‘Bodybuilding’ Tips For More Productive Back Workouts Small adjustments can go a long way. Time to optimize your back workouts.

The following bodybuilding tips are meant to answer common question regarding back workouts. People may consider the below information a little too focused on details, but sometimes small adjustment could be deal maker or breaker. Micro is just as important as macro.

I can’t breath when I do heavy chest supported rows? What now?

The chest supported row is a decent exercise that allows you to train your lats and upper back without placing stress on the lower back. This could be quite useful when you want to preserve the strength and power of your lower back for big movements such as squats and deadlifts. The lower back recovers slowly due to the poor blood supply and that’s a good enough reason to take some precautions.

The main problem that people encounter when doing the chest supported row is breathing freely. The exercise requires the lifter to place his chest against a pad and when the weight gets really heavy the chest and the lungs end up being compressed. This makes it really hard to breath, especially when the resistance is challenging and you need the most oxygen. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix and you may need to stop doing the exercise altogether. Below are a few alternatives.

Head Supported Rows

Not many people know that there is another version of the exercise that goes under the name of – head supported row. As you can see in the video the lifter uses an incline bench to support his head. This also reduces the stress on the lower back, albeit not as much as the chest supported row. The good news is that it’s much easier to breath. Make sure there is enough padding for your forehead. Be gentle!

Note: If you are a teenager or have sensitive skin susceptible to acne breakouts,  place a clean towel on the bench. You don’t want to infect your forehead and get pimples all over the place. If you have a big hoodie, you can put it on and pull it over your forehead. Another option would wearing a hat.

Seated One Arm Hammer Strength Machine Rows

While machines are not the best choice, especially for working the shoulders and chest, there are some good options such as the hammer strength rowing machine when it comes to back training. While the seated hammer strength rowing machine also has a chest pad, you can do the exercise while seating in a more upright fashion compared to the classic versions. This reduces the stress on the chest and makes it easier for the ribcage to expand. To make breathing even easier you can perform the exercise with one arm at a time while placing the resting hand on the pad like it’s shown in the video above.

The Classic One Arm Dumbbell Row

Finally, we arrive at a classic back exercise known as the one arm dumbbell row. If you do this exercise on the bench, you will safe your lower back, while avoiding the breathing difficulties caused by the chest supported row.

Which are the best rear delt exercises?

Bulgarian Ring Rows

In general, one of the most effective exercises for the posterior deltoids a.k.a. rear delts are wide grip rows to the upper chest. There are many different ways to do the exercise – you can use dumbbells, cables, barbells, bodyweight…etc.

The requirement is to use a wide grip in order move the stress towards the upper back (mid trapezius, rhomboids, teres major…etc). In order to keep the stress in the same area you need to pull the bar/weight until it touches the mid/upper chest. This will kill your upper back and deltoids faster than you can imagine.

Note: You won’t be able to use a lot of weight since there won’t be as much lat involvement.

One of the best way to do the exercise is with a pair of rings. Under this form the movement is known as Bulgarian rows. Notice how the lifter above  does not let his elbows drop close to the body and pulls high to the chest.

This is a great upper back exercise that will also develop your rear deltoids.

My wrists hurt when I do pull-ups. What now?

Perform Pull-ups With Thumbless Grip

Provided that injury is not the problem you can try doing pull-ups with thumbless grip. When your grab the bar make sure that the thumb does not wrap against the fingers. Keep it on the side of the other four fingers. This will make it easier to properly align your wrist. Another thing you need to do is avoid close grip pull-ups. This version of the exercise can also place the wrist in poor alignment. You don’t want that.

My gym hates when I do deadlifts because I am making too much noise.

Can I perform really slow negatives in order to make the exercise more silence friendly?


Yes and no. When you are doing deadlifts you shouldn’t fight the weight on the way down. This will only tire you and injure your back. Instead you should focus on controlling the weight. However, this may not be a silent option either.

Another way to minimize the sound is using rubber plates with the collars locked tight on both sides of the barbell. This will reduce the clashing between the barbell plates. Also, make sure than when you deadlift you do so in a location where there aren’t a lot of people and you are far from the management of the gym.

Finally, if nothing works you will have three options:

– make the gym staff show you how to put down a heavy barbell without making noise. Hint: He/She will fail hard.

– don’t do deadlifts at all;

– perform rack pulls in a squat rack;

 I can’t feel my lats when I do pull-ups. What now?

Developing a mind muscle connection with your lats is not the easiest task. It will take some time but don’t be frustrated – it’s not rocket science either. One of the tricks you can try is doing pull-ups after pull-overs. The idea is that the pull-over will ‘isolate’ the lats as much as possible and you will able to feel the muscle when you are doing the pull-up much more.

While this pre-exhaustion method is useful the most important thing is to perform the pull-up properly. In order to feel your lats fire during pull-ups follow the these crucial steps:

1. Begin the pull-up from a dead hang.

Note: Each pull-ups start with a scapular pull-up as shown in the video below.

2. After performing a scapular pull-up continue to pull yourself up while trying to push your chest out and arch your back as much as you can. Imagine that your are pulling yourself upwards through your elbows – not the arms.

Note: It’s actually easier to feel your lats when you’re doing chin-ups/neutral grip pull-ups/ring pull-ups compared to regular overhand pull-ups on the straight bar.

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