Shawn Rhoden's Back Attack workout!
Charles Glass is a stickler for strict pulldown form, so Rhoden and his training partner, new IFBB pro Brad Rowe, have to check their egos before sitting at the pulldown station. They use less weight than they could handle with looser form, and they stay upright from stretch to contraction. “You have to concentrate on pulling with the lats,” Rhoden instructs. “A lot of guys use a lot of momentum on this exercise, and they lose the focus on the lats. I try to stay as upright as possible, keep my chest up, and force my elbows down. I want nice, slow reps, focused on the negative and the positive.”
Flexatron explains that a bar that provides a medium, parallel grip helps him better target his lats by focusing less on his biceps. Glass wants him to aim for at least eight reps on his own, and then Yoda usually helps his Jedi Knight eke out a few additional forced reps. “He gives just enough help to keep it going, no more,” Rhoden states.
Typically, Rhoden starts his workout with barbell or T-bar rows—the sort of free-weight basics that helped his mentor (and supplement company employer) Ronnie Coleman construct arguably the best back ever unfurled. Still, unlike eight-time Mr. Olympia Coleman in his prime, this year’s Arnold Classic contender doesn’t stuf all the iron he can on the collar of a T-bar. “I typically go up to six plates,” he says of T-bar rows. “I want to get a good range of motion, a good stretch, and then a full contraction. I don’t want to have to use momentum to get the weight up. And I don’t want to go so heavy that I can’t concentrate on my back and start using my biceps.”
ONE-ARM DUMBBELL ROW
“This is one of my favorite exercises,” he says of one-arm dumbbell rows. Again, strict form is paramount. “You really have to concentrate to focus on the squeeze at the top. A lot of guys try to rush to get the weight up. I try to get a full extension to really feel the lats hanging. Then, as I pull, I force the elbow up and bring the arm as close to the body as possible and squeeze my lats at the top. If you really focus on your form you can feel it even if the weight isn’t heavy.”
Though Rhoden says he can always use the heaviest dumbbell in the gym, the weight is never his focus. He’s always concentrating on his lats. “Charles says, ‘I want to see you twist that body,’ ” he says, explaining what his trainer considers a proper contraction. “I don’t want to see you use your biceps. Gotta be able to get that squeeze at the top. Get that good hang, and then drive high at the top. A lot of people tend to stop around halfway with the biceps holding the weight up. You need to go high and twist to focus everything on your lats. If you do, this is a great back exercise.”
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