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  1. #1
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    Programming question on Back development

    Hi,

    This is a "programming" question but let me know if it should be a different sub.

    I've been lifting and reading lifting forums for about 19 years. Over that time the mainstream guidance has changed, so I'm curious what the more modern thinking is now.

    Vertical vs Horizontal pulls ie. Lat pulldowns/pull ups, vs BB Rows, Pendlays, & CG Cable rows.

    I had previously read that Vertical pulls were better for "perceived" Lat Length and Lat width, depending on grip width. I had previously read horizonal pulls were better for back thickness and middle back.

    The last few months I've been prioritizing back early in the workout and I've been prioritizing vertical always before horizontal. I've been doing both.

    I'm really pleased with strength development. My working weights are all up in weight by 125% over 3 months (yay recovery gains).

    I'm pleased with my distal Lat development, upper trap development. (upper Trap development might be more from Snatch work). I'd like to see some better size development in my lower trap, rhomboid, and lower lat development.

    In recent programming reviews I've seen more emphasis on horizontal pulls over vertical. The logic seems to be that both activate the "lat", they seem to invalidate the old thinking on back thickness vs width, and they seem to think horizontal pulls have a higher measurable activation of the lat. For this reason they seem to suggest dropping vertical unless you just need it for functional capability. I noticed this seems to jive with Arnie's old interview recommendation.

    For middle back, rhomboids, and lower trap, is this just a BF issue for me? Would Barbell rows earlier in the workout take care of this for me or is there a better iso lift I should consider?
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  2. #2
    Registered User BeginnerGainz's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by NomadNA View Post
    Hi,

    This is a "programming" question but let me know if it should be a different sub.

    I've been lifting and reading lifting forums for about 19 years. Over that time the mainstream guidance has changed, so I'm curious what the more modern thinking is now.

    Vertical vs Horizontal pulls ie. Lat pulldowns/pull ups, vs BB Rows, Pendlays, & CG Cable rows.

    I had previously read that Vertical pulls were better for "perceived" Lat Length and Lat width, depending on grip width. I had previously read horizonal pulls were better for back thickness and middle back.
    Generally speaking vertical pulls like pulldowns, pull ups, chin ups, pullovers, etc stretch the lat more. Grip can play a factor, a wide grip pull up will require more from the lats to complete the two vs a chin up which will bring more bicep into it to make the rep easier.

    A note on this width vs thickness thing.
    Width=lats
    “Thickness”= everything else. Traps (especially middle traps, rhomboids, rear delts, Teres major

    All pulls will work the external rotators, that is the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and Teres minor. It is best to have a quick pause at the top of each pull when the muscles are contracted.

    The last few months I've been prioritizing back early in the workout and I've been prioritizing vertical always before horizontal. I've been doing both.
    This is generally how I program as well.

    I'm really pleased with strength development. My working weights are all up in weight by 125% over 3 months (yay recovery gains).
    The back is one of those parts that you can use a little body English for some movements. The back is the strongest muscle group of the upper body.

    I'm pleased with my distal Lat development, upper trap development. (upper Trap development might be more from Snatch work). I'd like to see some better size development in my lower trap, rhomboid, and lower lat development.
    garagerat is the man in targeting specific muscles. How ever if your focusing on proper scap movement in each pull, they will take care of themselves. I prefer pullover and close reverse grip pulldowns for the lower part of the lats.

    In recent programming reviews I've seen more emphasis on horizontal pulls over vertical. The logic seems to be that both activate the "lat", they seem to invalidate the old thinking on back thickness vs width, and they seem to think horizontal pulls have a higher measurable activation of the lat. For this reason they seem to suggest dropping vertical unless you just need it for functional capability. I noticed this seems to jive with Arnie's old interview recommendation.
    Depends. A high cable row that stretches the lat will have comparable “activation” of the lat vs say, a lat pull down. Horizontal rows are healthier for the shoulder girdle since they better develop the upper back. Yes they work the lats but not as good as vertical pulls. Conversely, horizontal pulls works the rest of the back better than vertical pulls. Ergo, keep doing both.

    For middle back, rhomboids, and lower trap, is this just a BF issue for me? Would Barbell rows earlier in the workout take care of this for me or is there a better iso lift I should consider?
    Barbell rows are one of the exercises that are better replaced by literally any other kind of row. I like the chest supported row machines and seated cable rows. If you must row with a barbell, you can offset its crappy strength curve by doing them more upright a la Dorian Yates. I worked up to sets of 295 that way and felt it better than the more commonly recommended Pendlay row.

    Shortly, some people will tell you to add facepulls. But if you’re pulling vertically and horizontally, your upper back is getting worked WAY better than any face pull or other dainty “corrective” exercise you can do. This goes double if you’re overhead pressing and locking out, shrugging at the top and giving it a slight pause before the eccentric.
    Last edited by BeginnerGainz; 10-22-2020 at 12:10 PM.
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  3. #3
    Registered User NomadNA's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    Depends. A high cable row that stretches the lat will have comparable “activation” of the lat vs say, a lat pull down. Horizontal rows are healthier for the shoulder girdle since they better develop the upper back. Yes they work the lats but not as good as vertical pulls. Conversely, horizontal pulls works the rest of the back better than vertical pulls. Ergo, keep doing both.

    Barbell rows are one of the exercises that are better replaced by literally any other kind of row. I like the chest supported row machines and seated cable rows. If you must row with a barbell, you can offset its crappy strength curve by doing them more upright a la Dorian Yates. I worked up to sets of 295 that way and felt it better than the more commonly recommended Pendlay row.

    Shortly, some people will tell you to add facepulls. But if you’re pulling vertically and horizontally, your upper back is getting worked WAY better than any face pull or other dainty “corrective” exercise you can do. This goes double if you’re overhead pressing and locking out, shrugging at the top and giving it a slight pause before the eccentric.


    Hmm, I've been intentionally queueing low elbow paths for rows. I'll consider.

    Regarding Pendlays, yeah, I'm finally in alignment on that. Did pendlays for years and didn't get much development out of it except strained S. Erectors that held me back on Squat. Yes my s erectors did grow, but painfully. Recently, I've been doing the upright row based on Arnies recommendation and its feeling more like the "good" type of soreness.

    295...Niiice

    Regarding facepulls, Yeah I was doing FPs earlier this year based on athleanx's stuff. Trying to fix my hunched posture. I Found some new videos though that suggested thoracic Spine stretches are more effective that strength training for hunch correction. Early results are good. I think I'm going to switch FPs to Rev Flys.

    I used to rely on compounds for stability work but I've found that lacking personally. During the COVID gym closures, I used that time to focus on lateral leg stability, abs, and shoulder "health". I think its really helped, legs are much less painful/shaky under load, abs seem to be taking stress off my s erectors on squats (contentious theory), and my deltoids are growing better than past years.
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    Registered User BeginnerGainz's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by NomadNA View Post
    Hmm, I've been intentionally queueing low elbow paths for rows. I'll consider.

    Regarding Pendlays, yeah, I'm finally in alignment on that. Did pendlays for years and didn't get much development out of it except strained S. Erectors that held me back on Squat. Yes my s erectors did grow, but painfully. Recently, I've been doing the upright row based on Arnies recommendation and its feeling more like the "good" type of soreness.

    295...Niiice

    Regarding facepulls, Yeah I was doing FPs earlier this year based on athleanx's stuff. Trying to fix my hunched posture. I Found some new videos though that suggested thoracic Spine stretches are more effective that strength training for hunch correction. Early results are good. I think I'm going to switch FPs to Rev Flys.

    I used to rely on compounds for stability work but I've found that lacking personally. During the COVID gym closures, I used that time to focus on lateral leg stability, abs, and shoulder "health". I think its really helped, legs are much less painful/shaky under load, abs seem to be taking stress off my s erectors on squats (contentious theory), and my deltoids are growing better than past years.
    You sound like you know what you’re doing then. And have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

    Good point you made about thoracic spine mobility. It is usually tight, especially in guys. Dead hangs are good for that, along with dislocates, both of which are part of my upper body warm up.

    I absolutely love reverse flyes and think they are the perfect way to eek out a little more from the upper back, but in a lighter, more targeted fashion.
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  5. #5
    Registered User NomadNA's Avatar
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    Update: think I figured out my issue here. Had a good talk with my lifting coach. I think the issue is a technique issue more than programming, so yeah off-topic for this sub.

    In case curious, I think I've been funadmentally misunderstanding shoulder movement on pulls. In the past I've either kept my shoulder too static (pulled back) or I've let it "rotate" forward which I now think transfer to the rotator cuff instead of the mid back. Instead, I'm going to focus on wide shoulders, and increased scapula range of motion without rotation. Very excited by the "light bulb" moment.

    Depending on how it goes I might be able to reduce the iso lifts as well then.
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  6. #6
    Registered User BeginnerGainz's Avatar
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    A note: I like to keep the upper back arched when I do pulling exercises. Elbows not tucked but not flared either.

    Plus what your coach said
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