Monotony is never a desired quality – your diet, wardrobe and social life all benefit from the excitement of change and variety. The same principle can be applied to your back workout: Doing endless pulldowns isn’t going to get you results, and it will bore you more than a week-long Murder She Wrote marathon. The best way to build a great back is through continual change, and the easiest way to do that is by switching your grip. Modifying the position of your hands alters a move’s emphasis, working your muscles in new ways that fully exhaust your fibers. It also calls on supporting muscles — targeting your flipside in new ways that will improve strength, create shape and bolster progress. Flip your grip today!
The Switch-Your-Grip Workout Plan
Use all of these flip-grip exercises in one workout or alternate pulldown or row variations from week to week, blending them in with other back-specific exercises for balance.
|Narrow Reverse-Grip Pulldown||3||10–12|
|Wide-Grip Barbell Row||3||8–10|
|Reverse-Grip Barbell Row||3||10–12|
Perform this routine two times per week, leaving 48 hours of rest between workouts.
The Skinny On: Pulldowns
Pulldowns hit your latissimus dorsi, the large wing-like muscles that create width in your back, and are essential for the development of the coveted V-taper. Wide-grip pulldowns work the outermost part of your lats; narrow reverse-grip pulldowns recruit more of your mid-lats area.
Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi (outer portion), trapezius, posterior deltoids
Set Up: Adjust a pulldown machine so that your thighs fit snugly underneath the support pad. Take a wide overhand grip on the pulldown bar and sit up tall, leaning back a few degrees from vertical and lifting your chest.
Action: Pull the bar toward your chest by directing your elbows to the floor and inward toward your waist, contracting your shoulder blades behind you as if pinching a pencil between them. When the bar nearly touches your clavicle, squeeze hard, then slowly reverse the move, coming back to the starting position without locking your elbows.
Tip: Don’t jerk the handle down by using the momentum of your upper body — you’ll risk injuring your lower back and shoulders. If you are struggling, decrease the weight and do each rep slowly.
Narrow Reverse-Grip Pulldown
Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi (middle portion), teres major, biceps brachii
Set Up: Adjust a pulldown machine so that your thighs fit snugly underneath the pad with your feet flat on the floor. Take a shoulder-width or narrower underhand grip on the bar and lean back a few degrees from vertical, looking upward and lifting your chest. Keep your core tight for stability.
Action: Pull the bar toward your clavicle by driving your elbows down and back, keeping your arms close to your sides as you pull. Squeeze your shoulder blades behind you and lift your chest to meet the bar. Slowly reverse the move until you come back to the starting position with arms fully extended.
Tip: To keep the focus rearward, think of your hands as hooks, with your back controlling the movement of your arms as they pull and extend.
The Skinny On: Bent-Over Rows
Rows are great for developing strength and density in your mid-back. The bent-over position of your body also engages your erector spinae, conditioning the area along your spine and strengthening your core. A wide-grip emphasizes the outer area of your lats as well as your upper and mid-trapezius. A reverse-grip row hits your lats toward the center of your body and the lower section of your traps while also recruiting your rhomboids and biceps.
Wide-Grip Barbell Row
Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi (outer portion), middle and upper trapezius, erector spinae
Set Up: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold a barbell with a wider than shoulder-width overhand grip, bending forward with a straight back until your torso is 45 degrees to the floor and your arms are hanging straight down from your shoulders, elbows unlocked.
Action: Pull the barbell toward your rib cage by driving your elbows up and back, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you lift the bar. Pause a moment at the top and contract your upper back. Slowly lower the barbell down until you come back to the starting position with arms fully extended.
Tip: Never let the weight fall back toward the floor; make the negative portion of the move as smooth and controlled as the positive.
Reverse-Grip Barbell Row
Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi (middle portion), rhomboids, lower trapezius, biceps brachii, erector spinae
Set Up: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Grab a barbell with a shoulder-width underhand grip, bending forward with a straight back until your torso is 45 degrees to the floor and your arms are hanging straight down from your shoulders.
Action: Pull the barbell toward your abdomen by driving your elbows up and back, squeezing your shoulder blades together behind you. Pause for a moment before slowly lowering the barbell back to the starting position, keeping your arms straight with unlocked elbows.
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