T Nation

Vertical vs. Horizontal Pulling


I have always heard that the back needs to be trained both with horizontal pulling and vertical pulling for total development. Recently, after re reading the article on Doggcrapp training, I have become even more interested in the subject of the anatomy of the back. I know both movements train the lats, but in the article it mentions training back width, and back thickness and associates width with vertical pulling and thickness with horizontal pulling.

If muscles only shorten/contract in one way, wouldnt both horizontal and vertical pulling both train thickness and width? If they both work the lats, wouldnt one make the other stronger (stated another way, "I am not overweight in the least, I am beast at rows, therefore I am beast at pullups...")? And the most confusing of all to me...How does a deadlift contribute to the development of a thick back as a horizontal pulling motion when the arms stay completely straight (I understand its a pulling/lower back exercise, but wouldnt that mean that it only trains the lumbar spine muscle attachments)?

Bonus question...I am over half way through Rippetoe's Starting Strength program. I, when I am done with the reading am going to take about a week to practice the form of the lifts. I will be using the template he provided in one of his most recent articles on T-Nation titled "Who wants to be a novice? You do." People always say that these programs neglect parts of the body. Would this program neglect arms/traps/back thickness? Is there any compound movements that could be added? Worse comes to worse, I'll do SS and then work on the neglected stuff later.



You'll notice that there are a LOT more muscles in the back than the lats. Pulling in different planes concentrates the strain on different muscles. Thus, you need to train both vertical and horizontal.

As for DL - your arms hold the weight. The weight is transferred to the spine through ALL of the muscles that connect to the arms from the back (see pic). Traps, rhomboids and lats take the brunt of it. You don't need to actively pull to place stress on a muscle, isometric holds work as well (which is what a deadlift is for your back).


I have been looking for animations and photos to illustrate how each muscle in the back contracts during different exercises, however they are almost non existent.

So you are saying that deadlifting, since it is stressing the muscles in my back will help all rowing motions?

I have always been a solid believer that if an exercise really works a muscle group, it will have carryover to other exercies in which that muscle is the primary mover.



It's really as simple as if you have a high amount of tension on a muscle, it will be trained.

As for how they contract - consult an anatomy book. Muscles do only 2 things - contract and relax. You can tell what exercise trains which muscles by looking at the connection points and the direction of the muscle fibers.

Here's a nice interactive chart. http://www.getbodysmart.com/ap/muscularsystem/armmuscles/posteriormuscles/latissimus/tutorial.html


That interactive chart is fucking awesome!

Workout A:
1.Squat, 3 sets x 5 reps using the same weight
2.Press, 3 x 5 using the same weight
3.Deadlift, 1 x 5
4.Pull-ups, 3 x failure, 5 minutes rest between

Workout B:
1.Squat, 3 x 5 using the same weight
2.Bench Press, 3 x 5 using the same weight
3.Power Clean, 5 x 3 using the same weigh
*4.Rows, 3 sets x 5 reps using the same weight

Are the Rows a redundant exercise to add to the program or would they add an additional benefit that the program lacks without them?



Rows aren't redundant. The back responds well to increased volume. You should do more like 3x8-12 with a 1 second squeeze on each rep (this really hits the rhomboids).

Also, don't do pullups to failure 3x. It's REALLY taxing on the CNS to go to failure and your recovery will suffer. I'd switch to lat pulldown, 3x8-12 with 1 second squeeze as with rows.

The workout volumes are really low. For growth, you should be in the 30 rep range per muscle group.



Rippetoe talking about how the traps and lats work during a deadlift. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht363HslwnM


GOod thoughts from the ppl here. The other thing you need to keep in mind Zep is that supportimg strength is not quite the same as active strength. Meaning, the maximum weight you can support without breaking is higher than the maximum weight you can actively contract and mooooove against.

DL = supporting weight/isometric (roughly, I know that is not technically correct)

Row = active concentric action.

Viewed in this way it is easy to see the deadlift as "overload" for the back and the row as active work.An additional point of info is that typically you need to train both aspects of the back (isometric or supporting and active concentric)

I agree with you that a good movement carries over to other motions. This works both ways with the deadlift/row, but primarily it works that the row "feeds" or carries over to the deadlift.


I don't really agree that failure training is so damaging on pull-ups. It's not my preferred method, but it worked for me in the past (poliquins gymnasts back routine). If that is the only thing he is hitting failure on it's not terrible. Although I would rather only hit failure on the last set, not all three.




Maybe I missed it in the other responses, or maybe I'm just too blind from a major lack of sleep the last couple weeks, so just in case it wasn't mentioned I'll address a few things here.

You can't distinguish back movements as either thickness or width. If an exercise makes your lats bigger, you'll appear wider. If an exercise makes your upper/middle back bigger it'll make you look thicker. Take a pull-up for example, medium overhand grip. You'll be engaging the lats quite a lot however also you'll engage your upper back, dare I say, about as much. This will build both width and thickness to your back.

I could give more examples but I'll leave it there for now. Otherwise this post will blow out to 3000 words.

Next on the agenda is the carry over from one exercise to another. If you progress on barbell rows, that will carry over to your pull-up strength (any variation). To some extent. However you still need to train the unfamiliar movement in order to become strong in it. The carryover you can witness first hand by how quickly the body adapts to the movement pattern. Complete pull-up newbs might not be able to do more than 2 pull-ups initially. If they have trained rows enough and made progress, you can expect a significant strength increase over a number of weeks as they adapt to the new movement pattern.

How significant? Depends individually. It isn't unheard of increasing the number of reps by 400% over a month.


So, in your opinion...

Workout A:
1.Squat, 3 sets x 5 reps using the same weight
2.Press, 3 x 5 using the same weight
3.Deadlift, 1 x 5
4.Pull-ups, 3 x failure, 5 minutes rest between

Workout B:
1.Squat, 3 x 5 using the same weight
2.Bench Press, 3 x 5 using the same weight
3.Power Clean, 5 x 3 using the same weigh

...is a complete workout (minus arms)?


Fundamentally it can be. If we are talking optimizing strength/size then I would disagree.

What I was getting at really was that you shouldn't split exercises up according to width or thickness. Also that one exercise has some carry over to a similar exercise, but to get stronger in the latter you still need to train the movement.

A full back workout IMO would contain these exercises, performed either on the same day or non-consecutive days:

Deads/Rack Pulls
BB Rows/DB Row/T-bars/Seated Rows
Hypers/Reverse Hypers/Good Mornings


What would you recommend for the size/strength goal?

Thanks for the input BTW.



The key I think is to find a happy middle ground. Use a variety of rep ranges suitable for the type of movement you are performing. Lower to moderate reps for compounds, moderate to higher reps for isolation.

Really, there is no right or wrong way. I also don't think it is too far from what most people do.

Lift heavy, use a variety of rep ranges and use adequate volume. Adequate volume? I really can not tell you that one because how much each person can handle will vary and will vary as they become stronger.

Make sure you are eating enough protein, eating enough calories overall. Keep getting stronger. More reps with the same weight, or more weight. Stay consistent.

You will find that as you get stronger, you get bigger. Provided you are eating adequate protein and calories.


To add, I'm trying hard not to lay out a program. I really don't like doing that as I would rather people experiment for themselves and learn through trial and error. The rules aren't black and white and it literally comes down to the raw basics of eating enough and busting your ass under the iron.


Thanks for your time and patience.



5/3/1 or WS4SB/WSBB would be perfect.


Also, study scapulae function. Various rows and chins retract and depress the scapulae slightly differently.