Q: In the Positions-of-Flexion exercise matrix [in 3D Muscle Building] you don’t list any midrange moves for midback. Instead you say, “covered with lat midrange work”—but I know I’ve seen behind-the-neck pulldowns as a midrange exercise in some of your workouts. Should I not use them? Are they dangerous?
A: Doing pulldowns behind your neck can be dangerous—if you train heavy and pull the bar too low and/or jerk it down. I usually don’t recommend them, but I do use them every so often. And for extra safety, I do them near the end of my back workout.
When you save behind-the-neck pulldowns till the end, you have lots of fatigue in your back and even your arms, so you have to use a lot less weight. For shoulder safety, keep these performance tips in mind:
1) Never relax your shoulders at the top—that means don’t lock out our elbows and extend your arms.
2) Do not jerk the weight down—from an arms-slightly-bent position, pull down smoothly, head tilted forward.
3) Stop the downward pull when the bar is at ear level—not all the way to the base of your neck.
4) When you’re in that “double-biceps” position, squeeze your scapulae for a count.
5) Once again, do behind-the-neck pulldowns as one of the last back exercises in your routine.
Many of the middle-trap fibers do run downward, so any pulldown or chinup will involve that muscle. While a behind-the-neck version may allow for better fiber activation, if the exercise hurts your shoulder joint, do not do it. Period.
Also, you can use Pre-Ex 3X to help limit the poundage on behind-the-neck pulldowns even further. Use bent-arm bent-over laterals first, and then immediately go to behind-the-neck pulldowns—with the form recommendations above.
If it doesn’t make your shoulders feel out of whack, it’s a focused midback mass attack.
Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF DVD and Size Surge programs, see the ad sections in this issue. Also visit www.X-Rep.com and X-Workouts.com for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books. IM