1. Chin-ups: To begin this exercise, reach up to grasp a wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted, or free-standing chin-up bar. Your body should be fully extended beneath the bar. Slowly, from a position of full extension, begin to contract your lats, raising yourself until your hands touch your chest. Hold this fully contracted position for a two-count before lowering yourself slowly, in four seconds, back to the starting position. Repeat for your I.S.R., and when you hit failure in this movement, either have your partner provide enough assistance for you to complete four more reps, or give yourself forced reps by standing on a stool or chair to assist you in
ascending to the fully contracted position. Rest for one minute, and then begin your next back exercise.
2. Dumbbell pull-overs: Grasp a moderately weighted dumbbell in both hands and lie back on a flat bench crosswise so that only your shoulders are touching the bench. Extend the dumbbell beyond your head so that it is almost touching the floor. From this position of full stretch, and with a slight bend in your arms, slowly, with your lats as prime mover, pull the dumbbell over your head to
approximately your sternum. A deliberate pause in this position should precede your lowering the dumbbell back to the starting position in four seconds. Repeat for your I.S.R., and, if possible, have your partner give you two forced reps, followed by two negative reps. Then release the dumbbell, and immediately move to your next exercise.
3. Lat pull-downs: Grab the lat pull-down bar with a palms-under grip, so your arms are fully extended above your head. Slowly contract your lats by pulling the bar down to your chest. Hold this position of full muscular contraction for a two-count before allowing the weight to return in four seconds back to the starting position. Repeat for your I.S.R. After a two-minute rest it will be time for our final lat exercise.
4. Wide- or parallel-grip pull-downs: This exercise will hit the teres minor and infra-spinatus muscles of the upper back, in addition to the latissimus dorsi. If you have a choice between a bar that allows you a parallel grip and one that allows only a wide grip, choose the parallel-grip bar. A parallel grip puts your biceps in a fully supinated position, which is their strongest pulling position; therefore, the biceps are not as much of a weak link to your back training as when you use the pronated grip (which places the biceps in their weakest pulling position) that a wide grip on a regular bar requires.
As in your previous set of pull-downs, grab hold of the bar and sit down. You may need some counterresistance to be applied to your legs to anchor you when the weights
start getting heavy. Pull the bar down to your chest, keeping your elbows pointed out to your sides. Hold the fully contracted position for a two-count before returning the resistance to the starting position in four seconds. Repeat for your I.S.R., and have your partner force out three more reps.
5. Barbell shrugs: Grab a heavy barbell, and straighten your back so that the weight is in front of your thighs. Slowly contract your traps so that your shoulders begin to ascend toward your ears. When the weight has been raised as high as it can go, hold the contraction for a two-count, and then lower the weight slowly, in four seconds, back to the starting position. Repeat for your I.S.R., and then proceed immediately to the following compound movement.
6. Upright barbell rows: Select a moderately weighted barbell, remembering that your strength will be approximately 50 percent less than it would be if you were "fresh," and position your hands so that they are no more than six inches apart. Slowly pull the barbell up toward your chin, keeping your elbows pointed outward. Once you have reached the apex of the bar's ascent, hold the position of full muscular contraction for a definite pause, and then slowly lower the bar, under control, in four seconds back to the starting position. Repeat for your I.S R., and then have your partner help you force out two more reps. Rest for one or two minutes, and then begin your next exercise.
7. Hyperextensions: If you have access to a special hyperextension bench like the one in the accompanying photos, use it. Otherwise, simply lie crosswise over a bench so that your torso is over the edge. Have your partner hold or sit on your legs, or in some other way place resistance on them to counterbalance the weight of your torso. In either case, place a light weight behind your neck, and bend over at the waist. Slowly raise your torso using your erector spinae muscles until you have ascended as high as possible.
At this point you will have activated the greatest percentage of momentarily available muscle fibers, but to ensure that they, and not momentum, are responsible for raising your torso, hold this fully contracted position for a distinct pause before lowering yourself slowly, in four seconds, back to the starting position. Repeat for your I.S.R., and then drop the resistance and perform four more repetitions.
8. Hack squats: This is a tremendous frontal thigh developer, and it shifts the resistance to that too often neglected area of the thigh—the vastus medialis. To begin, lean back under the shoulder pads on the hack squat machine. Now slowly push your legs until they have completely locked out. As in any locked-out position, no resistance is applied to the muscles; do not hold this position, but rather begin an immediate descent as soon as your legs have locked out. Lower yourself slowly, in four seconds, back to the starting position. Repeat for your I.S.R., trying to maintain a constant cadence to your reps.
9. Leg curls: The action of the last exercise was entirely frontal thighs, so we shall now concentrate on working our antagonistic muscles—the biceps femoris, semitendi-nosus, and semimembranosus. Working these antagonistic muscle groups is important; failure to do so will eventually lead to muscle tears, pulls, and other related discomfort due to the disproportionate stress placed on the muscles. Have your partner help you in coaxing four more reps out of your hamstring muscles after you've reached your I.S.R.
10. Seated calf raises: This exercise works primarily your soleus and the outer sweep of the gastrocnemius. To begin, sit at a seated calf machine and place the resistance pads over your knees. Release the
locking mechanism, thereby disengaging the weight, and slowly rise on the balls of your feet until your calves are in a fully contracted position. Pause in this position for a two-count, and then lower the resistance slowly, in four seconds, back down to the starting position. Make sure to really stretch your calves by trying to touch your heels to the ground whenever you lower the resistance. Repeat for your I.S.R.
11. Wide-grip parallel bar dips: Ideally, you should have a V-shaped dipping bar with a base of at least thirty-six inches. If you do not have access to such a bar, try to get as wide a hand spacing as possible on whatever bars or chairs you are using for
your dips. Keeping your elbows pointed outward, slowly lower yourself from an arms-locked position. It should take four seconds for you to reach the bottom position, where your knuckles are as close to your armpits as you can get them (as low as you can possibly stretch). Hold this position for a brief pause, and then, with your elbows still pointed out, push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat for your I.S.R.
12. Standing French presses: Grab an E-Z curl bar and press it overhead. Then, instead of lowering your elbows, keep them stationary and just lower your forearms. The bar should be lowered to a point just below the back of your neck in four seconds, and, with no momentum whatsoever, your triceps should slowly power the bar back to the arms-locked starting position. Repeat for your I.S.R., and then cheat out two more; finally, have your partner give you two negatives.
Always strive to add another repetition to your previous best attempt in this exercise. Once the guide number of repetitions has been reached (your I.S.R.), increase the resistance that you have been using by 5 percent, and aim for the lower guide number of reps again. Remember that all exercises should be performed under control by raising the resistance in two seconds, holding the contracted position for an additional two seconds, and then lowering
the resistance in four seconds back to the starting position.
This workout hits every back muscle there is and has been tried and proven effective. In fact, in an experiment that I
conducted in Canada some years back, one participant gained three inches on his chest-to-waist ratio. So, dig down deep, giving it all you've got, and you will be rewarded with a well-developed back.
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The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.