Rotating Scapula Pulldowns

Let’s talk a minute about equipment. The typical lat pull down bar turns down on the ends. I’ll tell you right now this is the wrong way to make big gains. Here is the secret. The bar has to be thicker than normal bars, so you can get your palm to stick to it rather than pull with your fingers. In order to achieve true lat isolation, you have to get your palms high on the bar. Those 1” bars with the rotating sleeves are all wrong. You definitely don’t want the bar to rotate, any more than you want the bar to turn down on the ends!

The bar should turn up about 10 degrees where most bars turn down…and it should be at least 1.25 inches thick with no rotating sleeve. In fact, a plain old straight bar that’s a little thicker is a lot better than the ones that turn down at the end. You see, in order to get the scapula to go through their full rotation you have to get the little finger side of the hand higher than the thumb side. Otherwise, the scapula doesn’t start in the fully abducted position. Also, you end up working mostly biceps once your grip slips from palms to fingers. That’s why you need the thicker bar and lots of chalk. You can use exactly the same bar for a pull up bar; just get a couple of hooks welded on to it. Then you simply throw the hooks over your normal chin bar.

OK, now that you have the bar in place, you are ready to build some incredible lats through pull ups. Here’s all you have to do. First, grab the bar out where it turns up on the ends, and then let your body hang down completely. Don’t start to raise the body yet. First adduct the scapula. For those of you, like me, who have a hard time remembering, just remember abduct means to take away. So abduction means to move the scapula away from the trunk. Conversely, adduction means to bring the scapula in close to the body. First adduct the scapula. That’s right; bring them in as close to the body as you can. In other words, make yourself as narrow as possible before you even start lifting your body up to the bar. Now, with the elbows held all the way back, arch the upper fody and slowly lift yourself up to the bar. Try to touch your chest to the bar if you can. If you can’t touch the bar, don’t worry about it. Just try to keep the body in an arched position with the scapula held in as tight as possible. Keep the elbows back. Now, right at the top, throw the scapula and the elbows forward.

Remember, if you don’t keep your elbows back, you won’t be able to throw them forward at the top. This is the crucial stage of this exercise. Throwing the elbows forward and the subsequent abduction of the scapula puts the back through its entire range of motion, which in turn causes the lower lats to develop so well. Be sure you don’t lean too far back at the top of the movement or you won’t be able to fully throw your scapula forward.

If you’re having trouble, maybe this will help. Forget all about the scapula. Just think in terms of your lats. Right at the top of the movement, spread your lats as wide as possible. Then, still holding the lats out wide, slowly lower yourself down into starting position again.

Once you get this movement down pat, it will more than triple your results from traditional pull ups. You must learn to rotate the scapula through their entire movement. You see, the weight of the body is holding the scapula in a “neutral” position. The lats must be forced through this entire isolation manoeuvre in order to make them grow. Most of the time when we do pull ups, we are working biceps and some incidental lat work. When we concentrate all our energy on the scapula while doing pull ups, we are forcing the lats to do most of the work.

I would urge you to practice this rotating scapula movement in your training. You will feel the difference right away in the pump you get. And don’t forget…the turned up bar makes all the difference … it is terrific!

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