In his six-year reign as Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates set an entirely new standard for back development, one that many feel remains unsurpassed more than a decade since his retirement. The man they called “the Shadow” was a heretic in several aspects of his training.
Dorian popularized his own take on Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty system, training with far less overall volume and frequency than his peers but with unmatched intensity. One of Yates’ secrets to effective back training—which went totally against convention—was that he never used a wide grip in any type of pulldown movement. He preferred a narrow grip, typically with his palms supinated—an underhand grip. His two exercises of choice for vertical pulling were narrow underhand cable pulldowns and the Hammer Strength Iso-lateral pulldown. “A wide grip limits your range of motion,” he said on many occasions, “and you never get a complete stretch or a complete contraction.”
Despite his insanely wide wings, bodybuilders the world over still insist on doing wide-grip pulldowns and chinups, which Dorian noted actually do a better job of stimulating the smaller, upper-back muscles like the teres and rhomboids than they do the lats. So why not take a tip from the man who built what was arguably the greatest back in bodybuilding history, and go narrow to get wide.
Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding, available at www.RonHarrisMuscle.com.