This is an example of a terrible exercise that I use to see in aerobics classes.
Now I'm starting to see it more often in the gym
This was definitely one of my favorites many years ago before I started doing
research on the exercise and injuries (I wanted to know why I was getting so
many nagging injuries). There are a bunch of issues with this exercise but
Form: most people do the
exercise by leaning the head forward, which places undue stress on the cervical
spine… this leaning forward leads to excessive stress on the shoulder joint in
external rotation and horizontal abduction (this puts the shoulder in it’s
weakest position). Without boring you to tears… the end result could be shoulder
instability if done over a log period of time.
…And the topper is that this exercise doesn’t
isolate the lats more than doing front pulldowns… it’s actually a less
effective exercise! In fact the awkward position of behind the head pulldowns,
recruits other muscles that shouldn’t even be involved in the movement. You ever
wonder why you can do more weight behind your head than in front? It’s because
of the momentum created by your hip flexors as you lean forward trying to pull
the weight down.
Posture: Leaning forward with the head
tilted forward is the worst position for a woman to exercise in. Not only does
this add more stress to the shoulder and neck region (normal everyday stress in
this area can cause tightness, pain and headaches)… but it promotes bad posture.
This is the exact OPPOSITE position you want to exercise in. On the other
hand… pulldowns to the front promote good posture - head up, chest up, and naturally arched back, (this is
how a figure competitor should stand onstage)… and you get better lat
This is a favorite among figure competitors for giving you a good pump in your
triceps. BUT… the strain it places on the shoulder joints is not worth it. I
cringe every time i see someone performing this exercise. Just take a look at
Lisa’s shoulder joint in the picture below. The front (anterior capsule)
of the shoulder in placed under a lot of stress. Placing weights on your thighs
just makes it worse as does doing them with your feet elevated (because you
tend to go down further). The shoulders are involved in just about every
upper body exercise and can be injury prone, therefore you must perform
exercises that protect the shoulder instead of exposing it to injury.
Just because you see it in magazines and just because lots of
trainers like this exercise doesn’t mean it’s a good one…. do a set of pushups
Plain and simple…If you are a fugure competitor then Interval Training
is better than trying to stay within a certain heart rate range (THR:
target heart rate training) fat loss cardio workouts. The leanest
athletes in the world usually train in an interval-like manner. Take a look at
track sprinters (100, 200 and 400 meters). These athletes are very lean and
muscular… and the shorter the distance the more muscular (the 100 meter runner
is more muscular that the 400 meter runner). NFL running backs and wide
receivers. These athletes aren’t calculating numbers so that they only work out
at a certain level of intensity. No… they just work out hard every workout!
Research shows us that you can burn more calories with interval training than
you can with other forms of cardio. What this means is that you can get the same
results while working out less, which leads us to our next example…
Look at the difference between an elite marathon runner and an elite
sprinter. Although the marathon runner is also lean…. he/she will also be very
thin from excessive cardio. The sprinter, by contrast, will
be just as lean but much more muscular.
The goal of a figure competitor is to get lean while keeping as much
muscle as possible – therefore interval training is the best type of
training for competition. The last thing you want to do is burn hard-earned
The Missing Piece
of The Puzzle:
Because figure competitors must keep as much muscle as possible – You
must include resistance training in your workouts. This is extremely
important because If you don’t stimulate muscle often enough, you will lose it
during the precontest phase. The best thing about using resistance training is
that research shows us that metabolism may stay elevated up to 72 hours (it may
be as short as 24 hours depending on the intensity.. but that’s still a great
benefit). Regular cardio only elevates metabolism
during the workout – your metabolism returns to normal right after a regular
cardio workout (regular = cardio with no resistance exercises
This is an advanced guide for I wrote for figure competitors who really want
to maximize their precontest fat loss cardio: http://www.stokescardio.com/
Answer: This may help you figure out the answer
1) In order to build muscle you must eat MORE calories than your body
needs to maintain its current weight
2) In order to lose body fat you must eat FEWER calories than your
body needs to maintain its current weight
The answer is a resounding NO! NO! NO!
There should be a clear distinction between the gaining phase
(off-season) and the fat loss (precontest) phase… never the two shall
meet. Competitors who try this are only spinning their wheels and often wonder
why they don’t make progress. It’s like trying to build a house when someone
takes a brick down as soon as you put one up – gonna take a long time to
build that house!
When it comes to women it’s especially important not to mix the two because
it’s really hard for most women to gain muscle… even with proper rest, eating
and heavy lifting. If you want to build muscle, stay away
from cardio during the building phase.
“But I read something that said….“
I know, I know, I know… you read in XYZ Magazine that if you follow this
‘special’ program or drink that ‘new and improved’ protein powder you can gain
muscle and lose body fat. Don’t listen to them… most likely they are just
trying to sell you something or trying to get you to sign up to train with them.
When I tell new competitors that they should do no cardio in the
offseason if they need to gain muscle (which most newcomers need to do)… a look
of shear horror comes on their faces: “Omg! no cardio? I’m going to gain a ton
of weight!!!” I tell them there is only one way to gain too much weight… and that is to eat too
Fear of weight gain…
Many figure competitors are afraid to gain weight in the off season so they
try to slow weight gain down by doing cardio, while trying to gain muscle. This
will result in minimal gains in muscle size. The nervous system only has so much
‘energy’ in it’s reserve each day… you need all of the energy going toward
building muscle. If half is used for your 60 minute treadmill run... how much do
you think is left over for building muscle?
If you need to build muscle you must take the time in between shows to lift
heavy and build some size. Get over the fact that you need to gain a few pounds.
you can gain muscle holding 10 lbs over competition weight. You don’t have to
gain a ton of weight. If you find yourself gaining too much fat then do more
push-backs everyday…. push back from the table! don’t do cardio…. save
the energy for building muscle, otherwise you’re just spinning your wheels.