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Back Exercises, Can't Do Pull-ups?


I've been lifting for almost a month now, and have noticed that my mid to upper back never really feels like it has been worked as much as I should, and I've read many articles on T-Nation about the problems of doing too much chest/back work.

I usually do the following:

Deadlift (low reps)
Lat Pull Down 4 x 8-12
Seated Cable Row 4 x 8-12
Dumbbell Rows 4 X 8-12

2 x a week.

I also usually use the Pec-Deck for the back exercise.

I know I should be doing pull-ups and chin-ups, but I'm just too fat right now for my small muscles. I also refuse to use those pull up machines.

Any hope for my weak back?



I can do 1 pull up. So I do mine assisted, I use 1 or 2 mini bands because its all I got. You can also just have a partner hold out there hands and when you stall you can press down with your legs against their hands to help you out. Its kinda easy to cheat doing it that way so make sure your only using your legs a little bit, still make your back do most of the work.


One day a week you can try swapping out deadlifts for negative pull ups. Get into the top pullup position (use a box or jump up there, or bands as previously mentioned), and then control the eccentric part of the lift. When you lost the ability to lower yourself under control, stop the set.

Continue with the lat pulldowns, focusing on retracting your shoulder blades and touching your sides with your elbows.


A good progression exercise for Chin/Pullups are so-called "Fat Man Pullups"



IMHO if you are not strong enough to do chins you should first focus on your pulling power. The easiest way to increase it is with progressive pulls.

Basically this means that you will start with clean pulls (similar to an upright row but with arms further out) and as you add weight the movement will shorten until you can't pull no more. Then you do deadlifts.

Do a search on this site for progressive pulls or clean pulls, power cleans. If all else fails or doing Olympic moves is not your cup of tea do the bodybuilding version which is called upright rowing. Some people complain of shoulder problems from this exercise, but it depends on your body structure. Do whichever method is best for your body type.


Do pull downs as if you were doing pullups and chinups, and slow negatives. The strength to do more will come, especially if your weight continues to drop. If you can't do close to your weight in pulldowns, then you're not going to be able to do a pull up.


You've had lots of replys about pullups but what you're really missing is some sort of horizontal pull. I assume Your seated rows and dumbbell rows are low to about the waist or lower chest. That's the most common. These will work your lats but don't hit your rhomboids and rear delts very well. You need something higher. Cable rope pulls to the face are great and they work the rear delts that are hard to reach. You can try these as well:


These will hit your upper back and rear delts very nicely.

Of course once your deadlift gets big enough it will hit whatever is weakest. If that's your upper back you'll know it.



This will get you doing pull-ups in no time:


Basically, it starts with negatives, then moves to assisted, then you're off. When I did this program I went from 0 to 8-10x in about 4 weeks.

And they really are probably the best upper back exercise. I got absolutely no where with pull-downs, DB rows and seated rows. I switched to pull-ups, bent over rows and rack pulls and saw immediate gains.

Good luck!