Ladies and gentlemen - the day has finally arrived where I get to talk about my favourite group of exercises in this first category of exercises. Today, we are going to get into the muscles that give Michael Phelps such a beautiful back, and help him win all of those gold medals.
Today we are going to talk about how to build a back that will allow you to hoist yourself up during rock climbing and kick ass on Netflix's Ultimate Beast Master. Today is all about the vertical pull muscles. These bad boys of the back are amazing. Although not the largest muscles in the body - shoutout to the gluteus maximus - these muscles have the potential to produce a ton of power and take you to new heights (literally).
Our vertical pull muscles include the latissimus dorsi, the biceps, your rhomboids, your traps, the posterior aspect of your deltoids, the teres muscles, and your infraspinatus. That is quite the squad of muscles, but these are actually, quite often, poorly trained. Think of all of the people you know who can do a proper pull up.
In terms of aesthetics, the biceps certainly get a lot of attention, and many people are performing the lat pull down exercise at the gym, but more often than not, they are not engaged the lats to their full potential. So how do we do that? Keep reading to find out!
The scap pull up is one of the best ways to train your scapula and the surrounding muscles to move they way they should during vertical pulling exercises.
This also trains grip strength, which is a really important thing to develop.
To perform the scap pull up, set yourself up hanging from a bar. You can use the chin-up grip, parallel grip, or full pull up grip (as shown in the image). Allow yourself to hang from the bar. Next, pull your body up by moving the scapula, or shoulder blade, down the back. Try to avoid simply moving the head forward, or pinching the shoulder blades together, the way you did with the horizontal pull exercises. It is a small movement, and takes some practice to fully understand how the movement should feel.
Next up is the assisted pull up. Once you have gotten really good at engaging the lats, and other small muscles that pull the scapula down, you can jump into the assisted pull up.
These machines are great and really allow for you to progress into the pull up well. Unlike other machines where the weight you choose is the resistance you are trying to move, the weight you choose on this machine is how much weight of yours will be lifted by the machine.
I try to get people to start with about 60%-70% of their bodyweight. Then choose the grip you would like to try. Chin up grip is the easiest, with palms facing you. Next is parallel grip, and the hardest is full pull-up grip. Do as many of these as you can going into full extension of the arms (arms straight out), and make note of that so you can push yourself to do more the next week.
For this exercise, get your knees placed directly under your hips and grab the handle bars however your please. Lower yourself down so your arms are fully extended, and then perform a quick scap pull up, followed by your pulling yourself up towards the bar fully. This will ensure maximum lat engagement.
The arms will be used in this exercise as well, but try and make the mind-to-muscle connection to use the large back muscles to get you up.
You can't mention back day without mentioning this heavy hitting exercise. The lat pulldown is a great way to develop the latissimus dorsi muscle. These are the bat wings that I often mention on my instagram.
To perform the lat pull down effectively, grab the bar outside of the bend that most lat pulldown machines have attached to them. Sit yourself down with your hips lined up beneath the bar. Slightly tilt the torso backwards. Make sure you aren't just arching in the back, or tilting the hips backwards.
Once seated in place, put those shoulder blades in the proper position by pulling them down the same way you do in the scap pull up. Once the shoulder blades are in place, you are ready to pull the bar down to the collar bone area. Pulling the bar any lower usually results in the shoulders rounding forward, which is not at all what we want here.
Allow the bar to return to starting position slowly, and then repeat the previous steps.
Many of the exercises that you can do to help develop the muscles required in the vertical pull movement are all some variation of the pull up or lat pull down. Here are just a few:
Now go grow them wings!
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Riri's Discoveries blog documents Riri's most recent research, her travel adventures, and her personal fitness journey.
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