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Thread: Q&A with Dorian Yates | Six-Time Mr. Olympia Offers Training Advice

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    Default Q&A with Dorian Yates | Six-Time Mr. Olympia Offers Training Advice


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    Colemanesque Beti ona's Avatar
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    I can read for hours when Dorian writes.
    «Humanity has been led by failures.»

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    Lost of good old common sense. Great to see.

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    I don't think the barbell row is "better" than T-bar rows I think they are "different" Furthermore, barbell rows can be so diverse in terms of exercise performance that we really can't consider the "barbell" row a singular movement. Depending on grip width and the angle of pull (how upright the body is), we can target different muscles in the back to a greater or lesser degree. For example, anyone who has done both traditional barbell rows (wide grip, upper-body parallel with ground) and 70 degree (Yate's) rows can attest to the fact that these are two very different exercises that can provide very different results. Therefore, we can't really say that barbell rows are better than T-bar rows, as each variation will increase of decrease the activation of different muscles. Even though the 70 degree barbell row and T-bar row may be similar in terms of body angle, they are still different exercises (for reasons I will touch on in a second), and not simply because of differences in "range of motion" either. This negates the possibility of a "value comparison", especially when value is determined by need.

    So, aside from the fact that these are two different exercises, let's compare them when they are both performed at a body angle of 70 degrees. Dorian Yates cited the slightly increased range of motion on barbell rows as its primary advantage, but is it? Without getting into a long debate about "range of motion", I will just say this. Carrying an exercise through the longest range of motion is certainly NOT always the best way to stimulate growth. This is already a proven fact--both clinically and anecdotally. I could give numerous examples, as well as an explanation, but this is something that can be researched more in depth if others are interested.

    In the case of barbell vs t-bar rows, a slightly reduced range of motion can actually be beneficial in terms of overall muscle stimulation. This is because the barbell has a more uneven strength curve. In laymen's terms, an exercise's strength curve tells us how hard or easy an exercise is to perform at various points along its range of motion. Few exercises have an even strength curve. With most exercises we will find that it is harder and easier at certain points during its range of motion. For instance, it is much easier to lift a certain weight during the first half of a side lateral than the last half...and the closer we come to the top, the harder it gets. It's the same with bench presses. We can lift much more weight at the lockout than the bottom portion of the lift. This is why people tend to swing the dumbbells when doing lateral or bounce the bar when doing bench presses. They are trying to get through the "sticking point". Basically, these "sticking points" signify an uneven strength curve. If a strength curve was completely even (no free weight exercises are perfectly even), we would possess equal strength throughout the entire range of motion.

    The problem with strength curves is that the more uneven they become, the more they negatively affect our ability to life maximal weights in strict form, as we will be forced to limit the weights we use to the weakest link. For example, if we are doing side laterals with strict form (no momentum), the amount of weight we can use is limited to the weakest part of the range of motion, which would be the top. Now, we can "swing" the dumbbell up a bit--get some momentum behind it in order to use more weight--but when lifted in strict form (no momentum), we must limit the weights we use to the weakest point in the strength curve. This prevents us from being able to use a weight heavy enough to maximally stress the muscle in the strongest part of the range of motion. Bodybuilders intuitively realized this decades ago and began to employ momentum in order to use more weights on certain exercises, especially those with a very uneven strength curve. For example, just about everyone uses some body english when doing dumbbell rear lateral raises, as doing dumbbell rear laterals with 100% strict form would severely limit the weights we could use and prevent maximum muscle stimulation.

    Although to a lesser degree, we see this same problem with barbell rows. It is much harder to pull the bar those last 3-4 inches into the waist than it is the first 2/3rd's or even 3/4's range of motion. If we perform our barbell rows strictly, pulling that last 1/4 will force us to reduce the weights we use by a considerable margin. This is, once again, why almost everyone uses at least some body english when doing barbell rows. Of course, many people simply have ego issues and just want to use more weight for the sake of using more weight, but other bodybuilders have realized they can get more out of the movement by using a little bit of momentum--just enough to help them get through that last 1/4 of the movement. Even Dorian Yates employed a bit of momentum--although less than most.

    With T-bar rows, since the last 1/5th or so of the movement is eliminated, we aren't limited to the weakest link to the same degree, which will allow us to use a greater amount of weight with strict form. In turn, we will be able to place greater stress on the muscle during the strongest part of the range of motion. While we could argue both pros and cons here, but I will just leave it at that and move onto the 2nd point.

    Unlike barbell rows, T-bar rows don't travel in a straight up and down line, but in an arc, which further changes the strength curve of the exercise--in a favorable way. Because of this arc, resistance varies throughout the range of motion. During the first half of the range of motion, which is the strongest part of this exercise's strength curve, the bar is pretty much being pulled straight up and down, which means we will be fighting gravity nearly 100%. But...as we surpass the mid-point of the range of motion and the bar continues following its arc, it will start following a more diagonal line of pull, which reduces resistance by decreasing gravitational pull during that part of the range of motion. Basically, this results in a more even strength curve by providing less resistance where we are weaker and more resistance where we are stronger. Sine we are no longer being limited by the weakest link, we are able to use more weight and therefore place greater stress on the muscle throughout the exercise's "entire" range of motion, rather than having to severely reduce the weight just to complete the last 1/4 of the movement.

    Furthermore, a person's structure will also dictate which movement is superior for working certain parts of the back. Barbell rows may have provided better lat stimulation for Dorian, but not necessarily for everyone else. Taking into consideration the points made above, as well as structural differences, we can't label either of these exercises as "superior", even when the upper-body remains at a 70 degree angle. Trying to do so would be no different than trying to come up with a ranking system for all rows, in which we rank them from best to worst. Obviously, we could never do that, as each exercise has something unique to offer. Even small changes in the angle of pull, strength curve, grip width, bar trajectory, etc, can completely change the exercise alter the amount of stress that each back muscle, or even different areas of that muscle, receive.

    For the record, Dorian Yates is my favorite pro bodybuilder behind Arnold and was a huge inspiration and influence in my younger years, so my opinion certainly isn't biased against him. If anything, I am more prone to agree with Yate's on most things, but not this one here.

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