By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
Develop Your LOWER BACK with Cable Pull Thrusts
Q: I do all my training at our local gym here in town. It has all the usual stale equipment like the cable cross over machine, hyper extension bench, leg curl machines and what not. I want to develop a strong lower back but to be honest with you I am burned out on doing deadlifts and hyper extensions all the time. Do you have any novel idea’s for developing the lower back?
A: Yeah as a matter of fact I do have a novel idea for the development of the lower back and it involves the use of the cable cross over unit believe it or not. The exercise I am going to describe is called “Cable Pull Thrusts” and has been popularized over the years by Louie Simmons and the powerlifters at the Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio as an assist movement for garnering more strength in the lower back. The exercise goes like this.
Begin by attaching a triceps rope to one of the (base floor pulley) cable stations on the cable-cross over unit. Next, select a weight stack poundage that you will be using for a pre-determined number of reps. Now turn around with your back toward the pulley cable.
Assume a shoulder width foot stance and bend your upper torso forward from vertical (taking care to keep the lower back flat or slightly arched) so that you can reach down between your legs (kind of like the posture if you were going to hike a football) and firmly grasp each end of the triceps rope (palms of the hands should face each other and the arms slightly bent).
Make sure that the cable is taut (you will have to adjust your distance from the floor pulley) as this will allow you to support the weight stack throughout the full range of the exercise motion.
Now it’s just a matter of pulling on the rope and bringing your upper torso to an upright position. If you do this correctly your hands will be positioned near your groin (it will mimic the lockout of a sumo deadlift where the arms are inside the thighs).
Reverse the movement just described and allow the triceps rope to travel between your legs past your heels as far as possible. Repeat for the desired reps.
Some Points to Remember:
- Keep a very slight bend at the elbow joints meaning that you never lock-out or straighten the arms.
- You can do this exercise with the knees locked (emphasizes the lower back involvement) or with a “soft” knee bend (initiates gluteal involvement). Even though you are after more back development you may want to switch from a locked to soft knee position from workout to workout for variety sake.
Regular Sets, Plus Fast Doubles
Q: I am always looking for a way to get a Super Pump in all the muscle groups whenever I happen to train them. Do you have an idea’s along this line?
A: Here is a great method to try that works for most exercises:
Sometimes you can do what is called Regular Sets, Plus Fast Doubles. This is done on the last rep of a set.
Barbell Curls – when you complete the last repetition of a set, put the barbell down. Rest about 3-10 seconds and then do two more repetitions, rest for another 3-10 secs and do two more additional reps, rest again for 3-10 secs and complete a final two reps.
This is usually performed within the confines of the last rep of the last couple of sets of a select exercise. It makes for a terrific burnout technique as well as you can imagine.
If there is a secret when doing the ‘Fast Doubles’, it is in the 3-10 second rest-pauses. It is these rest-pauses which allow a 50-56% recovery of the involved localized muscle (in this case the biceps).
Learn How to Train it RIGHT for Maximum Mass, Power and Strength
Guest Article By Nick Nilsson
I’ll start off by getting this right out in the open…if you don’t train your back and train it hard, you’re an idiot. And I’ll tell you why…
You see, back training is one of THE most neglected aspects of training that, when done properly, can actually have the BIGGEST impact on your overall strength and muscle development. Quite honestly, if you’re not training your back with maximum effort, you will NEVER achieve the strength or physique goals you’re looking for. It just won’t happen.
Do NOT neglect your back…and here’s why…
Want a bigger bench press? Train your back.
You need a strong back to provide a solid platform from which to press. You can’t press big weights if your back caves in the moment you try and lift heavy. And the thicker your back is, the shorter the range of motion you’ll have to press the bar through, which will immediately increase your numbers.
Want a physique that doesn’t disappear into two dimensions when you turn sideways? Train your back.
Nothing looks worse than a guy with a massive chest and arms with a hunched-forward posture and the back development of a little girl. I can promise this will get you no respect. When you’ve got a great back and a balanced physique, you will stand out beyond 99% of the people and 95% of the people who train in most gyms.
Want to BE as strong as you LOOK or LOOK even stronger than you ARE? Train your back.
A wide, thick back conveys power and strength. It shows that you have put in the time to develop your physique properly and that you are for real. Anybody who has been around strength training for any good length of time will tell you…the back is what separates the men from the boys.
Want to have more fun in the gym? Train your back.
There are tremendous numbers of exercises and techniques you can use for training your back. There are so many angles and options available to you with back training, you will NEVER get bored in the gym. And once you learn some of these variations and techniques, you’ll find your enthusiasm for training will skyrocket!
So why do people neglect back training?
There are a few reasons…
First, it’s hard. The muscles of the back require heavy weight and plenty of effort. Because you’re reading this via Mike Westerdal of Critical Bench, I KNOW you’re not afraid of hard work. So scratch that off the list for you.
Second, the back is not a “mirror” muscle. You can’t see it when you’re training it like you can with the biceps and the chest (depending on the exercises you use). To me, that’s the worst excuse in the book, so don’t let me ever catch you focusing only on the stuff you can see while leaving the back of your body to shrivel up into nothing.
Third, it can be difficult to feel the muscles of the back working and firing properly. The biceps and the shoulders can very easily take over many movements that should be working the back. Now we’re getting into a somewhat more legitimate reason. Once you receive proper instruction on how to fire the back muscles and how to put your body into the proper positions to force them to activate, that excuse goes away.
Fourth, you may not know the most effective exercises to work the back with…and believe me, there are a LOT.
You probably know the standard back exercises already…cable rows, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, pulldowns, chin-ups, pull-ups and deadlifts.
And these are all great exercises…don’t get me wrong. They’re also just barely scratching the surface of an INCREDIBLE number of variations of these basic movements that are available to you IF you know where to find them.
I’m talking about exercises that develop thickness in the upper back far beyond what you can achieve with normal rowing because you’ll be able to use almost DOUBLE the amount of weight. Or a pull-up that targets the extreme outer lat fibers so strongly it’ll feel like your lats are going to rip as you’re doing it (they won’t, of course, but that extreme tension is incredibly good for developing wider lats).
How about a breathing technique that instantly locks in your lats during ANY back movement. I’ll tell you right now, if you’re breathing wrong when you’re training your back, you will NEVER get full development (and it’s very simple…you have to breathe BACKWARDS when training your back…inhaling on the pull and exhaling on the lowering phase. The normal breathing pattern of exhaling on the exertion will collapse your chest and relax your lats just when you’re trying to activate them!).
The bottom line is this…the back is one of THE single most important muscle groups in your body. If you’re not training it hard or you’re not training it properly and with effective exercises, you’re seriously shortchanging yourself and the results you’re truly capable of getting.
Now, if you’re interested in checking out some very unique back exercises and techniques and really taking your strength and physique to the next level, I’ve got a great recommendation for you. I’ve recently put together a book containing 145 of my BEST back exercises…these are my most unique and most INSANE back exercises that will ATTACK your back from every angle.
They will give you the back you WANT and the back you truly NEED.