My aim is to always enhance muscle stimulation, and I’ve found one of the best ways to do it is to endlessly search for unique angles from which to attack each muscle. Unfortunately, the standard lineup of bodybuilding machines often doesn’t offer me everything I’m looking for. This leads me to create completely new exercises using machines that were designed to train another muscle.
Like I did for shoulders and chest, I’m going to share some back-training hacks you probably haven’t seen before, but which I promise will leave your back muscles in a state of annihilation. If you like this style of training, check out my 8-Week Hardcore Trainer, which packs unique moves like these into workouts for each and every muscle group.
Chest Machine Unilateral Rows
Most gyms will have a standard seated-chest-press machine that you can load up, grab, and row with. The arm I’m not using to row will be used to support my torso on the head pad, as my torso leans forward.
This exercise is particularly good for working the lats, and I’m able to experience a really in-depth connection with each side because this is done unilaterally. This is something I’d really recommend for somebody who’s failing to get that connection in their lats. I’d also preload the workout with a solid pre-workout like Pre-Kaged in order to maximize blood flow, which I find leads to an improved feel.
Shoulder-Press Machine Bent-Over Rows
This exercise is awesome for higher rep sets where I’m either supersetting with another move, or crushing a DTP pyramid of, say, 5 sets of 20, 15, 10, 10, 5 reps, and then climbing back up to 20 reps using a different grip.
Standing on the seat of the machine facing the pad, I’ll perform bent-over rows gripping the arms of the machine. Note: This does require a specific type of shoulder-press machine, and not every one will allow this move. However, once you open your mind to this style of training, you view the gym in the whole new way. Look around, and you might find the perfect machine where you’ve never noticed it before.
To really isolate the back muscles, I like to get my forehead down to the top of the head rest so my back is parallel with the floor. This acts as a good gauge of posture, so when fatigue starts to attack my muscles I know I’m still in the correct position.
Staggered High-Pulley Cable Row
This is an exercise that expands upon a regular lat pull-down. Using a cable stack, position the pulley at the highest point and use a V-bar attachment. To begin, sit on the floor with your legs out in front and against the bottom of the weight stack to provide stability. For the first 10-12 reps, do pull-downs with your torso tilted backward at a 45-degree angle. Then sit slightly more upright and immediately perform another 10-12 reps. The goal is to reach failure at the end of each rep range at both angles.
This is a perfect example of how to utilize a switch in position to increase strength as fatigue sets in. It dramatically increases the volume I’m able to complete in a working set.
Why not just perform something like a regular lat pull-down dropset? The back is one of the most complex muscle groups due to its size, so to maximize growth in the lats, erectors, traps, and rhomboids, you need a diverse range of angles—not just the same one hammered harder and harder. This is why I’ll always keep searching for different exercises, even if it means using machines the “wrong” way.