Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Home | General Training Guidelines | Express Workouts | Chest | Back | Legs | Shoulders, Triceps & Traps | Biceps | Calves | Abs | Forearms | Nutrition & Recovery

Mass Monsters Premium Site

Back
Dorian Yates achieved unprecedented width and
dy65.jpg
thickness in his back through many of the techniques below, including inventing his own barbell row.

 As the most complex muscle group in the body, and the second largest only to the legs, the back requires stimulation from more angles than any other muscle group.

 

            The back’s mass can actually be broken into two vectoral components- width and thickness. While all back exercises work both to some degree, the degree to which an exercise concentrates on each vector varies. Front, wide-grip pulldowns overwhelmingly emphasize width, while rowing movements predominantly emphasize thickness. Other movements, such as bent over, one-armed cable rows, if performed properly, contribute to both width and thickness.

 

            For optimum results, you may wish to alternate beginning your program with front pulldowns/chins or rows, allowing each exercise a turn to be performed with maximum poundages while you are still fresh. If one aspect of your back development is lagging while the other is dominant, you may wish to perform the movement for the area you most need to improve- width or thickness- first every workout.

 

            The back is also the most difficult muscle group to isolate. Virtually every back exercise you perform will inextricably involve the biceps, brachioradialis, brachialis, forarms and rear delts. This, however, is extremely advantageous in building upper body mass.

 

            It is imperative, however, to maximize back involvement by concentrating on squeezing your elbows down or back as far as possible while trying to minimize flexing of the arms.

 

                                    Wide-grip front pulldowns or chins-

 

            This is the king of width-building exercise for the back, and the most important element in developing that coveted V-taper. It also indirectly trains the biceps, particularly the outer biceps and brachialis muscle. Last but not least, if performed without straps, it can help add mind-boggling girth to your forearms. It should be performed on a bar that slants downward to maximize targeting of the outer lats and minimize involvement of the biceps and brachialis.

 

You may also perform your front pulldowns on a Hammer-Strength or other biangular pulldown machine to maximize the targeting of the outer lats. With the biangular machines the hands begin closer together and move outward as they move down, preventing excessive flexing of the elbows and thereby allowing the lats to be the primary target rather than the brachialis. Having the hands move closer together as they are raised above the head also maximizes the stretch at the top of the movement.

 

This stretch, as does any stretching movement, serves a threefold purpose.

 

The first thing accomplished by stretching is that it pulls each head of the muscle taut toward its own origin, pronouncing separation between the two muscle heads and adding to the individual mass of each.

 

The second purpose of stretching is that each muscle head is encased in a micro-thin membrane called the fascia. This fascia is molecularly harder than diamond yet more elastic than the most finely tempered steel. When it is stretched the boundaries within which your muscle has to grow are expanded.

 

Finally, stretching extends your negative rep to the maximum possible degree. The further the same weight travels through a negative repetition, the greater impact it will have on developing mass. 

 

 

            If you are using your bodyweight for your resistance and can do more than 8 wide-grip chins you should weight yourself until you can only do 4-6 reps for your heaviest set, and reduce the weight with each set to perform a reverse pyramid.

 

            As you do your first set, power yourself explosively over the bar, then concentrate on feeling the negative in your outer lats. Adjust the angle of your descent until it feels right. The back is the most difficult area to train correctly, because feeling the negative in the target muscle is a task often overlooked.

 

            For best results, you should extend your set by performing negatives beyond failure. This is done by simply jumping or climbing until your chin is over the bar and lowering yourself slowly, taking care to feel the negative in your “wings”.

 

            If doing pulldowns on a machine you may also extend your set by crunching your body forward to lower the weight a few more times. Again take great care to feel the negatives, as this is critical to widening your back and developing a V taper.

                                                                       

 

Yates/Low Rows  

 

            Rowing movements are critical for building thickness in your back, as well as providing very strong stimulation to the biceps, brachialis, and forarms. They are the greatest exercise for building upper body mass because of the tremendous amount of weight that can be handled.

 

            Yates rows are named in honor of their founder, Dorian Yates. He has invented a means to work the back more completely and with greater weight than ever before possible. Traditional barbell rows are performed with an overhand grip, but Yates has discovered that by taking an underhand grip and remaining more upright more weight can be used. This technique also targets the back more completely as it allows for greater involvement of the trapezius and lower lats. The underhand grip also allows more indirect training of the biceps than is possible with an overhand grip.

 

            To perform a Yates row, hold the bar with an underhand grip, with hands between just onto the knurling of the bar and shoulder width (experiment to see exactly what is most comfortable and effective for you). Bend at the waist to approximately a 45 degree angle and raise the bar to a point between your navel and beltline.

 

            You should do a set of hyperextensions or machine back extensions prior to performing heavy rows so the stress placed on your back does not injure it.

 

            On your heaviest set you should cheat the weight upward by jerking it explosively and helping it gain momentum by slightly and explosively swaying with your back.

 

            Again, IT IS CRITICAL TO PROPERLY WARM YOUR BACK UP FIRST TO AVOID INJURY WHEN USING THIS TECHNIQUE!

 

            Do not forget that no matter how sloppy your positive reps are you should do good, slow, strict negatives. The reason you are cheating is to allow more weight to be used on your negative rep, thereby maximizing your muscle growth. If you do not do a good, strict negative rep, you are only defeating the purpose of your cheat movement.

 

           

            You may also perform your rows on a Hammer-Strength or other biangular rowing machine to maximize the targeting of the back muscles. With the biangular machines the hands begin closer together and move outward as they are pulled toward the body, preventing excessive flexing of the elbows and thereby allowing the back to be the primary target rather than the brachialis.

 

            If you are using a machine, take either a hammer or underhand grip, adjusting the seat to one of the upper levels, where your hands are coming somewhere between your navel and beltline at the end of your rep.

 

            On your lighter sets you should again slow both your positive and negative repetitions, focusing on strict form. Once you can no longer do any more strict reps, however, you should force out a few cheat reps, continuing to make your negatives slow and strict.

 

            As you perform your rowing motions concentrate on trying to pull the weight back by squeezing your shoulder blades together and eliminate flexing of the arms as much as possible on all but your heaviest sets.

 

 

                                                Hi-Lo Superset Rows

 

            The high, wide-grip rows in this combination will primarily target the inner muscles of the upper back (lower trapezius, rhomboids, teres major, etc. Supersetting Yates or low rows will blast the entire back.

 

If using a barbell, widen your grip to slightly beyond shoulder width. Bring the bar up to the center of your chest.

 

Upon failure immediately switch to Yates rows. You will have much more power with the Yates rows, so you should be able to do at least 3-5 more reps.

 

 

On your heaviest set you should cheat the weight upward by jerking it explosively and helping it gain momentum by slightly and explosively swaying with your back.

 

            Again, IT IS CRITICAL TO PROPERLY WARM YOUR BACK UP FIRST TO AVOID INJURY WHEN USING THIS TECHNIQUE!

 

            Do not forget that no matter how sloppy your positive reps are you should to good, slow, strict negatives. The reason you are cheating is to allow more weight to be used on your negative rep, thereby maximizing your muscle growth. If you do not do a good, strict negative rep, you are only defeating the purpose of your cheat movement.

 

           

            You may also perform your rows on a Hammer-Strength or other biangular rowing machine to maximize the targeting of the back muscles. With the biangular machines the hands begin closer together and move outward as they are pulled toward the body, preventing excessive flexing of the elbows and thereby allowing the back to be the primary target rather than the brachialis.

 

            If using a machine, adjust the seat of the machine so your hands will come to the middle of the chest at the completion of the movement. Grip the horizontal bars, and pull the weight to the middle of your chest. Upon failure, grip the vertical or underhand bars and do 3-5 more reps. You should really feel a burn in your entire back at the end of the superset.

 

            On your lighter sets you should again slow both your positive and negative repetitions, focusing on strict form. Once you can no longer do any more strict reps, however, you should force out a few cheat reps, continuing to make your negatives slow and strict.

 

            As you perform your rowing motions concentrate on trying to pull the weight back by squeezing your shoulder blades together and eliminate flexing of the arms as much as possible on all but your heaviest sets.

 

  

 

Behind the Back Chins or Pulldowns

 

            This immediately follows rowing movements because it is a highly effective exercise for etching detail and thickness into the upper back, but can only effectively target the upper back after the back has already been exhausted with rowing motions.

 

            Take a wide grip on the bar. Lower the bar as far as you can down the back of your neck, concentrating on trying to squeeze the shoulder blades together rather than simply pulling down with your arms.

 

            As you let the bar rise, do so slowly and feel the stretching movement in your upper back and shoulder blades. Franco Columbo felt this exercise was very important to his lat spread, as he believed it stretched his scapula and contributed to the width of his back as well as the thickness. Looking at Franco’s back, who can deny this assertion?

 

            Again, on your heaviest sets you may cheat the bar down using your bodyweight and momentum, but do not forget to do your negative in a slow, strict, controlled manner, feeling the exercise in your upper back throughout the eccentric contraction.

 

            On your lighter sets, concentrate on feeling the target muscles as you slowly and strictly squeeze your shoulder blades together. Concentrate on maximizing the movement of bringing your elbows down toward the center of your back while minimizing arm flexion as much as possible.

 

            To get the most mass building from each set, extend your set beyond failure by doing front pulldowns when your behind the neck pulldowns fail. You have much more power to the front, so you should be able to do at least 3-5 more front pulldowns upon failure of behind the neck pulldowns.

 

            If you are on a pulldown machine that also has a rowing attachment you can further maximize the effectiveness of this superset by immediately tri-setting a set of rows following failure on front pulldowns. You could actually work your entire back doing only this tri-set, but you would not experience the profound gains in mass possible from targeting each component of the back individually through your heavy pulldowns and rowing movements.

 

                       

                                                One Armed Bent Cable Rows   

 

            Arnold Schwarzenegger swore by this exercise for his superlative lower lat tie-in where his lats joined his waist. This tie-in helped accentuate the narrowness of his waist and make him appear even more massive. He claimed that the stretch of the lats experienced with this exercise was what developed that tie-in to such a great extent.

 

            This exercise is also the most effective for combining width and thickness in one movement. After each has been targeted individually with heavy pulldowns and rows, they can continue to be worked together through bent cable rows. This exercise also is one of the most effective exercises for indirect training of the biceps.

 

            As with all other back exercises, form and feeling are critical to effectively build mass.

 

            Begin by bending at the waist as far as possible and gripping the handle. Allow your arm to extend above your head. You should feel a slightly painful stretch in your lat as you reach this starting position. Slowly bring your elbow in an arcing movement so that it is moving inward and backward at the same time. Bring it all the way behind your back as far as you can, supinating your wrist as you do so.

 

            As you reach the end of the movement the emphasis will shift from width to thickness. As you supinate your wrist your biceps will experience a peak contraction as well.

 

           

                                                Reverse Grip Pulldowns

 

            The primary targets of this final exercise are the lower lats and, indirectly, the biceps. The biceps involvement is probably stronger than in any other back exercise as they are brought to a full contraction in this movement. Thus this movement is a critical element of a once a week per body-part training program which involves on indirect training of the muscles to succeed.

 

            You may change the emphasis of the muscles worked by changing your grip. A wider grip will more emphasize the outer lats and inner biceps. Having your hands close together will place more of the burden on the outer biceps and serratus anterior. A shoulder-width grip will work the inner and outer biceps evenly and place the greatest burden on the lower lats.

 

            You may choose where you wish to place your primary emphasis on this set, or you may do a set of narrow, wide, and medium grip to assure balance.

 

            You may also do this exercise on a biangular machine. This assures the maximum possible involvement of the back, gives a greater stretch to the lats, and balances the burden evenly between the inner and outer biceps.

 

            The only disadvantage to using the biangular machine is that the spreading of the hands as they descend makes involving the serratus virtually impossible.

 

            It is also possible to combine the biangular machine with the more traditional pulldown machines when doing reverse-grip pulldowns. This will allow a more holistic training  experience.