The tuning of exercises – i.e. a 100% workout!

Many exercises may be modified in a way to cause better results. You will notice the best improvement if you do a particular movement in a wrong way, e.g. by engaging other than the target muscles. The change of the track of movement, the tempo, width of grip, range of motion – make difference.

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The tuning of exercises – i.e. a 100% workout!

Tuning no. 1: rowing!

Engaged muscles: trapezius (especially the interior and lower parts), rhomboid muscle, latissimus dorsi, teres major, the posterior part of the deltoid muscle, infraspinatus, teres minor, brachialis muscle, brachioradialis, pectoralis major, biceps, triceps (long head), erector spinae, hamstring (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus), gluteus maximus, adductor magnus, rectus abdominis, obliquus abdominis.

If you belong to the group of people for whom the width of back is a problem (especially the middle part), you should find the reason in using:

  • too small load,

  • too large load (wrong movement technique)

during rowing with the barbell or dumbbell.

Option one concerns the competitors who use minimal load, e.g. 30-50 kg in rowing with both hands, 15-30kg in rowing with one hand. The same people do the chest sets with the load of 100-140kg. Back is the strongest group of muscles. In one of my experiments people who did not do the resistance training (doing average physical activity) did the one-hand rowing sets with the load of 30 kg and two-hand rowing with 60 kg. Don't be afraid of the weight larger than in bench press. Too small load will cause insufficient development of the back muscles (no stimulation of proper muscle fibres or motor units). If you use larger load for barbell biceps curls than for rowing, you are on the best way to build the disfunctional body mass. Compare the size of the following muscle groups: biceps brachii and latissimus dorsi, trapezius. You should do the one-hand rowing with the load at least double as heavy as that which you use for biceps curl. E.g. you do biceps curl standing with hammer grip with two dumbbells of 30 kg each, use at least the 60-kg dumbbell for one-hand rowing. It makes sense assuming that you have been developing proportionally the strength of various muscle groups. If you are not able to do rowing with the given load – use slow progress to even the disproportion.

FILM YOUTUBE: the most common mistake: few tens of kilos too much – result? Rowing changes into shrugs.

Option b – are the people who take huge load and... instead of rowing, do the barbell shrugs (like in the film above). If you put your body almost vertically in double-hand rowing – the upper part of trapezius will take over majority of work. Rowing should engage trapezius (especially the interior and lower parts), but as an addition. Lower the load, bend and do the rowing – instead of shrugs. Additionally, the hypertrophy of the upper part of trapezius leads to the dangerous functional imbalance. According to F. Delavier: “the lower part of trapezius matter because of the stabilisation, therefore, the protection of the shoulder. If the lower part of trapezius is weak and there is no balance between the upper and lower part, there might appear injuries of the deltoid muscle”.

Remeber that:

  • wide over grip in rowing means larger engagement of the posterioir part of deltoid muscle, infraspinatus and teres minor,

  • the more vertical position – the larger pressure on the middle and upper part of trapezius,

  • moderate and narrow under grip may increase the engagement of latissimus dorsi,

  • the more slowly you do the negative phase, the larger work of the muscles,

  • speeding up (reasonably) the concentric phase increases the engagement of muscles.

If you have a problem with extending your upper body during rowing – do it on the bench – it will make jerking and using the momentum impossible to do. Another option is to do the rowing sitting with the use of the machine. But also in such case you have to pay attention to the work of your back, you shouldn't do jerking or use the momentum. In this case load is not all.

Tuning number 2: partial squats

FILM YOUTUBE: too large load = poor results

take off 50-80 kg and do squats! “Quarter-bent legs” will not develop thigh muscles much.

How often do you see squats done in minimal range of motion? Shallow squats do not build explosiveness, they develop the medial head of quadriceps or glutes in minimal way, they may lead to the knee joint injuries! “It was stated that the group, which used partial squats achieved much worse results when it comes to the maximal rate of force development, as well as the maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). In the summary the researchers suggest the deep front or back squats are better for the development of the competitor when it cimes to improving the speed and dynamics”. “[...] in the excentric phase, full squat caused larger engagement of the medial muscle (25.2%) than the bodybuilding option (23.6%).” Charles Poliquin: “ The disturbed strength layout is mainly caused by all kinds of squats with partial range of motion, which can be observed (done by the obsessed trainers, who like to brag with large amount of repetitions in squats)”.

FILM YOUTUBE: Mikhail Koklyaev and the proper squat, in full range of motion.

The difference, compared to the previous film, is visible even for a person who does not cope with weights.

Partial squats may be the good solution for people who cannot do the full range of motion with the barbell for the following reasons:

  • knee joint injuries of various etiology,

  • excessive bending of the body during squats (specific length of bones, leverage),

  • poor stretching.

Box squats may be a great method of developing muscle strength and mass, used most of all by people who train powerlifting (equipment – mainly squats costume).

If you can – do the squats in full range of motion. Lower the load. Leave you ego in the changing room. Squat is supposed to be a good exercise for the front part of the thighs, not for the back or the back of the thighs.

Sources: 1. “Relationship between maximal squat strength and five, ten, and forty yard sprint times.” J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Sep;23(6):1633-6. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b2b8aa. McBride JM, Blow D, Kirby TJ, Haines TL, Dayne AM, Triplett NT. Department of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science, Neuromuscular Laboratory, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina 28608, USA.\