In strength training, many people fall into the trap of going through the motions, complacency of movements or forcing out endless amounts of work. Firstly, muscles do not recognise numbers (the mythical magic of “10” repetitions) only intensities; secondly, there’s no magic exercise that will put tone, thickness or definition into an individual’s muscular condition.
Every trip to the weights area in the fitness gym should be perceived as an opportunity to stimulate the body for a desired reaction or adaptation – planning can more than double the efficiency of the workout.
The energy the body has is incredibly valuable, especially to those planning on improving muscle tone, mass or condition. It is because of this that exercises should be performed as efficiently as possible to prevent any wasted energy. What I mean by this statement is that energy lost during training will have to be replaced and more in order to make muscular gains.
With this in mind, we’ll take the Latissimus Dorsi muscle of the back and break down point by point how the technique used can be slightly adjusted to improve the efficiency of the exercise and ultimately, your results.
We’ll look at the Lateral Pull Down exercise first:
Conventionally, you take a grip of the bar at a sometimes-random width, take a seat, and pull down to the chest. Some may use a back swing or other momentum generating technique to get the bar down thinking that it’s the movement of the bar that results in a ‘good’ set. NOT TRUE.
Think about the muscle you are trying to work and it’s primary movements (adducting the upper-arm);
Set up – take a grip very slightly wider than the span from elbow to elbow when lifted to shoulder height (some prefer a hook grip but that’s optional). Sit into the machine and lean back very slightly while keeping the spine in its natural curve so you don’t hit your-self with the bar as you pull down, then;
“Unshrug” the shoulders to help engage the back muscles. Focus on pulling ‘elbows’ down and not the bar to place emphasis on using the back muscles and not the shoulder and arm muscles and concentrating on muscle doing the work – no momentum (momentum will only take over
work from the muscle – inefficient as the goal is to stimulate the muscle and not “practice the movement” Lift chest to meet the bar as you
pull down to complete as big a range of movement as possible and to force a more efficient isometric “squeeze” Push out (activate triceps) as if
trying to pull the bar into two – activating the triceps will switch off the antagonist (biceps) and push the load being used onto the back muscles for the more productive eccentric phase of the movement
- Resist on way up to benefit from the most productive part of the exercise
- Try to perform the exercise at a 4-2-4-2 tempo (eccentric-isometric-concentric-pause) to prevent momentum and maximum muscular activation
- Aim to fail by 6 repetitions for strength, fail between 8 and 12 repetitions for hypertrophy and after 20 repetitions for muscular endurance