Ahoy there, mateys! In case ye are of the wonderin’ sort, this here Wednesday is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and to set the mood for the week, we’ll be startin’ here with a fancy new exercise that’s sure to shiver ye timbers!
While experimenting with me maties at Ye Old Room of Weights, The Captain (that’s me) happened upon an exercise that ye are about to see. The Captain, one who prefers chin-ups and rope climbs, decided to test his First Mate’s favorite pull-down variation, considering the biomechanics that be involved! Alas, during the maneuvers, The Captain discovered some extra treasure for this here variation. It smokes your abs pretty damn good! Here’s why we be callin’ it the Binocular Pull Down:
ARrgghh!! Alright, despite horrendous editing and far too much time, I think that picture’s pretty awesome. If you don’t like it, please don’t tell me, or I’ll send Jack Sparrow your way. Before we continue, you get bonus points if you read the opening lines in a growling pirate’s voice.
I’m not a big fan of the pull-down at all. It’s an option, but it pales in comparison to almost all pull-up and chin-up variations. One of my friends loves the neutral grip pull down, and I figured I could give it a try at the end of my workout. I slapped on some Fat Gripz for the additional grip work, and went to down.
My lats laughed at it. My forearms and biceps begrudgingly gave approval. My abs had a terrible time, which is why I like it.
Most people wouldn’t consider a pull-down an ‘ab’ exercise, because most of the time, pull-downs are done with some english, and the body sways to-and-fro with each rep. It may enable them to shorten their lats the most, but it’s typically just poor attention to detail with technique, one of the reasons I’m not a big pull-down fan. Here’s a picture of the typical pull-down ending position:
Instead, it’s important to maintain a neutral spine and avoid lumbar hyperextension. To me, the finishing position should look like this:
See the difference? (Hint: Check the mirror). In the bottom photo, my ribs aren’t as high, and I don’t have the same thoracic extension and lumbar hyperextension as in the bottom photo. Rather than think, “Don’t go into a position that has big words”, I simply thought, “Keep your ribs down.”
Most of the time we substitute shoulder flexion for lumbar extension, and turn our spine into a slinky. In this exercise, my goal is to respect the neutral spine by turning on the abdominal musculature to prevent the ribs from elevating. You can see this in the video below. Note the movement, or lack there of, of my rib cage:
As you head off to the gym this week, give the neutral grip pull down a try, but think of it as a ‘core’ exercise. Lock that rib cage into place, and you’ll be surprised at how hard your abz have to work to maintain that position while your arms are moving. You have three days before International Talk Like A Pirate Day, so there’s plenty of time to include this in your training and take care of business. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!
Batten down the hatches and heave ho, Mates, this is bound to be a good week!