It's back day and, so far, it's one of your best workouts ever. You've done your heavy bent-over rows, T-bar rows, and weighted pull-ups, putting up record weights and even pulling out an extra rep or two. You need one last exercise to finish off your lats and mid-back muscles with a monster pump. But what to choose?
Conventional wisdom dictates that you do a single-joint movement after all of those heavy multijoint exercises, but there aren't a lot of choices when it comes to back day. Some variation of the straight-arm pull-down is on tap, but that's nothing extraordinary.
So let's find a way to goose it and create a finishing move for back day that'll ensure you've literally exhausted every last muscle fiber. Up for the challenge?
Pro Pull-over Tips
Pullovers done on a flat bench work both the chest and lats, though over different portions of the arc. Incline pullovers target the pecs; decline pullovers are better for emphasizing the lats.
Straight-arm pull-downs are standard fare for finishing off a back workout because they're one of the few single-joint movements for the back. They also hit the lower lat fibers especially well. But since you've probably done them dozens and dozens of times before, why not find a variation you've likely never tried?
Think of the movement arc of the straight-arm pull-down: Does it remind you of any other exercise? If you said dumbbell pullover, you're getting warm. For a great finishing move, use a decline bench—now that's the arc you want.
Doing dumbbell pullovers on a decline bench is a great substitute for the straight-arm pull-down because, in both cases, the emphasis on the lats is greatest as your hands approach your thighs.
While that's a great way to hit your lats in a slightly different manner, let's not stop there. To get the monster pump we're looking for, let's add on a slightly higher-rep rowing motion.
Since you're supersetting—that is, doing two exercises back-to-back with no rest in between—it should be a fairly simple row in which you can pound out the reps, even when your lats are begging to quit. The standing low-cable row is a great choice.
Just attach a close- or moderate-grip handle to the low pulley. Keep your knees bent so that you're better able to maintain your balance as your center of gravity changes during the pull.
It's also easy to use a bit of momentum when fatigue starts to kick in. We're not just ending the set when the going gets tough; we're going to introduce a bit of body English to extend the set.
Don't Stop When It Starts Hurting
Here's how the superset works:
Your Monster Back Superset
- Decline Dumbbell Pull-over
- Standing Low-Cable Row
Set a decline bench to a moderate angle and sit squarely atop the unit, with a fairly heavy dumbbell. Position your thumbs around the handle, palms flat against the inner plate.
Now lean back so that your torso is fully supported against the bench, holding the weight directly overhead—your arms should be fully extended with a slight bend in your elbows.
Allow the weight to descend in an arc behind your head, keeping your arms locked in the slightly bent position. You have to control the rate of the descent because you can easily overstretch your shoulder joints.
Reverse the motion by pulling through your lats, raising the weight to a position in which your arms are perpendicular to the floor. Squeeze your lats hard for a full count at the top. If you've chosen the right weight, you should barely be able to reach 10 reps.
On your last rep, extend the weight behind your head and drop it; it should fall harmlessly to the floor (unless you left your iPhone behind the bench, in which case that crack you just heard is gonna cost you). Immediately head over to the lower cable; you should have already attached a medium-grip handle.
- Stand at arm's length from the pulley using a split stance and bend over. As with all free-weight back exercises, maintain a slightly arched back and never allow it to round. In a strong motion, pull the handle into your midsection, squeezing your lats momentarily and then letting the weight pull your arms back to full extension. The weight should never touch down between reps; if it does, you're standing too close.
- With this half of the superset, we're going a little higher-rep so we can flush as much blood into the muscle as possible. Remember, engorging a muscle with blood brings oxygen and nutrients with it, while stretching the fascia (the sheath that encapsulates the muscle fibers). As it becomes increasingly difficult, that's when it's time to introduce a slight rocking motion. With cheat reps, you should reach 17-18 reps total.
- Drop the handle and feel that pump! (Yeah, Arnold was right!) Do two more supersets like this, and we guarantee you that monster pump we promised at the beginning. Don't worry about how much you're lifting; at this point in your workout, you're training by feel.