The training I usually do for most body parts is very high volume training. It was working so far but today a trainer showed me something different that I want to share with you all. That trainer was Jerome “Hollywood” Ferguson and today we trained upper back.
Jerome started off by assessing my back and commenting on where he thought I need more development. He believes I have a good back but can use more width in the upper and lower lats and more thickness in the middle back area to really fill in the gap between the shoulder blades ie: the lower trapezius and rhomboids. I also let Jerome know that I have a disc protrusion injury in my lower back. He tailored the exercises especially for me so that they wouldn’t put pressure on that area and cause further damage.
What he took me through was a workout comprised of four sets of four different exercises. I had never seen some of these exercises before and it really surprised me how specifically they hit certain muscle groups in my back. The workout Jerome had me do was very fast paced, allowing only around thirty seconds rest between sets. Intensity was also very high, as I would go to complete failure on each set and then continue with partial reps. This is very different from what I am used to in my training. Usually I double the amount of total sets but with longer rest periods of typically two minutes. Let me tell you, the difference in the pump I got was amazing!
One of the important points Jerome made about training back is that you should keep the movement flowing all the way through the set instead of pausing between reps. Keeping the movement flowing (without using body momentum mind you) keeps the stress on the back muscles and doesn’t give the biceps and other assisting muscles a chance to kick in and take over the movement as the back muscles fatigue.
From a personality and motivational point of view Jerome was a really fun trainer to work with. I usually train alone or with a training partner and am generally a fairly quiet person. But I found that because of the loud character that Jerome displays in his persona, training with him became a very motivational experience for me.
There was less emphasis on exact reps today and more emphasis on getting a strong, specific contraction in the muscle groups we were targeting, and of course on using correct form. We also included partial reps to failure so it was hard to determine how many actual complete reps I had done. In fact I didn’t even take note of weights today. The most important thing I want everyone to take away from this is the knowledge and technique imparted by Jerome in targeting some specific muscle groups.
Wide grip chins – 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps with bodyweight.
We were working on building width into the lats here so Jerome had me grip the bar as wide as I could. I include wide grip chins regularly in my workouts but not this wide. He had me stretch out all the way at the bottom and keep my chin and chest high throughout the movement to reduce assisting muscle groups getting involved. I really felt this exercise a lot in the upper/outer lats.
Wide grip cable rows – 4 sets of 10 to 14 reps.
Generally I do this exercise to target the middle back. Jerome used a variation where he had me sit on a 60 lb dumbbell on the bench to raise me up higher. I pulled in to my abdomen as far as possible, then came back to the starting position and immediately pulled back explosively towards my abdomen again. As mentioned previously this pumping motion helps to keep the tension on the lats where you want it and off other muscle groups. My lower back was arched and was attempting to pull my chest in towards the bar instead of leaning backwards. I really got a good pump in the lower lats from this one. I think it is also important to note that generally this exercise can be done by leaning forward and arching as you retract your shoulders. The reason I stayed upright was because disc protrusions can exacerbated by bending forward especially against resistance. If anyone out there has a similar injury or is even just a little worried about causing one and wants to be cautious I would advocate trying this static position for the cable row.
Close grip pull downs – 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps
This exercise I usually do by pulling to chest to target my lower lats. Jerome had me do it completely differently and the focus was on the middle back (between the shoulder blades). We started by attaching two separate single handles to the one lat pull down cable. The exercise was performed by pulling the handles not to the chest but towards the face and spreading them at the bottom of the movement while simultaneously keeping the back arched/chest up and contracting the middle back. Another thing of note was to keep the chin up, because by bringing the chin in the shoulders and biceps became too engaged in the movement and we want to keep the stress on the middle back.
Wide grip pull downs – 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
When you think wide grip pull downs you would probably think your traditional seated lat pull down with a wide grip attachment. In fact this was set up and done completely differently to really target the middle back once again. Jerome placed a board on top of the lat pull down seat and leg cushions. I laid down on the board and using a wide grip bar, pulled down to my chest with elbows flared out to the sides. This gave me a great contraction between my shoulder blades and the resulting middle back pump was truly epic. If you want to try this exercise you really need a training partner or someone to help you though because unless you are very heavy you will find it difficult to get the bar down into position. Also you will need someone to press down on your chest so you can stay down rather than pulling yourself up.
Abs and Lower Back
Kneeling cable crunches – stack x 30, stack x 30, stack x 30
Hyperextensions – BW + 25 x 30
We finished up the day with a brief round of bodybuilding posing just for a bit of fun. Keen to see more? Next week, be sure to catch me training chest with Jerome Ferguson.