One Arm Dumbbell Row

Technique Summary

Place your left knee and your left hand on a flat bench.  Keep your back almost parallel to the floor.  Lift the weight up with your right arm (your forearm perpendicular to the floor).  Exhale on the way up.  Inhale on the way down.  Switch supporting leg and arm to do your left side.

Technique Details

It is especially important to follow good form in performing this exercise.  There are several things you could do to avoid bulged disks and pinched nerves.  First, do not jerk the weight.  If you are having trouble lifting, use lighter weights.  Secondly, you should keep your back/spine perfectly flat (if you are using light weights, some rounding is acceptable as you bring the weight down).  Many books recommend keeping your back parallel to the floor, but depending on comfort level it is perfectly fine to keep a slight incline (with your shoulders higher than your hips).  Make sure that you form a reliable base with your knee and hand on the bench, and the other foot, which should be flat on the floor.  Don't rest on your toes, this isn't the time to perfect your grand plie's.  Grab the weight with your palm facing your body and lift the dumbbell all the way up.  Focus on pulling your elbow as far as you can. You could slightly turn your torso into the weight to get a better contraction (again only with lighter weights).

Seated Rows

Technique Summary

Sit on a rowing machine, with knees slightly bent, and feet placed flat on the footrest.  Take the v-shaped short grip attachment with overhand grip, and pull your elbows back.  Exhale when you pull the weight in, inhale as you let it move away from you.

Technique Details

As always, do not lock out your elbows by fully extending your arms.  Doing so leads to tendonitis.  The key in performing this exercise is how you lean in with the weight and how you flex your back.  If you are using lighter weight you should lean forward as you release the weight, getting a full stretch.  If you are going heavy, rolling your back could result in injury.  If you go really heavy, then don't move your back at all, keeping it straight throughout the exercise.  The way you bring the weight in will be consistent.  Pull your elbows as far back as you can and as far as it is comfortable.  Pull your shoulders back and tyour shoulder blades together.  You want to bring your fists just under your chest, with you thumbs into your lower chest.  Bringing your chest out helps the contraction of your back.  Squeezing your abs will help you protect your lower back by stiffening the core.

Lateral Pull Down

Technique Summary

Sit on the lateral pull down machine, knees under the pads.  Take an overhand grip wider than shoulder width.  Exhale when you pull the bar down, inhale as you bring it back up.

Technique Details

Lateral pull down is a great compound exercise for both developing the width, as well as the bulk of your back.  To reap the greatest rewards from this exercise you need to go through the full range of motion.  This means in a relaxed state your hands should be fully extended without actually locking out your elbows.  Locking elbows could lead to tendonitis.  On contraction the bar should go as far down as possible to achieve peak flexion of latissimus dorsi (upper back muscles).  You can take the grip anywhere wider than shoulder length but within twice the shoulder length.  The width of the grip will determine how you will bring the bar down and subsequently the exercise's focus.  A grip just wider than your shoulders will require you to bring your elbows directly down in a straight line with your torso.  You will bring the bar down to either your chin or the back of your head.  This variation is good for developing the width of the back by invoking the lateral fibers.  Taking the grip at twice your shoulder length will require you to bring the bar down to your upper chest and  bringing your elbows back.  This concentrates on the middle and upper fibers of your back.  The wider the grip the less you are advised to bring the bar behind your back and to your neck.  This forces and unnatural rotation of your shoulder and will cause injury.