THE PISTOL SQUAT PROGRESSION LADDER

EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: BODY ROW
We do body rows twice in The Strength Sessions programme. In both month’s 3 and 4.

In Month 3, we go for records — there are no Chin Ups in this month so you’ll have extra strength for this move.

In Month 4, it’s more of a practice, with less reps total, longer static holds and more practice and perfectionism required.

You may well want to use these as a substitute if you struggle with Chin Ups on one of the other months too (If you have the setup for them).

HOW TO DO IT (THE BASICS)
GRAB A BAR – Or some gymnastic rings, or parrallel bars, or suitable sturdy thing. About waist height would be splendid.

START WITH YOUR ARMS LOCKED OUT – and your chest up, and your body straight – if you’re strong enough otherwise dig your legs in too.

DRAW YOUR SHOULDERS BACK – to initiate the move. Get good at this or you’ll try and dominate the move with your arms when we want upper back to dominate affairs.

THEN YOUR ELBOWS – then once we’ve initiated, we keep our mind on moving the shoulder blades, but we start to drive the elbows back and behind us.

SQUEEZE AT THE TOP – you will travel all the way up until your hands touch your ribs. TOUCH. It’s not easy but this is the dream. Once here, you will actively squeeze your shoulder blades in and your elbows back and towards each other. This will massively excite your Rear Delts and all your upper back musculature.

LOWER. STOP. REPEAT – then go down again and up again and down again and up again until it gets messy. Release your shoulder blades forwards slightly at the bottom (Protract them) then initiate with a slight Retraction. Getting good at this is the key to getting good at these.

THE DETAILS
First you will have selected your strength range according to which style of strength you are working this month. Next, you pick a grip style and body position that allows you to do the right amount of reps, while doing your best to vary your style each month you do these.

CHOOSE YOUR GRIP

UNDERHAND — easiest.

NEUTRAL — medium.

OVERHAND — Hardest.

SINGLE ARM AND PROGRESSIONS — Ok, these are the hardest. You can work through all the levels again single-arm!

CHOOSE YOUR BODY POSITION

BENT LEGS — easiest.

STRAIGHT LEGS — harder.

ELEVATED LEGS — more harderer.

HOW IT GOES WRONG AND HOW TO SORT IT
YOU SHRUG – If you’re a modern day human, a modern day human with an office job, a modern day human that hasn’t been taught carefully in the gymnasium, then you’re a high risk candidate for shrugging on these. If you have forward head posture at all – you’re bound to want to do it. The Traps will take over the move and your upper back may well be a bit lazy and uncoordinated…

The fix – extreme care and focus to keep a long neck, keep the shoulders down a and generate a mind-muscle connection with the upper back musculature and shoulder blade Retractors. Make sure you feel the muscle working and that you get your shoulders back. Practice light, don’t try for too many and build up really slowly if you struggle at first.

YOU DON’T RETRACT THE SHOULDER BLADES – They should be squeezed back down and together. At the top of the move they should be squeezing towards each other and into the spine as the chest comes up.

YOU DONT GET THE SHOULDERS BACK – If the above errors happen, the shoulders won’t have come back. You must feel the whole Gleno-Humeral joint (the bit the arm connects to) being pulled backwards.

YOU DON’T BEND THE ARMS ENOUGH – If you end up hands down by your waist somewhere, you haven’t let the biceps get involved enough. We want about 90 degrees of bending at the elbow.

YOU AVOID THE WORK – If the body doesn’t remain straight – typically the Hips sag, you’ve subconsciously shifted your weight so you don’t have to lift it. The only movement should be at the shoulder and shoulder blades. Not the torso. Naughty.

ALTERNATIVES
Either you don’t have the equipment, or you struggle to hold your head in line / get neck pain. If that’s you, the best alternatives (other than seeing a physio about your weak or overactive neck), as ever in order of preference, are these:

—> EXTRA CHIN UPS

—> DUMBBELL ROWS

—> GYM HORIZONTAL ROW MACHINE

—> BICEP WORK

—> RESISTANCE BAND ROWS

WICKED CUES
PUT YOUR SHOULDER BLADES IN YOUR BACK POCKET – please o please, do not take this one literally. It’s a visualisation trick. ‘The Scap’, pulled down and inwards is our goal. Imagine pulling them towards your back pocket can be a very useful thought. Try it. Thanks to Strength Coach Tony Gentilcore who’s blog I stole that from.

CRUSH YOUR SPINE – Squeeze the muscle into the spine hard.

CLOSE THE BOOK – Imagine your back is closing up behind you like a hard back book.

SHOW YOUR CHEST OFF – like Arnold.

STAY STRAIGHT. LIKE A PENCIL – so you’re body doesn’t move around while you’re going up and down. Takes a bit of core strength, but not that much.

WHY O WHY??
Upper Back and Biceps – Get really strong at this and your targeting the upper back and bicep muscles.

Posture – this is important for strength and aesthetics, but its also going to help improve your posture – if you do it right.

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