I've been asked where I learned so much about bodybuilding training and nutrition over the years. Sure, I spent a few years hitting the books in college, but for the most part I've just been around some of the smartest people in the industry, editing their writing and working with them to create compelling training articles.

When you interview physique athletes who have enjoyed great success in the gym, you're bound to find novel approaches. Recently, I interviewed six Team Bodybuilding.com athletes with a specific goal in mind: to have them each go beyond the obvious and give me a really unusual back exercise. Not just unusual for the sake of being unusual, either. I wanted moves that are highly effective as well.

Try their suggestions on back day when your stale routine could use a few far-from-ordinary movements!

1. Single-Arm Rotational Pull-Down

Courtesy of Lee Constantinou

About This Move: This exercise can be done seated on a lat pull-down machine or from a kneeling position using an upper cable. Because it's done one arm at a time, it really isolates the lats, especially the lower part.

Using a single handle to perform this exercise allows you to add some rotation into the movement. Going from palm-down to neutral as you pull allows you to better stretch your lats and slightly extend the range of motion over what you could do with a bar.

How To Do A Single-Arm Rotational Pull-Down: Lee Constantinou

Key Training Tips

  • Use a manageable weight. Feel every inch of the rep, pause at the bottom, and squeeze your lat to fully engage the muscle.
  • Keep your hips and shoulders square, and avoid swinging.
  • I like to do this exercise before my heavy multijoint exercises to get some blood into my lats and fire up my mind-muscle connection. However, it works just as well as a finisher to pump up your lats after a heavy workout.
  • Go for 3 sets of 15 reps, alternating arms and keeping your rest to 30-45 seconds between sets.

2. Single-Arm Reverse-Grip Straight-Arm Pull-Down

Courtesy of Lee Constantinou

About This Move: You may be familiar with the straight-arm pull-down, but this variation is done one arm at a time with an underhand grip. With your elbow leading the way and staying close to your side, your lower lats will be completely pumped. You'll also get a longer range of motion using the single handle than you would using a lat bar.

How To Do A Single-Arm Reverse-Grip Straight-Arm Pull-Down: Lee Constantinou

Key Training Tips

  • Keep your hips and shoulders square throughout this exercise.
  • Remember not to extend your elbow; keep your arm locked in a slightly bent position throughout the move.
  • Use this as a pre-exhaust on back day, before multijoint exercises like barbell rows; or at the end of your back session.
  • Do 2-3 sets of 20 reps per side.

3. Renegade Row Push-Up

Courtesy of Kathleen Tesori

About This Move: This total-body movement works back, chest, rear delts, triceps, and core. Tesori uses it at the beginning of her workout as a warm-up for the heavier work to follow.

How To Do A Renegade Row Push-Up: Kathleen Tesori

Key Training Tips

  • Keep your body square to the floor. Your upper body and hips will want to rotate as you row, but don't allow them to turn.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart for better balance, and keep your core tight and engaged.
  • If you're new to this move, try a few sets (including the row) without any weights. Once you feel comfortable with the movement, add the dumbbells.

4. Decline Cable Rope Pull-Over

Courtesy of Zane Hadzick

About This Move: This is a fairly uncommon exercise that's similar to a straight-arm pull-down. It's an effective single-joint movement that's useful for pumping your lats at the end of your back workout. The decline bench puts the lats under tension longer than if you used a flat bench. While this movement can also be done with a dumbbell, the cable provides constant tension on the muscle throughout the range of motion.

How To Do A Decline Cable Rope Pull-Over: Zane Hadzick

Key Training Tips

  • Set the bench far enough away from the stack so that the weight doesn't bottom out as you lower it.
  • The motion is a wide arc. Your elbows should remain locked in a slightly bent position throughout the move, so don't extend them. Take the motion as far as you can toward your knees.

5. Variation: Lying Cable Pull-Over

Courtesy of Boás Henrique Oliveira

About This Move: This version also uses a cable, but it's done with a different bench and handle than the decline cable rope pull-over. The lat bar allows for a very wide grip, but it's still done in a very wide arc as a single-joint movement.

How To Do A Lying Cable Pull-Over: Boas Henrique Oliveira

Key Training Tip

  • Bring the bar way back for a great stretch, then really squeeze your lats at the point of peak contraction.
  • This exercise can be used to warm up your lats or as a finisher to take everything out of you after a heavy back workout.
  • Try 5 sets of 12 reps as your last exercise on back day.

6. Rack Pull

Courtesy of Brooke Dragon

About This Move: This is essentially the upper half of a deadlift. This will get you warmed up and ready to perform a full deadlift. With this shortened version, you pull entirely with your back and minimally from your legs because of the elevated starting position of the bar.

How To Do A Rack Pull: Brooke Dragon

Key Training Tips

  • Use an alternating grip, the way you would with a deadlift.
  • The key to this movement is to keep a flat back and squeeze, just as you would at the top of a deadlift.
  • Keep the bar close to your thighs, and keep leg movement to a minimum.
  • Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

7. Bent-Over V-Grip Cable Row

Courtesy of Raynor Whitcombe

About This Move: This is an exercise Whitcombe modified to really fire-up the upper lats. It's sort of like a seated cable row, except you're bent over, not seated; the angle of pull is coming more from above rather than perpendicular to your body. He gets a full lat stretch as well as a great contraction, but what he really loves about this movement is that it engages the core muscles to maintain correct form.

You can also do it with an underhand or overhand grip for further variety. It's really about hitting a muscle from all angles to get the most benefit.

How To Do A Bent-Over V-Grip Cable Row: Raynor Whitcombe

Key Training Tips

  • Keep your back parallel to the floor so that you're stretching your lats, almost as if you're doing a pull-down.
  • Grip the bar lightly so that you don't engage your forearms and biceps too much during the pull.
  • As with many multijoint back movements, lead with your elbows. Always contract hard at the point of peak contraction, squeezing the muscle for a count.

About the Author

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger, MA, has served as a senior content editor for Bodybuilding.com and group editorial director with MuscleMag and Reps magazines.

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