Question: I want to build a good looking back so this summer there’s something to see instead of just soft fat sticking out of my swim suit top. What exercises are best for doing that? I do assisted pull-ups on the machine, pulldowns, and rows with a dumbbell kneeling on a bench. What am I doing wrong?
Answer: Often, it’s not what you are doing but how are you doing it that makes the difference. Pulldowns and rows can help you in your quest for a world-class back but since you can’t see your back you have to feel it while you train. Pull-ups are the best for training back but not machine assisted pull-ups. Yes, most women need assistance initially when learning to do pull-ups but you are better off with a good spotter or simply using a bench to hop up into the top position. The problem with the machine is it assists you both on the way up and the way down. .
If you can’t do a pull-up, you should be able to control the downward movement, the negative part of the exercise
- Hop up to the top position and try to stay fully contracted for just a moment.
- Then, lower yourself slowly, 2 to 3 seconds until you are hanging.
- Step back on the bench and hop up again.
- Repeat for 3 to 5 reps and do 2 to 3 sets.
- Within 2 weeks you should be able to do a rep on your own.
With dumbbell rows find a bench or a rack to use for support instead of placing one knee on the bench.
- Use a wide stance and keep your hips level letting the dumbbell hang in the middle of your stance between your legs.
- Use a thumbless grip by placing your thumb beside your forefinger instead of gripping around the handle, and pull towards the dumbbell towards your hip.
- When you lower the dumbbell don’t overextend the movement but stop short of the bottom of the rep keeping the stress across your back instead of into your shoulder.
- How you do the reps makes all the difference.
On pulldowns, again use a thumbless grip. If you hands are getting tired invest or borrow a pair of straps. Used properly these reduce the grip load by about 50% so your back gets worked instead of just your hands and forearms. Learn to do pulldowns by reducing the weight you use by about 30% and learn to feel your back work.
- With the lighter weight pull down slowly, 2 to 3 seconds until you touch the bar just below your collarbone.
- Pull your ribcage up elevating your upper chest to reach for the bar as you do this.
- Return to a fully extended position at a 2 to 3 second pace and do this for ten reps.
- You will feel the muscles of your back working. You have to feel them work since you can’t see then to make a good mental connection. Most other muscles you can see working and that helps to make a mental connection.
- As you work back to your usual training weight you can increase the rep speed in the downward portion of the exercise but resist on the way up feeling your muscles contract and stretch.
Training this way will make a difference in how your back looks. Just remember to continue to get the fat off as well or you won’t be able to see the muscles you’ve built.
God bless and keep training,