By Joe Pietaro Muscle Sport Magazine
It’s never easy to work on a body part that you can’t see clearly. Even while looking at your reflection in the mirror, you have to twist and turn to see your back. Upper, middle and lower…they are all like hidden gems in your physique and you have to rely on good old fashioned training to get the job done – because your lats are visible to everyone else but yourself.
If you belong to any sort of legitimate gym, the choices that you have for back exercises are vast. So pick one that you re not going to do as part of your main routine that day and bang out a few warm-up sets with it. A good choice is something on the lat pulldown machine and a wider grip is probably better to execute this than a close grip.
So this can either be your warm-up that day or done later with three-to-four working sets. But remember to not go too wide with it; just past shoulder width is sufficient. If you’re all the way out on the end of the bar, you diminish your range of motion.
Also, when you’re on the pulldown machine, do pulldowns and not rows. Sit upright with a slight arch in your lower back and do strict and slow reps, especially in a warm-up. Too many people load up the weight and swing away, leaning all the way back in the seat. Rows are rows; pulldowns are pulldowns. Know the difference because it makes a huge difference – if you follow what we’re saying.
Switch grips every workout from front to regular and even add a false grip (palms) for variety. Different bars (straight, bent, rings) give you a multitude of choices as not to be repetitive.
Hence the reason why you do strict pulldowns properly. When you do seated rows, you can go a little heavier but always remember to keep good form. Choose a different bar/grip each time here, too.
The key to rows is to keep your back straight at the top of each rep. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold it close to you for a second before exhaling and stretching it out – but not too far. Just allow your arms to be fully extended; there’s no need to move your upper body towards the stack because this just causes you to start using your momentum instead of the lat muscles.
BENT OVER BARBELL ROWS
The single most important exercise that you can do to build wide lats. Dorian Yates swears by them and the six-time Mr. Olympia winner should know. This is another movement that you can add some weight, but again not at the expense of form.
You can use either an overhand or underhand grip and bring the bar up to the bottom of your chest before extending it downward.
Performed either on a device made for them or the old school way with an Olympic bar, close grip handle and a heavy dumbbell to keep it from sliding, try using 25-pound plates (instead of 45s) to give you a longer range of motion. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass if you intend on going heavy, but your back muscles will thank you in the long run.
Don’t forget your lower back. Sure, you can do these as part of your abs/core workout and should, but it’s also good to get a good stretch either at the beginning or end on back day, too. Switch up from the 90-degree and 45-degree benches.