Now that you’all got me thinking about lats (see barbell row hand position discussion), and as I glance at my tv and see Dorian doing pulldowns (“Blood and Guts” workout video), I’m curious as to what people think. I switched from doing pulldowns most of my adult life, to no pulldowns and only pullups and chins, both bodyweight and weighted, about a year ago. My lats and upper back have grown wider and my lats are bigger to a greater extent than years of working out before that. Anyone else experienced this? I also deadlift and perform one other movement each back workout, alternating the third exercise between such things as DB rows, BB rows, T-bar rows, low pulley rows, etc. Dead and pullups are the mainstays, though, and the only two I consider essential.
I’d say they’re all pretty much equal, the secret is learning how to do them correctly. Squeezing with the lats as much as possible. I’ve noticed guys with good biceps typically have a hard time developing much of a back. Perhaps what they need to do is forget the typical mainstays and utilize more lat isolation movements like pullovers, 1/4 chin-ups etc.
john, i couldnt agree more…i have always made decent progress, but when i began focusing on deadlifts and pullups, my back exploded!!! like you, i usually follow those two exercises with cable rows, db rows, and RARELY barbell rows (these are tough, especially after a heavy deadlift session)
three questions for you john:
1 do you have any good deadlift specialization programs?? (my weak point seems to be from the start position–just getting the weight off the ground–any variations i can do that will improve this…trap bar deads from a block?? anything else??)
2 i noticed that you do deads on back day while poliquin, etc recommend it be done on leg day…for sure, it works the quads, but i seem to get better results when i do it on back day…what are your thoughts on this??
3 ive tried to do poliquins sternum chinups, but i dont seem to be flexible/strong enough to touch my chest to the bar…how can i fix this??
its always great to discuss the hard-core lifts like deads and pullups…all too often people shy away from these mass-builders in favour of pulldowns, etc…sure, everybody in the gym is a little impressed when some guy does 10 clean pulldowns with the entire stack…but strap a 45 on your belt and rep out ten grueling pullups and everybody forgets about that guy!!!
My lats respond great to one arm alt. DB rows.
Right on! Those are two killer back & lat movements.
Id have to say the best!(Anyone disagree?)
I too noticed an improvement in my back when I substituted pull-ups and chins for lat pulldowns. But I noticed an even BIGGER improvement when I started organizing my “chest, shoulder, and back” workouts the Ian King way. In other words, grouping them into vertical push/pull and horizontal push/pull. You’ll notice that both vertical and horizontal pulling would both include only “back” exercises, but Ian argues that posturally and for shoulder joint integrity, this grouping makes more sense. I agree. Try it and I think you’ll notice yourself standing up straighter and with much fuller back development.
I agree with your choice of back exercises. When I started training over 20 years ago (at home) chins were my primary back exercise and my back grew very quickly. But as the years went by I joined a gym and influenced by the “big” guys training and BB mag workouts my back training degenerated into various pulldowns and rows. It was Charles article “No More Geek Back Training” that got me back into chins. I can’t believe, even after training all these years, how quickly my back has responded to chins. My chest measurement (primarily from lat growth, both width and thickness) has increased by 2 full inches in just the past several months.
Chins and there variations are the best back movements. They don’t hit the lower back (erector muscles) or the upper traps, but they do work all of the other muscles of the upper back (especially if the many variations are used, see some of Poliquin’s articles on the chin) including the middle and lower portions of the trapezius. Deads are also great for the upper back as are olympic type lifts. I definately would recommend them before shrugs.
You only truly need these two exercices for mass. I have experienced great results by simply using pullups. By combining a compound movement you will achieve even greater results. I think that you are doing exactly what your body needs…therefore no need to change anything.
Nate, for some reason I’m significantly stronger in the deadlift picking the bar up off the floor, than I am from a set of low bars or boxes. This applies to picking it up or dropping it; when I lower a heavy bar to a position at knee height or lower, it pulls badly in my lower back and is painful. When I return it to the floor, under control all the way, it doesn’t hurt at all and feels right. Go figure. I appreciate the recommendation to organize the exercises the way Ian King says to do it; I have to go back and reread those articles and get it figured out. About getting your pullups to where you can touch your sternum; just do weighted chins until you gain strength in the movement. And I have to do deadlifts on back day, which is separated from leg day by three or four days and other body parts. My leg workouts devastate me (I squat as opposed to leg press), often doing back squats, front squats and DB lunges in the same workout, plus SLDL and calf work (sometimes I do both SLDL and curls, depends upon time and energy); there is no rational way for me to include deadlifts in this workout, nor would there be energy or recovery time.
OK guys, time to report on last night’s back workout. After my usual warmup, I did five sets of pullups, hands facing away, on a straight bar (I was working out at my son’s high school while he was at football practice). No added weight. Next moved to deadlifts, did four sets. So by the time I got to barbell rows I was tired, though far from exhausted. Did one set with the Olympic bar just to get the feel of really cramping the back and not pulling with the biceps; liked it. Ended up doing three good sets, ending at only 105#, but concentrated on form and damn near got cramping in my back! A new sensation, one I enjoyed. I’m sure some new (to me) muscle fibers got involved. Finished my back workout with two sets of hyperextensions, and was done lifting (ran four laps of the track immediately afterwards, though, before my postworkout shake). So thanks for the advice and inspiration to try this movement in this manner, I enjoyed it and will incorporate it into future workouts.
I agree, chins, pullups, whatever you call them, are the best overall back exercise. Before every back workout, I do 50 pullups, usually in about 5 sets or so. It really pumps the blood into my lats and gets me warmed up for heavy barbell rows and other stuff I do in the workout. I switch my routine every 3-4 weeks, but I always do some kind of pullup movement, varying the grip (wide vs. narrow, palms in vs. out) every cycle. I have tried touching my chest to the bar…just doesn’t work for me, maybe not that flexible, maybe not that strong, or both. Lately though, I been using less weight on back exercises, and concentrating on pulling with my lats more, and squeezing them, pausing at each end. I wish my gym had the Lat pullover machine, the one Dorian uses in the video. I do other kinds of pullover movements, but they’re not as good, as you do don’t get full range of resistance as with the machine.