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John Robert Cardillo

John Robert Cardillo

John travelled the world to learn the best training and nutrition principles and trained alongside top pro bodybuilders at Gold's Gym California. He was a student of Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus and Medx Fitness machines, and the pioneer of hi-intensity training. John developed the HIT3 Training System, which transformed his physique to win countless bodybuilding competitions at just 18 years of age! He was also the first bodybuilder to utilize Faradic Electric Muscle Stimulation in his training and intermittent fasting during his competition prep. John’s SHREDDED Nutrition Diet helped him build one of the most shredded physiques of all time. His diet program incorporates fasting and nutrient timing to help athletes build lean muscle while losing body fat.

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The Ultimate HIT3 Back Panel Workout By John Robert Cardillo Part 1

As part of my HIT3 workout program, the back and lats are trained during the third and final workout of the week. This workout is performed two days after the second workout of the week. The reason I advocate taking two days off (instead of one day off) after the lower body workout is to allow the central nervous system (CNS) more recuperation time. The third workout consists of training what I refer to as the “back panel”: lats, rear deltoids, and trapezius.

This will be a three-part article. Part 1 will focus on latissimus dorsi (lats) training. Part 2 will focus on the rear deltoids, and Part 3 will focus on the trapezius.

 Latissimus Dorsi (Back) Anatomy

Your lats are triangular muscles on both sides of your back. They play a role in depression of the arm in conjunction with the pectoralis major and the teres major. They also internally rotate, extend and adduct the shoulder. When your arms are overhead, they’re responsible for pulling the body up and forward. Obviously, they can also pull something down to you.

Lat (Back) Limitation

To exercise the back muscles, the arms are always involved. Therefore, during exercises such as chin-ups, pull-downs or rows, the biceps, forearms and hands tend to tire before the back muscles are totally exhausted, resulting in a set of back exercise having to be halted because of the arms failing before the back muscles do. This limitation is the real reason why most bodybuilders never seem to achieve their full potential in developing a great back.

That’s why I’ve always grouped the back exercises in a way that they weren’t 100 percent arms-dependent, thereby allowing me to fully stimulate my lat muscles and develop one of my best body parts: a V-tapered, muscular back.

HIT3 Back Training Methodology

The back is a “panel” of various interconnected muscles that start at the base of the neck, fan out to the deltoids and taper down to the hips. This group of muscles is made of the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, levator scapula, trapezius, rear deltoids and spinal erectors. Therefore, these muscles must be trained in the same workout because of how they contract together during every exercise. An exercise that directly isolates one muscle (such as rear deltoids) also indirectly contracts its adjoining muscles (rhomboids and trapezius).

HIT3 Lats Sequence Workout:

  1. Wide Grip Chins to Chest – 10 + repetitions
  2. Nautilus Behind Neck Torso Machine (or Wide Lat Pulldowns to Chest Using Hand Straps) – 10 repetitions
  3. Nautilus Behind Neck Pulldown Using Hand Straps – 10 + repetitions
  4. Nautilus Pullover – 10 + repetitions
  5. Close Grip Lat Pulldown – 10 + repetitions
  6. MedX Row (or Hammer Vertical Row) – 10 repetitions
  7. Cable Row – 10 repetitions

1. Wide Grip Chins to Chest - If I had to pick just one exercise that I would do for my back, I’d pick wide-grip chin-ups to the chest. It totally works the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, middle trapezius and rear deltoids.

When doing the exercise, the hand placement on the chin-up bar must not be too wide; a bit wider than your shoulder width is perfect. Performing the exercise properly by stretching as low as possible and holding that stretch position for a two-count will ensure that the whole back is activated as you start pulling up. Not swinging the body and pulling until your chest hits the chin-up bar contracts all the muscles of the back. Holding the contracted position also for a two-count ensures that perfect form is maintained and all the back muscles are engaged. I recommend 10 repetitions; however, only when you can complete 11 perfect repetitions should you start strapping weight on your waist.

The one challenge that chin-ups present is that the hands give out before the back muscles do. For this reason, I always recommend that wrist straps be used to perform this exercise. Once positive failure is reached, I recommend 2 more negative repetitions (for a 10 seconds minimum) be performed and 1 static repetition, held in the top contracted position for as long as possible.

Without rest, we should move on to the second exercise

2. Nautilus Behind Neck Torso Machine - This is a pre-exhaustion isolation exercise. The Nautilus behind-neck torso machine’s movement is similar to how the arms move during chin-ups, except that the hands aren’t holding anything, and the triceps areas are placed overhead against two roller pads and push down parallel to the upper body to complete the movement. This is a terrific machine to use after the arms are tired from the chin-ups. The problem is that this machine is hardly ever found in today’s fitness clubs. The movement contracts the latissimus dorsi muscles, pushing them to work even harder than the chin-ups. Because this is a pre-exhaustion sequence, no negative-only repetitions are performed. Once positive failure has been reached, then the individual leans their body forward to grab a bar overhead and perform behind-the-neck pull-downs.

NOTE: As an alternative exercise, you may substitute this with wide lat machine pulldowns to the chest, using hand straps to save your hands from tiring.

3. Nautilus Behind Neck Pulldown - This movement targets the already-tired latissimus muscles, causing incredible contractions and a burning feeling. Once muscular failure has been reached, performing a minimum of 8 or more repetitions, the upper latissimus and rhomboid muscles have been totally worked.

4. Nautilus Pullovers - Without rest, we now start focusing on the main lat muscles by performing another pre-exhaustion combination exercise. The Nautilus 2ST pull-over machine is the best pull-over machine ever made. It provides 270 degrees of direct resistance to the lat muscles being worked without tiring your arms, because the hands aren’t directly used in the movement.

Continuing pull-overs until positive failure is reached thoroughly works the lat muscles and serratus muscles like no other exercise. This was a favourite exercise that six-time Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates used to build one of the most Herculean backs in bodybuilding history. The closest alternative to this is doing them across a bench with a heavy dumbbell. Even though that’s an effective movement, it’s inferior to the Nautilus pull-over machine I recommend. After positive failure, 2 negative-only repetitions (for a minimum of 10 seconds each) and one 10-second static repetition must be performed.

Without rest, proceed to the close grip pull down.

5. Close Grip Palms up Lat Pulldowns – For this exercise, use a grip that allows your hands to be 10 inches apart. This movement mimics the pull-over, except now you get to use your hands and forearms, with hand straps to assist. This targets the lats in a unique way because of the pre-exhaustion caused by the pull-overs; you’ll target more fibres this way as a result. The goal is to be able to perform this exercise with 100 pounds more than your body weight. If you weigh 200 pounds, 300 pounds would be a great goal to aspire to. After reaching positive failure, 2 negative and 1 static repetition are to be completed.

Without rest, move onto the next exercise.

6. MedX Row - Now that the large latissimus muscles have been worked, we target the mid and low lat area. You’ll start feeling a deep contraction in this area as you reach failure with this exercise. Performing to negative failure is challenging in this exercise but is very beneficial. A final static repetition in the contracted position is a fantastic feeling in this exercise.

Without rest, move on to the final exercise.

7. Long Cable Rows - To get the best effect from this exercise, I have two recommendations. First, use a V-attachment to the cable so that the hands are close together. Second, the stretch needs to be long enough so that the hands stretch beyond your toes to achieve the greatest lower lat activation possible. Pull into the stomach area and push your chest out as you do so. Hold the contracted position so that you can really target the lower portion of the lats as well as the lower trapezius. I recommend going to positive failure only on this final exercise.

This completes the lat part of the workout. With minimal rest, we now proceed to rear deltoid work. This will be covered in the next article.

For more on John Robert Cardillo, check out his website at johnrobertcardillo.com, his instagram at @johnrobertcardillo or right here at Muscle Insider at John Robert Cardillo.

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