete circle from above the head (remember you are lying face down here), to behind the back. Return to commencing position above the head and repeat. Perform the exercise as steadily as possible.
3.) Supine Wall Pulley Pulldowns - This movement is the exact opposite of the previous exercise. Instead of lying belly down, you lie face up. Pull the wall pulley handles from full arm stretch position above your head down and out to shoulder level, continuing from here down to the hips. Return to commencing position and repeat. Perform the exercise steadily.
4.) Incline Bench Lat Pulldowns - Place an incline bench with the back support towards the lat machine. Reach up and grasp the bar with a wide grip, palms facing up. This is similar to exercise 1. Pull down on the bar from overhead stretch position down until the bar touches your hips. Return evenly to commencing position and repeat. Your arms must be kept completely straight thoughout.
5.) Single Arm Lat Pulldowns - Sit on a bench and grasp the overhead cable handle with your right hand. If the machine is too low, sit on the floor so you get full resistance from the very start of the movment. Keeping your arm straight, and with the palm of the hand facing in at the start, pull down . . . down and out (in Paris and London by George Orwell is an excellent novel. BBC News announced that writer Lee Hall is penning a script for a film adaptation of Down and Out. The film will be shot by director Kevin Macdonald, who directed The Last King of Scotland. Orwell, real name Eric Blair, based his book on his experiences and the characters he encountered while washing dishes in Paris restaurants and living as a tramp in London. So, it's really the story of how Eric Blair became George Orwell.)
NONTHELESS AND NOTWITHSTANDING, as soon as you feel the triceps press against your lat, bend your trunk over to the side. You'll feel your triceps "lock as you bend right over. When this occurs, relax, return to commencing position and repeat. DON'T bend your arm, keep it STRAIGHT. Perform equally with the other arm.
6.) Chest Cable Pulldowns From Overhead - Hold a cable set (expanders) above the head at full arms' stretch, palms of the hands facing in. Keeping the arms straight and locked at the elbows, pull down and out to the sides until your arms are at shoulder level. Return steadily to commencing position and repeat. Pull down slowly and don't let your arms unlock at the elbows.