“Hammering” The Back!


Sunday, August 14th, 2005. Strong & Shapely gym, East Rutherford, New Jersey. This is the place I train when I want to use new machines or put some variety into my routine. Shapely has over 40 back machines, including a full line of Hammer Strength equipment, which we put to good use today. It was another killer session, and I could see the difference the day after.


A1 Hammer Strength Isolateral High row (grip machine arm, not handles; both arms together)
2 light warmup sets
Set 1: 115 lbs per side (2 plates + quarters) X 12 reps
Set 2: 160 lbs per side (3 plates) X 10 reps
Set 3: 185 lbs per side (3 plates + quarters) X 6 reps + 2 forced reps
B1 Pullover Machine (plate loaded-two arm)
Set 1: 100 lbs X 12 reps X 4221 tempo
Set 2: 120 lbs X 11 reps X 4221 tempo
Set 3: 120 lbs X 10 reps X 4221 tempo
C1 Hammer Strength isolateral Low Row (both arms together)
3 sets X 90 lbs per side (2 plates) X 12 reps, strict & slow, on last set, pause 5 sec after failure, then continue one arm at a time (faster): 8 more reps left arm, then 8 more reps right arm, then 6 more reps left arm, then 6 more reps right arm (same weight)
D1 Lat Pulldown Behind The Neck
3 sets X 140 lbs X 12 reps
D2 Lat Pulldown to front, Very Wide Grip
3 sets X 140 lbs X 12 reps
E1 Low back extension (hyperextension with spinal flexion)
3 sets X bodyweight X 12 reps


A1 Hammer Strength Seated Shrug Machine
3 sets X 180 lbs (2 plates per side) X 12 reps, strict, hold/squeeze at top


A1 Hammer Strength calf press machine
3 sets X 360 lbs (4 plates per side) X 15-20 reps
B1 hack slide calf machine
3 sets X 210 lbs X 20 reps
C1 Calf raise on front squat machine, one leg at a time
3 sets X 90 lbs X 20 reps

Workout Commentary

The back workout started with The Hammer Strength isolateral high row. This machine has two handles on it, but instead I grabbed over top of the end of the machine’s arms. I started doing them that way a year or so ago when I first saw pro bodybuilding trainer Charles Glass training Chris Cormier on video and Chris was grabbing the machine arms instead of the handles provided. It’s a little hard to hold on when you get to heavier weights, but it gives you yet another different angle to hit you back.

The second movement was the pullover machine. Strong & Shapely had three pullover machines – a David selectorized, a hammer strength plate load unilateral pullover, and this archaic plate loaded, chain-driven pullover, similar to the old Nautilus pullover. This thing looked like it came out of the 70’s (Sometimes those ancient machines are the best machines). This one had a huge range of motion from complete stretch to full contraction that made each rep seem like it lasted forever.

Third movement was Hammer Strength low row. This time not as heavy, but much slower and stricter with a good squeeze on every rep. On the last set, I started with two arms and went to total failure with strict form, then took a brief pause, then continued one arm at a time; 8 more reps left arm, 8 reps right arm, then 6 reps left arm, 6 reps right arm. This technique; the “bilateral to uniquateral” technique is one of my favorites – it always allows you to crank out more reps beyond failure.

Fourth exercise: Hammer strength shrugs for 3 sets of 12, strict with a good squeeze at the top.

Fifth exercise: lat pulldown behind neck superset to very wide grip lat pulldown wide grip to the front. Many people avoid pulldown behind the neck completely these days because they are warned it is bad for the shoulders. However, I still do behind neck pulldowns occasionally with light weight as a detail exercise. On some lat machines, if you sit backwards and face away from the machine with the cable in a direct line above the back of your neck, it’s actually not as harsh on your shoulders as you think. It’s not an exercise I’d use for max weight or mass, however.

Sixth exercise! Low back extension. There are two ways I do low back extensions (“hyperextensions”). The first is for the low back, glutes and hamstrings. On this version, I scoot way up on the hyper bench so I’m hanging off from the upper thighs, not the waist. I keep my head up and my back flat or slightly arched. The movement is initiated from the hips, not the spine. Today I did them the other way, which works the spinal erectors to help bring in the lower back “Christmas tree” effect. The low back version requires you to scoot back on the bench so you are hanging off from your stomach, and as you lower yourself the movement is initiated from the spine NOT the hips. You flex or curl your spine as you descend, and you uncurl/straighten your spine as you come up. Done properly, you will feel this entirely in the low back and NOT in the glutes and hams.

Obviously there was a lot of volume for back today, but this included traps, upper back and lower back all in one. We did not miss one square inch of our backs today!

After back it was onward to calves. Three sets of 15-20 reps each on the hammer strength calf press, the hack slide calf raise machine and calf raises off the front squat machine, one leg at a time.

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August 18, 2005

John Bartlett @ 8:57 pm #

Hi Tom,
You’ve probably already mentioned it in one of your blogs but I don’t remember seeing it. Can you let everyone know what competition you are entering and where it is? Some of us might want to attend.

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