Upper Pull and Abs

Upper Pull and Abs

Training Notes:

A: This can be machine or cables. If machine, use a supinated or neutral grip. If cables, rotate from pronated to neutral through the concentric. If you're using an isolateral machine or dual cables, use your off arm (non working side) to stabilize by holding the other handle and allowing for a loaded stretch of that lat. The goal here is to contract the lats hard and really feel them working so adjust your angle and/or setup to accommodate this.

B: Aim to keep your torso angle consistent throughout the row. Try not to use too much momentum from your hips and instead perform strict reps. Touch your sternum with the bar at the top of the rep and allow the weight to fully settle on the ground before the concentric. Control the eccentric and don't allow the weight to just drop. 

C1: Use a rope or long strap attachment so you can get more shoulder extension at the bottom of the range of motion. Maintain control and focus on getting lats as short and contracted as possible. Adjust your distance from the cables as needed to find the best angle for your lats. 

C2: Focus on getting a full stretch through the lats after trying to get them fully contracted in C1. Keep the eccentric very controlled and make sure to not force the range of motion. Only bring the DB to eye level on the concentric in order to keep the tension in the lats and not allow the pecs to take over.

D: Use a load that would be about your 20 rep max here. Use your off arm to brace yourself and try to maintain a ~30º torso angle. Push as far as you can and go to technical failure. Do your best to not "cheat" by rotating through your torso. Start on your weaker side then match reps on the other side after a full rest period. 

E: This can also be done on a machine or with cables. Control the eccentric carefully and make sure to NOT get a full extension at the bottom of the range of motion. Leave a slight bend in the elbow at the bottom before shifting back into the concentric to protect your biceps. Take rest as needed between arms and make sure to keep your triceps pressed into the pad the whole set.

F1: Use functional trainer and individual handles. Walk out far enough in order to get a full stretch through your biceps when standing tall and in the resting position. Pay close attention to tempo and try not to perform shoulder flexion as you curl. Keep chest "up" and shoulders back to focus on the stretch and lengthening of the biceps. Take the last set to failure.

F2: Maintain a neutral pelvis throughout. Try to get full extension on these if possible and really control the eccentric. Don't push the range of motion if doing so forces your low back into hyperextension.

Goals of this session:

This is going to be a very straightforward overloading session. We're going to be working in traditional "hypertrophy" rep ranges for the majority of the sets, and outside of the C1 and C2 superset, load should be a primary factor in driving the intensity. There is a heavy emphasis on the lats and mid back, so we want to make sure the execution on all rows and pulldown/pullover movements is perfect and aligned with intents.

Warm-up recommendations:

-5-10 minutes of steady state cardio such as incline walking, elliptical, rowing, or ski erg

-Soft tissue manipulation in the form of 3-5 min of light foam rolling the low back, mid-back, lats, and teres major. More specific work can be done using a small lacrosse ball (or something similar) and working through bound up tissue in the pecs, rear delts and scapular region.

-Specific mobility with light deficit yoga pushups, supinated band pull-aparts, and rolling planks from forearms.


Common exercise modifications:

Single Arm Pulldowns- Half Kneeling Single Arm Cable Pulldowns, Single Arm Braced High Cable Rows, Supinated Pulldowns, Neutral Assisted Pullups

Pendlay Rows- Bent Over Pronated Barbell Rows, Bent Over Pronated Smith Rows, Bent Over DB Rows, Bent Over Pronated Tbar Rows

Kneeling Cable Pullovers- Machine Pullover, Standing Cable Pullovers, Neutral Pulldowns

DB Pullovers- EZ Bar Pullovers, Supine Cable Pullovers

Single Arm DB Rows- Single Arm Seated Low Cable Rows, Single Arm Step Back Neutral Hammer Rows, Meadows Rows, Single Arm Neutral Chest Supported Machine Rows

Single Arm DB Preacher Curls- DB Spider Curls, Concentration Curls, Single Arm High Cable Curls, Preacher Curls (bilateral)
Away Facing Low Cable Curls- Incline Supinated DB Curls, Away Facing EZ Cable Curls, Alternating DB Curls

Ab Wheel Rollouts- Band Assisted Ab Wheel Rollouts, Swiss Ball Body Saws, Swiss Ball Pikes, TRX Standing Ab Rollouts, Planks

Common program modifications:

Advanced trainees- Increase volume of B by adding a working set. Increase intensity by pushing A to 1RIR and then taking the last to technical failure, take each set of C1 to failure, perform D as a Rest Pause set with ~15RM, and take each set of F1 to failure. 

Intermediate trainees- Keep the program as is

Beginner trainees- Change D to 3x8-12. Remove C2 and F1 and instead perform D1 and F2 by themselves with full rest between sets. Reduce intensity of B to 3RIR, D to 3RIR, E to 3RIR, and F2 to 3RIR. It might be a good idea to change B to a Bent Over DB Row or chest supported row variant. F2 might need to be modified to plank or regressed ab rollout variant.

Male trainees- Longer rest between sets and more feeders before working sets on B and D. Volume may need to be decreased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (stronger trainees may need less working sets).

Female trainees- Shorter rest between working sets and less feeders/warmup sets will generally be needed. Add a set to C1 and C2 and potentially D as needed. E can be exchanged out for an upright row or rear delt variant. Volume may need to be increased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (better conditioned trainees may need more working sets).

Common injury modifications:

Low Back- If supporting load (like with B) is problematic, shift over to a chest supported variation to allow for rowing to be the primary focus. If anti-extension (like with F2) is problematic, begin with a plank variation that is less dynamic and requires less stability from the abs/core. F2 can also be modified to birddog and/or deadbug variants. 

Shoulders- The deep stretch of C2 can often be a bit stressful for those with restricted shoulder flexion or bound up thoracic mobility. In this case, it's a better idea to move to another pulldown or pullover variant that can bias the stretch in another angle or pattern. This can be the same problem for F2. I would also recommend performing Tspine mobility work such as a Preacher stretch.

Elbows- Heavy rows and curls can sometimes start to aggravate the elbows through overuse of the surrounding muscles (namely the brachioradialis and biceps brachii). Different from extension based elbow pain, discomfort from flexion or pulling can generally be alleviated through execution and/or grip changes. Outside of the typical soft tissue work on the forearms with a KB or another instrument, switch the grip to neutral on all rows, pulldowns, and curls and favor movements that don't require elbow flexion past 90º. 

Wrists- The supination in pulling and curls can be an issue for the soft tissues of the wrist especially if the trainee doesn't have the natural mobility to get into that position and is forcing it. Wrist wraps will not work here either so the solution is similar to the elbow issues; shift the grips to neutral for a while to take pressure off the wrists. Additionally, direct pronation and supination work can be added into a warmup routine to strengthen those tissues and potentially avoid further injury.

Additional notes:

The main movements that we're going to be looking to progress within this session are B and D. B should be very focused on building volume load over time with very strict execution while D should be all about slowly adding either load or reps each bout and allowing some room "controlled cheating" as intensities increase. The direct lat work (A, C1 and C2) should be kept within moderate and controlled intensities in order to ensure that the intent is never accidentally altered while chasing load and/or reps. In this case, the mind-muscle connection and time-under-tension will be much more important. The biceps movements will be difficult to progressively overload due to the absolute loads being used but intensity techniques can be used a bit more liberally (for intermediate and advanced) in order to continue the progression and prevent staleness. The variations can also be substituted more frequently.

As was mentioned above, the biceps volume in this program is a bit high and can be distributed into more rear delt work if needed. Likewise, more ab volume can be added in the form of direct ab flexion work. 

As a last principle, make sure to wear lifting straps on all heavy rows and pulldowns/pull-ups so your grip strength is never the limiting factor.

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