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Dumbbell Rows

About Dumbbell Rows

Bent over dumbbell rows are one of the best movements for adding lean muscle tissue to the upper back. Similar to the majority of the other back exercises, the movement should be initiated by drawing the shoulder back while keeping the arm straight. Not allowing the arm to bend throughout the first 6-8 inches of the movement will minimize bicep recruitment and isolate the muscles of the upper back. While performing bent over dumbbell rows, it is extremely important that the back stays flat to reduce the risk of spinal injury. A tip for maintaining a flat back is to push the buttocks out (perform a posterior pelvis rotation) prior to beginning the exercise.

Exercise Video

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How To Do Dumbbell Rows

  1. Place the shin of one leg on a flat bench with toe positioned slightly off the end of the bench. If the LEFT leg is resting on the end of the bench, then it should be the LEFT arm that is also positioned around the top of the bench. Taller trainees will tend to place hand further towards the top in order to maintain a position that has the back parallel with the ground.
  2. Grasp a dumbbell with your free hand and allow the weight deliver a back stretch and draw the shoulder forward.
  3. Initiate the movement by retracting the shoulder while keeping the arm straight.
  4. Exhale, flex arm and with elbow positioned under the shoulder, pull the dumbbell up towards the upper rib cage. Hold briefly.
  5. Inhale and lower weight back down to starting position at a controlled speed. Allow the weight to once again deliver a stretch and draw the shoulder slightly forward.
  6. Repeat until desired number of repetitions are completed.

Exercise Variations

When performing bent over dumbbell rows, you can alter the muscle recruitment by switching your arm position. Switching the hand position from a neutral grip to a pronated grip (palm facing away) and drawing the elbow up in alignment with the shoulder will alter the recruitment and place more reliance upon the rhomboids and posterior deltoids. Strengthening the rhomboids has been proven effective in alleviating the upper back pain commonly associated with spending long durations at a desk in front of a computer.

Chin Ups / Pull Ups

About Chin Ups and Pull Ups

From a neurological standpoint, the chin-up/pull-up exercises are far more effective than the lat pulldown exercise for the development of the latissimus dorsi. In terms of functionality, the movement of pulling the body upwards is more practical in everyday life then pulling a bar down towards your chest. Also, because the chin-up/pull-up exercises are classed as closed chain/compound movements, they’re very effective in elevating your body’s natural testosterone levels. Elevated testosterone levels are associated with strength gains, which makes the chin-up/pull-up exercises a great selection to start your workout with. Several variations are made possible all by simply alternating the hand position. By utilizing the slight variations discussed below, you can effectively is target specific muscles. The description below provides instructions on how to execute a wide grip pull up.

Exercise Video

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How To Do Pull Ups

  1. Using a pronated grip, grasp handles with arms at a position wider than shoulder width. The wider your hands, the more difficult the movement to is to perform.
  2. Begin by hanging with arms in full extension and legs flexed at the knees with ankles crossed over one another.
  3. While keeping arms in extended position, initiate movement by moving the scapula into depression.
  4. Flex your arms and pull yourself up until chin reaches bar level. Pause for approximately 1 sec. then lower down in a controlled motion until your arms move back into full extension.
  5. Repeat until the desired number of repetitions are completed.

Pull Up Variations

Narrow/Medium Supinated Grip: Shifting your hands closer together and turning your wrist to a position that has your palm facing towards you will draw optimal recruitment from the biceps and the upper region of the latissimus dorsi. This is a great transition movement to finish off back and move onto bicep training.

V-Bar Width(Neutral):This variation has your palms facing each other positioned approximately 4-6 inches apart. This is the ideal method to draw optimal contraction from the rhomboids and the lower region of the latissimus dorsi. This method is easier to perform than the wide grip version but slightly more difficult than the narrow supinated grip version.

Medium Grip(Neutral): The palms should be facing each other and positioned approximately 22-24 inches apart. This method of execution is effective in minimising joint stress due to the optimal line of pull to the bicep and back muscles.Due to the favourable alignment, your at your greatest strength with this variation and with proper progression, weights can be added.

Combination Chin

This movement is very advanced due to the body awareness required,however, if executed properly, it is very effective because it combines the motions of three different back exercises:

  1. Classical Chin – Beginning phase
  2. Pullover – Legs move forward and body is positioned at 45 degrees
  3. Rowing Motion – Final Phase of movement resembles a row

Since this movement combines the motions of three effective back movements, the combination chin may be the exercise of choice when time is a limiting factor.

Progressions & Spotting Techniques

  1. Assisted Chin Machine – Many fitness facilities are equipped with this machine and since you can manually select the amount of assistance, it is a great choice for beginners and moderately advanced trainees.
  2. Spotter (Both Ankles) – This spotting method has your partner position his hands on the frontal region above the foot while your legs are bent at 90degrees. If assistance is required on exertion, the amount of help is actually manipulated by the trainee by extending legs against spotters hands.
  3. Spotter (One Ankle) – This is a slight progression from the method above. Supporting only one ankle instead of two increases the demand on the trainee and ensures that he works harder to achieve each repetition.
  4. Spotter (Waist) – A “Sticking Point” refers to the most difficult point on the motion. As the trainee is struggling at the sticking point, the spotter then provides assistance by pushing up at the waist.
  5. Adding Resistance – The advanced trainee may come to a point where adding resistance is necessary in order to reach failure at 10-12 repetitions. This can be accomplished by either placing a dumbbell between the ankles or adding barbells to a dip belt.

Lat Pulldowns

About Lat Pulldowns

The lat pulldown exercise is frequently performed incorrectly. From my own personal observations, I would say at least 40% of the gym patrons perform the movement by drawing the bar behind the head. Performing the lat pulldown exercise in this fashion has been shown to increase the risk of cervical disk (neck) herniation as well as increasing the potential to sustain a shoulder related injury due to the added stress placed on the shoulder capsule. The solution is simple; by bringing the bar down to the top of the chest, you can alleviate neck and shoulder stress and maximize the recruitment of the targeted muscle – the latissimus dorsi.

The “to-the-front” method of the lat pulldown exercise allows for full arm extension and increased scapular retraction – both of which will lead to a more effective muscle contraction. People also tend to swing in attempt to draw momentum for assistance. If you find yourself needing to do this, simply lighten the weight and perhaps find a different way to impress the ladies in the gym. Because honestly, this way isn’t working anyway 🙂

Lat Pulldown Video

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Exercise Instructions

  1. Grasp bar using a wide overhand grip. Using your bodyweight to pull the bar down, sit with thighs under padding and position feet flat on the floor.
  2. Arch torso and slightly lean back.
  3. Exhale and initiate movement by depressing your elevated shoulders while keeping the arms straight. Once shoulders are lowered, continue movement by bending arms and pulling the bar towards the top of the chest. Pause briefly.
  4. Inhale and lower back down to starting position at a controlled speed. Ensure that you achieve full arm extension and shoulder elevation with every repetition.
  5. Repeat until the desired number of repetitions are completed.

Exercise Variations

Performing the lat pulldown exercise with shoulder width/underhand grip will draw additional recruitment from the biceps as well as the muscles down the centre of the back.

Seated Rows

About Seated Rows

The seated row exercise on the machine is an effective, yet, simple way to strengthen the muscles of the upper back. Since the movement path is pre-determined, the primary focus can be placed on feeling the contraction of the muscles rather than the complex motor movements involved with other back exercises. As with all other rowing exercises, it is important that the movement is initiated by retracting the shoulder blades prior to bending the arms. Doing so will prevent the biceps from alleviating the targeted back muscles from the workload.

Exercise Video

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How To Do Seated Rows

  1. Adjust the seat and chest pad to the appropriate settings and grasp the wide bars with an overhand grip.
  2. Exhale, initiate the movement by drawing the shoulder blades together. Then in a smooth motion, bend the arms and pull the handles back towards the body. The elbows should be in alignment with the shoulders.
  3. Inhale and at a controlled speed, lower back to starting position.
  4. Repeat until the desired number of repetitions are completed.

Exercise Variations

Employing all the same techniques only while using a narrow/neutral hand grip will draw more recruitment from the biceps. This method will also target the upper/center region of the back.

Performing the movement using an underhand grip is the easiest version of the three due to the fact that bicep recruitment is maximized when using this technique.

Here’s a breakdown of the various grips you can use..

Wide/Overhand Grip = Most Difficult
Narrow/Neutral Grip = Medium Difficulty
Narrow/Underground Grip = Easiest

Super setting and alternating between grips is an awesome technique. Start using the hardest grip (wide, overhand) and work your way down to the easiest grip (narrow, underhand).


Seated Reverse Flies


The seated rear delt fly is one of the better back toning exercises. It’s executed using the chest fly machine and is effective in strengthening the posterior deltoid (rear shoulder) and the muscles of the upper back region. Its action is similar to that of the bent over dumbbell reverse fly only the seated version allows the trainee to place his/her primary focus on the actual muscle contraction rather then the path of movement. Due to the reduced movement complexity, the seated version is an ideal option for those who are in the beginning phases of their exercise programs.


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  1. Sit in a position that has you facing the padding on the chest fly machine. Adjust the handles and weight stack to your desired settings.
  2. Grasp the side handles using a grip that has your palms facing the ground.
  3. Exhale and while maintaining only a slight bend at the elbows, draw the arms back until your hands move just beyond your shoulders. Hold position briefly.
  4. Inhale and lower back down slowly stopping just shy of the starting position. Doing so will keep the stress on the posterior deltoid.
  5. Repeat until the desired number of repetitions are completed.