Tip: A Simple Trick for Building a Bigger Back

Pull like this to feel your back working like never before.


"Rip the Handles Apart!"

This is a cue you probably don't hear in many commercial gyms. It's a good one, and trust me, the equipment can take it.

Your traps and rhomboids, on the other hand, might need some help in order to be up for the challenge. If you have trouble feeling your back working, then you'll want to try this exercise with that cue in mind.

You're going to imagine ripping apart the cable attachments on your pulldowns and rows. This'll only work with cable attachments that allow a neutral grip, such as your standard seated row handle or a few single-handle attachments. A dual rope attachment will also work.

So what's the deal with "ripping the handles apart" anyway? It will take tension away from your biceps and provide some extra back stimulation. You'll notice less elbow flexion and more of an outward elbow flare when doing these. That means more traps and rhomboids and less biceps.

Grab the handles and initiate by driving your elbows in the direction you want to go: vertical, horizontal, or upright rowing actions all work.

Speaking of rowing, now try this:

Don't lock down your scapula; instead let them do their thing and move naturally. The direction you pull will determine how your scapula move, so as long as you finish each rep with them fully engaged, it's all good.

Because of the lack of elbow flexion and the width of your grip, you may find yourself finishing pulls a little short. That's fine, just don't screw it up by thinking you need to get your thumbs all the way to your armpits on every rep. Pulling further than your structure allows will cause your biceps and shoulder internal rotators to get too involved. Basically, just stop short.

There are two ways you could do them:

  1. Just use the same set and rep scheme you're working with right now and sub these in for your regular pulldowns... then expect some crazy back DOMS the next day.
  2. Use them to wake up your back at the start of a workout. These will help you isolate and actually feel the muscles of your back working... which means you'll have a more productive session with standard rows and pulls. Start with 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Remember the cue to help you find your forgotten traps and rhomboids. Getting your mind in those muscles will make you better able to stimulate them through some high-tension exercises later on.

Gareth Sapstead is a leading strength and physique coach from the UK. He specializes in problem solving and breakthrough training techniques.

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