The Little Black Book of Back Exercises

July 31, 2012

By Bill Geiger, MA + Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS Back day usually means rows and pulldowns, but all too often they’re the same movements you did not just last week, but last month and last year. No wonder your shirts still fit! If it’s time to goose your back training, then you’ve come to the right place because our Black Book contains hidden gems and insider’s tips and secrets that’ll turn each of these six exercises into powerhouse movements. What makes each a major mass builder is that they’re distinct variations of movements you’re probably already doing but with changes on how they’re done. Stimulate your lats in new ways and they have no choice but to grow!

Decline Dumbbell Pullover


The decline position places more focus on the lats (vs. the flat-bench pullover) and reduces the degree of stress on the chest. The decline also allows for a greater range of motion and time under tension on the lats.


Lower lats


Because it’s a single-joint exercise, do it last in your workout after all your rows and pulldowns. Do 3 sets of 10–15 reps.


Straight-arm pulldown, decline-cable pullover


Here’s one where holding and squeezing at the point of peak contraction really makes a difference. Hold the top position on the last rep for a full 5 seconds.


Set the decline bench to about 45 degrees and have the dumbbell ready on the floor.


Lie faceup on the bench with your body fully supported from your head to your hips, with your knees bent and feet anchored in place.


Have a partner hand you the dumbbell (or grab it off the floor beside the bench). Place both palms flush against the inner portion of the dumbbell and extend your arms to hold it straight up toward the ceiling.


Your elbows should be unlocked while keeping your arms as straight at possible.


Keeping your arms as straight as possible, lower the dumbbell back and toward the floor behind your head. Feel a deep stretch in your lats. Control the weight so that it doesn’t bump against the floor. Squeeze your lats to reverse direction, pulling the weight up and over your face toward your quads. *Excerpted from the September issue of MuscleMag – now on sale!