If you want your stubborn back to grow, you have to attack it from all angles. And you need to focus more on tension than how much weight to throw around. Try these exercises out.
The eagle pulldown
- Find the cable setup that is most comfortable and best directs the force through your elbows without the elbow twisting or causing pain. Adjust the slope of the bench and the distance to the cables to match this orientation.
- Note the draw angle. It will change the emphasis a little. Narrow cables and a neutral grip aim more at your lats. Wide cables and more like a palm grip will focus more on your Teres Major and improve the width of your upper back.
- Support your chest on the bench, lock yourself in, and don̵
- Bring your elbows down towards your back pockets. Get a hard push on the floor and full stretch when you get back up.
- Make sure the bench slips. To stop this, just throw a few plates on the floor in front of it.
Why these work
Eagle pulldowns are essentially chest-supported lat pulldowns with a wider than usual grip. The wider handle is nicely complemented by the cables as the cables load you in the right direction. This is different from what you would get from an extremely wide grip on normal pulldowns, where the force comes from a different direction.
Because of the direction of force in the cables, you are working on a part of your back that is typically left out in most back exercises. Your bitchy elbows also enjoy the extra freedom of using two cables instead of one rigid bar.
The chest-supported position helps you lock in and focus on the upper back and bib engagement. A prone position on a bench gives your lower back a break. If you want to save your lower back for other exercises – like deadlifts – chest-supported variations are a great way to control the volume of your hips and spine straighteners. And they don’t put as much strain on your CNS.
The spider row
- Position your bench farther back from the cables than you originally thought. The cables should start at the bottom of the stack, but can be adjusted from there depending on the rest of your setup.
- Start the lights and make micro adjustments in the setup whichever feels best. The cable height, the seat spacing and the angle of the bench vary depending on the structure and equipment design.
- The row should be oriented relatively horizontally. The force of the cable should be in a straight line across your elbows – no twisting movements or elbow pain.
- Ride your elbows behind you and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Let your shoulder blades do their thing and slide freely around your rib cage.
- If the angle doesn’t feel right, keep adjusting the setup until it does. You will know when.
Why these work
Rows of spiders are the more horizontal version of the eagle pulldown. Because of the change in cable height and force alignment, these are more useful as an exercise to hit your rhomboids and middle traps.
Just like eagle pulldowns, rows of spiders are chest-supported and more back-friendly than bent-over rows. For more targeted volume for your middle back, you can add rows of spiders to the toolbox.
Eagle pulldowns and spider rows work because they provide an alternative angle to more traditional back workouts. Try using eagle pulldowns for a few weeks instead of regular lat pulldowns.
Seat cable rows are old news! Put a new angle on your horizontal trains using rows of spiders instead. Both work well as secondary exercises. Try sets of 12-15 reps.
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