Training the back is not always about moving heavy weights. In fact, sometimes going TOO heavy can actually compromise the form you need to focus on the smaller muscles of the back, to achieve maximum contraction and development.
That’s where this exercise comes in…
You use relatively light weights and you focus completely on keeping tight form and developing massive tension in the muscles of the back.
It’s a two-part movement that focuses on the two major planes of movement of the back…vertical (i.e. the standard pulldown and pull-up) and horizontal (i.e. rowing movements).
This covers both movements in one continuous-tension exercise.
First, get yourself set up in the pulldown machine. I like the V handle for this exercise, but you can use the straight bar, too.
Start with a weight you could easily do 15 to 20 reps on (or more) for a regular pulldown.
Pull the handle to about the half-way point of the exercise. This is going to be your start position for the pulldown half of the exercise.
Drop your shoulders, inhale (to expand your chest, which increases lat activation), then pull the handle down to your chest.
Hold for a moment and squeeze then let the handle come back up to that half-way position. Control it, though, don’t just let it come up. You want to keep that tension on.
Repeat this for 8 to 10 reps. It’s a very deliberate, almost choppy movement…stopping and holding the tension at the top and bottom of each rep to eliminate momentum.
Once you’ve hit your reps on the pulldown part, lean back. This is the “row” part.
Pull the handle to your chest, inhaling as you do so to expand the chest. Again, hold at the bottom and squeeze, getting tension in the lats.
Now let the handle come up to about the half-way point of the range of motion. Like in the pulldown, we’re not letting the elbows straighten in order to keep tension on the lats.
Pull the handle back down to your chest, hold and repeat for your reps.
You will feel a MAJOR burn with this one. Your lats will never get a chance to rest, as they do with with the straight-elbow stretch position of the pulldown and cable row, and you will be hitting them from 2 different angles, which will activate more muscle fibers in the lats (not to mention more of the “detail” muscles of the upper back.
With this one, you NEED to really lighten up the weight to allow yourself to hit perfect form and pause on each rep. This is a critical point. If you go too heavy, you’ll diffuse the tension as you’ll need to start using momentum to do the movements.
When done correctly, this one is a killer!