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Flipping On the Muscle Building Switch – Back Training


In a previous post, I talked about the importance of the indirect effect leg training has on overall muscle growth. To a great extent back training is important for the same reason. It’s demanding because the back is the second largest muscle group in the body but also because back training has an overlap effect bringing in the hamstrings, glutes, traps, forearms, biceps, lat’s, and several other smaller muscles.

Your entire upper body will grow bigger and stronger from hard work on heavy barbell rows, t-bar rows, dumbbell rows, chin up variations and heavy, heavy pull downs.

There is a technique that is vital to developing a good back that I originally learned from Vince Gironda. Larry Scott also wrote about it when I trained with Samir Bannout (who was known for his extraordinary back development).

Here’s how it works… In the extended arm position of your rowing and pull-down movements you want to protract your shoulders (giving you a ‘caved in’ chest appearance) and as you pull the bar down or towards you, protract the shoulders back and down (giving you a ‘puffed out’ chest appearance). This motion strongly engages the back muscles and without it, the biceps take the brunt of the workload leaving the back underworked.

That means you’ll also be doing something counter-intuitive with your breathing. You’ll be breathing IN when pulling the weight and breathing OUT when releasing the weight. This breathing facilitates the movement and is the opposite of what you do on almost every other exercise. In MOST exercises you exhale during the positive part of the rep and inhale during the negative part. That is just the opposite of what you need to do in order to protract the shoulders and ‘puff you chest out’ during rows, pull-down and chins.

[*Get the latest e-book collection of Vince's methods, quotes, workouts and advice Vince Gironda: Legend & Myth by Alan Palmieri, one of Vince's students. Read the Iron Man magazine review here.]

Remember these big muscle movements put the body in an alarm state. The body attempts to adapt by secreting its own supply of natural testosterone and growth hormone.

There’s nothing pretty or fancy about working these exercises. It’s just hard work for 2 to 5 sets 2 times every 9 days. Do that and watch your entire back get more muscular.

Try this…

Workout #1

T-Bar Rows 4 sets 4-6 reps
Close grip overhand chins touching your chest to the bar 4 sets 6-10 reps (add weight if you can do more than 10)
Dumbbell Pullovers 3 sets of 15-25 reps
Barbell shrugs 3 sets of 6-8 reps

Workout # 2

V handle pull downs to chest 4 sets 4-6 reps
Barbell Rows – nothing pretty load the bar up and row 4 sets 6-10 reps
Dumbbell Rows 5 sets 5 reps

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