Thursday, April 28, 2016

5 New Movements to get Your Back out of Neutral


Are you doing endless cable rows, lat pull-downs and dumbbell rows with little to show for it? There’s a reason for that.

Look around any commercial gym any you’ll see cable row stations, lat pull-down stations and dumbbells. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a T-Bar Row station. No wonder your back is stuck in neutral!

Don’t misunderstand. All of the above are good exercises. But if that’s all you ever do you’re going to hit a plateau. And, unless you provide your back with movements it hasn’t already adapted to, you’re going to be stuck there for a long, long time.

Here are a few movements you’ve probably never tried. And they’ll add much needed new stimulus to your lagging back.

Inverted Row
Simple but effective
Even the smallest gym usually has a Smith Machine or a power rack of some sort.

·        Using an empty bar, place it at about waist height on the Smith Machine or power rack pins or safety bar.
·        With your heels on the floor, hang underneath the bar by both hands at arm’s length. This is your starting position.
·        Use a medium to wide width grip to keep your biceps from taking over
·        Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar by contracting your shoulder blades.
·        Hold for a 3 count at the top
·        Lower yourself slowly to full extension and repeat

You can also use the ring attachments on a TRX apparatus if your gym has one.

T-Bar Row with Landmine

If your gym doesn’t have a T-Bar station the landmine is an easy solution.

If you’ve never used a landmine, here’s what they look like…

If your gym doesn’t have a landmine, not a problem! Simply put one end of a long bar in any corner. (Put a towel over the end so you don’t scratch any walls). You can also place the bar in the rear corner of a power rack if it’s bolted to the floor.

·        Load one end of the bar with the appropriate weight
·        Using the close grip cable handle, place the handle under the bar inside the plates
·        Lift as you would on any ordinary T-Bar Row straddling the bar.

     One Arm Barbell Row

·        Use a landmine (or the alternative set up described above)
·        Load the bar with the appropriate weight. I suggest using 25 pound plates to get a longer range of motion
·        Stand beside the bar and grasp with one hand behind the plates and facing the plates
·        Row with a motion similar to a dumbbell row. Don’t twist your body. Contract the shoulder blades and bring your elbow straight up.
·        If your grip becomes the limiting factor in your lift use lifting straps

Meadows Row

The set up is exactly the same as the One Arm Barbell row described above except that you are going to grasp the end of the bar (outside the plates) and set up with your body perpendicular to the bar.

·        Keep the working shoulder slightly higher than the other shoulder
·        Don’t twist you body to gain leverage-Contract the shoulder blades and bring the elbow straight up.
·        Use lifting straps if your grip becomes the limiting factor
·        Use 25 pound plates for a longer range of motion

Dumbbell Pullover

The Dumbbell pullover was originally heralded as a way to expand the rib cage and give you a bigger chest. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work unless you’re in your early teens and your body is still forming.

But it is a good compound exercise for shoulders, triceps, chest and lats. It seems to have fallen out of favor. I seldom see anyone doing them anymore.

You’ll notice I said dumbbell pullovers-not barbell pullovers. I feel barbell pullovers put too much stress on the shoulder because of the hand position when using a straight barbell. Using an EZ bar is better than a straight bar but still harder on the shoulder than a dumbbell.

I also don’t like the pullover machines I’ve used. I’ve used several different brands and designs and they all appear to place too much stress on the neck and cervical vertebrae.

So I’m only going to recommend the dumbbell cross bench pullover.

·        Place a dumbbell on the floor standing on end
·        Lie across a bench with your head and neck hanging off one side and your feet flat on the floor on the opposite side of the bench
·        Don’t leave any part of your head or neck resting on the bench. As you pull the weight over you’ll naturally push down on the bench with your head or neck putting too much pressure on your cervical spine.
·        Reach over your head and grasp the end of the dumbbell with both hands interlacing your fingers.
·        Concentrating on using your lats, pull the dumbbell over your head until your arms are perpendicular to the floor.
·        Keep a slight bend in your elbows
·        Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the floor and repeat

As for the old standbys of Lat Pull-downs and Seated Rows, don't throw them out. But use some imagination.
·        Use different grips-close grip, wide grip, medium grip, reverse grip, neutral grip
·        Pull ups and chin ups are great back builders. Use different grips and handles on these too.
·        Do all the old standbys unilaterally (with one hand at a time)

Do you have suggestions for other exercises or variations? Email me at

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