Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 5 - Hypertrophy Back/Arms/traps

Today was the hypertrophy day for back, arms, and traps.  I'm following Layne Norton's Strength/Hypertrophy split, which you can find a few posts down the page.  Again today I had to cut the end of my workout short because I had to work.  Working at 3 in the afternoon is really inconvenient when the time I like to lift is 1-3 pm.  Enough bitching, I should just wake up earlier.  Easier said than done when you don't have to though.


Weighted Pull Ups - 3 x 10 - 30 lbs added.  I know it's not that impressive, but I had not done much pullups till about 3 months ago and when I started I could barely do 10 without weight.  So I'm happy with the progresss.  As always, use a full range of motion on this and don't cheat yourself to get that extra number.  We're in the gym not math class.

Seated Low Rows (2 hand, neutral shoulder width grip) - 3 x 10 - 200 lbs.  This is one of my favorite back exercises as I feel like I can really squeeze the contraction and isolate/work all my back muscles at the same time.  You should aim to keep your torso perpendicular to the floor, and not lean back to get the weight to yourself.  It is ok to lean slightly forward when the weight is returning to the starting position, but on the contraction really work hard to not bend back at all, and instead use your back and arms to pull it all the way to your belly button and squeeze for a second before releasing to the negative.  Don't rush the negative, take about 1.5 seconds to get back to neutral.

Behind the neck lat pulldowns - 3 x 10 - 140 lbs.  I do these because when I do pullups I don't do behind the necks, and this allows me to just work my back that little bit differently to maximize effectiveness.  It's all about keepin the body guessing and mixing it up.  I will follow the same split but constantly throwing myself curve-balls or changing the order I do exercises, and it has made a large impact on my muscle growth and training.

Bent over rows - 3 x 12 - 155 lbs.  Make sure when you perform this exercise that your knees are bent, and not locked.  When bent over, your back should be parallel to the ground, or a little bit higher if you have trouble with it.  I go pretty slow on this exercise, about 1.5 seconds for the first half of the contraction, a 1 second squeeze at the top of the motion, and a 2 second negative on the second half.  The whole time focusing on keeping my back in the same position and isolating it as much as possible.  I see some people swing wildly doing this exercise like they're doing a clean but bent over.  While you may be able to do more weight this way, for the hypertrophy workouts it is better to go slow and focus on form.  This guy is doing it with about the maximum you would want to stray away from parallel to the floor with your torso.

At this point I realized I was running out of time, and had to leave out stiff legged dead lifts to get more than 1 superset of arms done.  Again, I just need to wake up earlier.


Superset 1 - Olympic Bar Curls, shoulder width grip - 3 x 10 - 95 lbs 
                     Skull Crushers w/ t bar, narrow grip       - 3 x 10 - 115 lbs

The biggest mistake I see people do when doing curls is to swing their back to help them get the weight up, and moving the elbows forward then using the momentum to perform the curl.  Instead keep your body straight and perpendicular to the floor, with your elbows in at your side and stationary.  Focus on visualizing the bicep muscle, and contracting the muscle to lift the weight, not using momentum.  1.5 seconds for the first half of the lift, .5-1 second squeeze at the top, and 2 seconds for the negative.  Don't just ignore the negative and pretty much drop the weight back to starting position.  Control the negative and it will work your muscles that much more.  Great for pumps.

For the skull crushers lay flat on a bench and grip the t-bar on the inside grip and put your arms straight into the air so they are perpendicular to your body.  Lower the weight to your forehead, or wherever your body leads your arms but focus on keeping your arm from the elbow to the shoulders perpendicular to the body still.  This will cut out the extra momentum from moving your whole arm, and really isolate the triceps.

Superset 2 - T-Bar curls narrow grip - 3 x 12 + 1 burnout - 95 lbs
                     Tricep rope pulldowns    - 3 x 12 + 1 burnout - 75 lbs

The reason I used the narrow grip was to make sure I worked both heads of my biceps evenly.  When I do the Olympic bar curls I keep my elbows at my side, but angle forearm out so I am gripping the bar slightly wider than shoulder width.  This works the whole biceps, but puts emphasis on the long head of the biceps.  Narrow grip on the t-bar however, works primarily the short head of the biceps.  And since this was the last superset I had time for, I wanted to make sure I worked my biceps evenly.  Same rules apply as when doing Olympic bar curls.  No swinging, and focus on using your biceps to lift the weight and not momentum.

I really like the triceps rope pull downs for the end of a triceps workout because it's easy for me to really do a strong burnout for the last set.  For the form on this one put your arms flat at your side, and rotate your forearm at the elbow so it is slightly above perpendicular to your body.  This is your range of motion.  Most of the ropes I have ever used for pulldowns have little stoppers on the end, and for the longest time I kept them touching until the very end of the contraction.  Recently though I started keeping the stoppers about 4 inches apart throughout the whole exercise, and expanding to roughly 6 inches for the squeeze when you get down to the bottom.  I don't know why exactly, but it was considerably harder and the next day I was pretty darn sore which usually doesn't happen from those.  


Because of time constraints I only had time for one trap exercise.

Olympic bar Shrugs - 3 x 15, + 1 burnout for the 4th set - 225 lbs 

I know I know, not that impressive weight wise.  But I don't use wrist wraps, and don't use my thumbs in the grip.  Doubles as a forearm exercise, which is part of the reason why my forearms are nearly as big as my upper arms.  This is another one of those exercises that people tend to rush, and just kind of pull the weight up and then drop it back down.  Not me.  I grip slightly wider than shoulder length and focus on keeping my arms as relaxed as possible from the elbow up so I'm not using my arms at all.  Some people like to shrug the weight straight up as high as they can, and that's fine I used to do it too.  But what I have recently found more effective is to bend over slightly and shrug the weight up at a slight angle.  I feel like this contracts the muscle a lot more, and works the whole thing better. A lot of people don't realize that the trapezius muscle actually goes down the middle of your back, as you can see in the picture.  I didn't realize how big the traps were, that's why I used to shrug straight up and once I started doing it with my back slightly bent I felt like I worked the muscle as a whole better.  Let me know what you think if you get a chance to try it.

I know it's a long read, but I would appreciate it if I could get some feedback or even to let me know if it helped.  I'm just trying to pass on the things I have learned throughout the years on to other people but it's hard to explain how to do lifts through text, and not in person.  I only put pictures on the exercises that I had a hard time explaining the form, that's why they aren't on all of them.  Tomorrow is hypertrophy legs after I work all morning, I'm gonna have a hard time walking sunday I think.  One last thing, when doing the supersets make sure you move the weights you're using close to eachother so there is minimal downtime between the two exercises.



  1. I prefer the yates row to the barbell rows. It is a little more upright which is safer on your back at higher weights. You can still get the target muscles you are looking to it as well.

    Also Pendlay rows are a very fun exercise to perform. You have the weight on the ground, have your back parallel to the ground, pick the weight up to your body like a row and return the weight back to the ground.

  2. Yeah I agree when I started doing Pendlay rows I gained some decent size on my back. But Bent-over rows are amazing also.

    Overall great workout! I will have to try that hypertrophy routine sometime!

  3. nice progress on the pull ups brah!

    your friend,

  4. nice brah
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  5. good info in here. swing by my blog to let me know of your next update.

  6. Good stuff bro!


  7. deadlifts? What a lunk.

    j/k. Followed and supported

  8. you can pick up heavy stuff...

  9. Solid workout brah

  10. Very informative, I've been working out for years now and I fully agree with everything that's written down here.

  11. I've seen several workout blogs, and this is among the better ones in terms of info and graphics. Nice job. Following.