Justin Timberlake brought sexy back last summer, and now it’s my turn to bring something back: the behind-the-neck pulldown.
I hear some of you screaming in terror. The behind-the-neck pulldown has been relegated to the garbage heap of unsafe old movements. Most bodybuilders think the exercise will kill their rotator cuffs while adding nothing to their backs. As much as I hate to admit it, I was one of those trainers squawking the loudest to ditch behind-the-neck pulldowns. Then a few years back I saw Johnnie Jackson doing them to finish off his back workout. He didn’t pull the bar all the way to his neck—and that, I’ve found, is the key.
This exercise should really be called the rear double-biceps pulldown. Here’s how to do it safely: Sit down on the seat. I prefer to face away from the weight stack so that the line of pull is straight up; that way you don’t need to flop your head around. You won’t be able to brace your legs, but you shouldn’t use max weights anyway. If you require something to keep your butt on the bench, have your training partner push down on your knees.
Pull the bar down until you’re doing a rear double-biceps shot—or close to it. The bar should be at the top of your head or just slightly below. Don’t pull to your neck. I believe most of the issues with the movement arise when people try to do what they consider a full range of motion; in fact, though, they’re working past the safe range of motion.
The second thing to remember is to not use the rear double-biceps pulldown at the start of your routine. Use it at the end to help add and etch in muscular detail. At that stage your shoulders, biceps and back will be warmed up, and if you keep the reps in the 12-to-15 range and really focus on squeezing your upper back and rear delts, you should be able to use this great movement without injury. It’s not a mass builder, and new trainees don’t need it. They should stick with the basics for mass. To mold the clay, however, this pulldown technique can be a great add-on, especially precontest.
Give it a try for variety to end your next back workout. Just take it slow, be sure you’re well warmed up, and don’t go superheavy. When you do it correctly, you have nothing to fear from the behind-the-neck…I mean, rear double-biceps pulldown.