This is a great exercise for working the small, detailed muscles of the upper back that get easily overwhelmed when using heavier weights on rows and pulldowns. This positioning allows you to really put great focus on those smaller muscles.
If you have trouble with your shoulders pulling/hunching forward, DO THIS EXERCISE. It directly targets those postural muscles that help pull things back into alignment.
You’ll set an incline bench under and a little back from a high pulley. Use a wide grip handle and a light weight on the machine – this is all about FEEL, not lifting heavy.
Grab the bar with a wide grip then sit on the bench.
The MOST important thing here is that only your butt and the BACK OF YOUR HEAD will be on the bench. Your entire back and your shoulders should be OFF the bench.
Because as you pull the bar down towards your chest, you’re going to be using the back of your head as the base to push your chest towards the bar at the same time.
So as you pull down and the bar meets your chest, hold the bar there then focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together HARD. Remember, this exercise is all about feel – the idea here is to take the BIG muscles out of it and just focus on using the smaller ones (like the teres minor and major, rhomboids, middle traps, etc) rather than the lats. Pulling your shoulder blades in while keep your elbows out wide and forcing your chest out will do this.
Repeat this for high reps. Since you’re going to be using light weight (that’s mandatory!), you’ll need the high reps to get a good training effect. Using heavier weight will force your body to recruit the lats to a greater extent, which is what we want to avoid with this exercise.
As I mentioned above, it’s excellent for the postural muscles that pull your shoulders back into alignment. It’s also GREAT for developing the detailed muscles of your upper back that don’t get worked effectively with heavier training.
Just remember…NO BACK ON THE BENCH…just the back of your head and your butt…that’s it.
Nick Nilsson is known in the fitness industry as the “Mad Scientist of Muscle,” and for good reason! For more than 28 years, Nick has been creating unique, new exercises and training techniques and putting together some of the most innovative muscle-building and fat-loss programs available anywhere.
I like it, especially since the cervical extensors are involved, but not overloaded like they are in a lot of exercises that target them. I always feel like they're a weak point for most people, especially in heavy rowing. Great stuff!