Q: I am in need of some back width, or more specifically, lat development. I’m following your 3D HIT program listed in the X-traordinary Arms e-book, but I’m not getting a pump, and I have a hard time feeling my back working. Do you guys have any suggestions?
A: The 3D Positions-of-Flexion lat routine in that program is…
Chins (midrange), 1 x 9-12
Dumbbell pullovers (stretch), 1 x 9-12
Rope rows (contracted), 1 x 12-15
One reason you may not be getting a big pump is the last (contracted) exercise, rope rows…
While that exercise puts your lats in the contracted position at the top, your upper arms slightly behind your torso, it’s not a pure contracted-position movement. Why? Because it’s not isolated enough—you use your arms, specifically your biceps, to pull the rope handle into your waist. Yes, you still get your lats into full contraction, but to get there you had to use a lot of arm strength. That can diffuse the continuous-tension effect, especially for trainees who have low neuromuscular efficiency (nerve force) in the lats—they tend to use their arms a lot more than their back muscles.
A substitute exercise we recommend is stiff-arm pulldowns. For these, you stand slightly back away from the pulldown machine and take an overhand shoulder-width grip on the bar. With the bar at eye level and tension on your lats, drive the bar down in an arc, keeping only a slight bend at your elbows, until the bar is just in front of your thighs; then return the bar in an arc back to eye level. Concentrate on keeping tension on your lats throughout the set.
One of the big keys to getting a lagging bodypart to respond is continuous tension and occlusion, or blood-flow blockage. As we’ve noted in our e-books, a number of Japanese and American studies have found that restricting blood flow during exercise, as you do with most contracted-position exercises (think leg extensions), increases strength, muscle stimulation, and anabolic hormones, such as IGF-1 and growth hormone. Scientists at the University of Texas found that occlusion training can activate the TOR signaling pathway, which promotes protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy.
That’s the reason it’s a good plan to finish off every bodypart with a higher-rep continuous tension/occlusion exercise in the 3D HIT program. And in your case, the stiff-arm pulldown should accomplish that better than rope rows for lat pump and development. If you want to take it to the next level, try a drop set on that last exercise to extend the tension time and increase intensity.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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