Arm // Tag

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18 Nov

A practical session for coaches in which Mark Rippetoe discusses the teaching method for the power clean and how teaching a correct pull early on prevents arm pulling problems in the future. Filmed at the 2016 Starting Strength Coaches Association Conference.

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17 Nov

If you struggle to build a thick, wide back it is probably not because your program sucks. The answer is likely much simpler than that—your technique is crap and you cannot develop a mind-muscle connection (MMC) with the muscles of the back.


Chief amongst these muscles is the latissimus dorsi (lats). The lats are the muscles that give you that awesome v-tapered look. To build your lats, the solution isn’t doing more of the same. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.



Tons of sets of poorly executed reps won’t make up for a lack of quality. Tweaking your rep scheme isn’t the answer if your reps are not effective. You must improve form, develop the MMC with the lats, and establish the capacity to create tension in the muscle. Only once you have done this does it make sense to increase training variables like volume, intensity, and/or frequency.


The Single Arm Breakthrough Pulldown

To achieve this, I suggest you use the single-arm breakthrough pulldown. The single-arm part of the name is fairly obvious. The breakthrough portion relates to the fact you are going to try and drive your elbow to “breakthrough” the leg pad at the bottom of the lift.


This exercise has a few key benefits compared to a traditional lat pulldown.


  1. Doing it one arm at a time helps you to focus all of your intention on one side. This means you can really feel the lat of the working side contracting.
  2. It also means your scapular muscles can move more freely and can get into a full stretch easier. When both arms a moving the range is somewhat blocked by the movement of the other shoulder blade.
  3. Using a rotating grip allows you to supinate your arm and reach up and away in front of the body. This creates an excellent stretch on the lats. By pre-stretching them, they can activate better when you reverse the movement. A pronated grip does not allow for this extreme stretch.
  4. Finally, and this is where the real magic of this exercise kicks in, using the leg pad as an immovable object to drive into guarantees you use a full range and provides some resistance to work against at peak contraction.


Often lifters hit full range, relax, and let the weight drop back into the lowering phase. As the set progresses and fatigue kicks in, they don’t even manage to reach the full range. Single-arm breakthrough pulldowns make it very obvious if you cut range.


Doing these properly with a full range on every rep has you driving into the pad for a few seconds at the bottom. This means the muscle doesn’t get any letup. Instead, you get a deep, almost cramp-like feeling in your lats which really improves your ability to feel them on other exercises. This feedback tool is an excellent way to fast track your ability to recruit your lats and make all of your back training more effective.


The way you perform your rows and pulldowns can have a massive impact on their effectiveness as lat builders. Effectively training your lats is largely down to the angle you pull at and where your elbows start and finish. Your arm path will determine if you hit the lats or your upper back and biceps more.



Lat Anatomy 101

The anatomy of the lats dictates how best to train them. The lats originate at the spine and insert onto the inside of your humerus (upper arm). The lats cover a large surface area and start out broad before arrowing in on the insertion point.



As a consequence, the fibers of the lats form a fan-like pattern. The upper fibers are more horizontal while the lower fibers have a more vertical line of pull. To best train them you need to take them through a full range and challenge them from fully stretched to their fully shortened position.


To create the v-tapered aesthetic look of golden era bodybuilders, you need to develop the lateral, lower portion of your lats. These fibers are predominantly vertical in alignment. To train them you should align the resistance in the same path. This is done by training in a vertical pull movement pattern (aka. pulldowns).


The Clue Isn’t Always In the Name

Exactly how you perform your pulldowns will determine if the lats are effectively stimulated. Almost every gym junkie uses a wide-grip, pronated lat pulldown to try and build their lats. Sadly, what they don’t realize is that this will probably build their upper back more than the lower lats that they are hoping to challenge. This is because the line of pull allows other muscles to create leverage and move the load instead of the lats.


Don’t get me wrong, pronated wide grip pulldowns are a good exercise, but they aren’t ideal to train the lats. This is especially true when the goal is the get the lower fibers fully shortened into a good quality peak contraction. The flared arm position of regular pulldown limits the workload of the lats and their ability to get into a fully shortened position.


For the lats to create leverage it is best achieved with the arms moving in an arching pattern from out in front of the body and driving in by the side—almost like a straight arm pullover pattern. Single arm breakthrough pulldowns allow you to mimic this pattern with the added bonus of having the leg pad to drive into at the end of each rep.


Hone Your Single Arm Breakthrough Pulldown Technique

Use these technique points to magnify the effectiveness of the exercise:


  1. Let the arm reach up and in front of the body to achieve the lengthened position—this will immediately place tension through the lats.
  2. Initiate the movement by pulling the elbow down and in front, NOT back. Doing so will keep tension on the lats and avoid the upper back taking over.
  3. Keep your arm path out in front for as long as possible. Keeping a long lever arm creates and maintains maximal tension in the lats.
  4. Only at the bottom of the lift do you finish by driving your elbow around into the spine.
  5. Imagine trying to stab your elbow through the leg pad towards the base of your spine to achieve a great peak contraction. Hold this for a 2 count.


After a few sets of 10-12 reps like this, you will feel your lats like never before.


Every rep of every set is a growth opportunity. You should aim to place tension and stimulate the target muscle on every single rep. To build your back, invest some time and effort into improving the activation of your lats with this exercise.


It will yield far superior returns than mindlessly battering away on the deadlifts, rows, and pull-ups you’ve always done. Instead, it will enhance the effectiveness of all these exercises and allow you to build that wide, powerful-looking back you want.

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26 Aug

We’re nearing the end of winter, and if you dipped a bit too much into the hearty stews and warm puddings, you might be sporting a few extra unwanted kilos. Not to worry – this workout, extracted from Tammy Rawstron and Rachel Kolisi’s new e-book, Rise Transformation Guide, is perfect for getting you fit and ready for summer.

The workout is designed to target your arms and tummy – two major sources of insecurity for many women – and give you a cardio spike for added fat burn. Best of all, you can do it at home. All you need it a sturdy chair or bench.

READ MORE: This 6-Move Yoga Sequence Will Seriously Tighten Your Tummy

The low-down on the workout

The workout is divided into three sets of three exercises. Do the exercises in the order shown. Starting with set 1, exercise 1, do the exercise as many times as you can in a minute, then immediately move on to the next exercise. Once you’ve done all three exercises in set 1, you’ve completed one round of set 1. Do two more rounds, then rest for max one minute before moving on to set 2. Repeat the pattern for set 2 and set 3.

Workout set 1

1A / Crab Toe Taps 

Sit on the ground, legs bent, hands flat behind you with fingers pointing forwards. Push through your hands and feet to raise your bum off the ground. This is a crab. Bring your right hand to meet your left foot (A). Now bring your left hand to meet your right foot (B). Continue alternating.



1B/ Triceps Lying Down Extension

Lie on your back, knees bent, core braced, a single dumbbell in both hands at arm’s length above you (A). Lower the weight behind your head (B), then bring it back up to start. That’s one rep.



1C/ Hammer curl to military press

Stand tall with core braced, dumbbells at your sides, palms facing your body (A). Keeping your elbows tucked in, curl the weights to shoulder height (B). Push the weights overhead (C), then reverse back to start. That’s one rep.





Workout set 2

2A/ Triceps Overhead Extension

Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart, core braced and holding one heavy dumbbell in both hands behind your head (A). Straighten your arms to raise the dumbbell overhead (B). Lower back to start. That’s one rep.




2B/ Elevated Push-Ups

Lean your hands shoulder-width apart on a sturdy bench or chair. Step your feet back so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels (A). Keeping your core tight, lower your chest to the bench (B), then push back to start. That’s one rep.



2C/ Weighted Double Crunches

Grab one dumbbell in both hands and lie on your back, lower back flat against the floor, knees bent. Raise the dumbbell back behind your head (A). In one motion, brace your abs to pull your legs to your chest, simultaneously raising your shoulders off the ground and bringing the dumbbell to meet your legs (B). Reverse back to start.



Workout set 3

3A/ Burpees

Stand with your core braced (A). Squat down to place your hands on the floor in front of you (B). Jump or step your legs back into a push-up position (C), then lower your chest to the floor (D). Push back up, jump or step your legs in towards your hands and jump up, landing back at the start. That’s one rep.





3B/ Plank Shoulder Tap

Get into the top of a push-up position, hands under shoulders, core braced (A). Keeping your hips as still as possible, tap your left shoulder with your right hand (B), then tap your right shoulder with your left hand. Continue alternating.



3C/ Double Crunch

Lie flat on your back, legs together, arms extended behind your head (A). Brace your abs and simultaneously bring your knees to chest and raise your shoulders, bringing your hands to meet your feet (B). Reverse back to start. That’s one rep.


Women’s Health participates in various affiliate marketing programmes, which means we may get commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

READ MORE ON: Bodyweight Workouts Total Body Workouts

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25 Jul

Time: 10 minutes

Equipment: Mat

Good for: Arms, upper body

Instructions: For each move, complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds. Then continue on to the next move. Continue this pattern of effort for all six exercises. Repeat the entire circuit a second time.

Melody Davi, a personal trainer, instructor with SLT and Obé Fitness, uses this bodyweight arm workout with her clients who want to strengthen their upper body. It helped her client completely transform her arms. Complete this 10-minute workout two to three times a week for the best results.

Hand-Release Pushup

How to: Start in a high plank. (Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.) Keeping your core tight, bend your elbows to lower your body all the way down to the floor. At the bottom, allow your torso to rest on the ground as you lift your hands a couple inches off your mat and then return them to the floor. Push back up to high plank. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then continue to the next move.

Superman To Pulldown

How to: Lie on your stomach. Extend your arms in front of you, and legs behind you. Keep your palms facing down. Lift your legs and arms at the same time. (Pretend you’re being stretched like a piece of taffy.) Hold this position as you bend your arms, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and bring your elbows to your sides to create a “W” shape with your upper body. Bring your arms forward, then lower your body back down to the starting position. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then continue to the next move.

Blast-Off Pushup

How to: Start in a high plank position. Sit your butt back towards your heels while keeping your arms fully extended. Return to high plank and lower down into a pushup, with your elbows bent at 45-degrees angles away from your body. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then continue to the next move.

Triceps Dip To Toe Touch

How to: Sit on your mat with your heels under your knees and palms flat on the mat just behind your glutes, fingers facing your body. Lift your but to hover above your mat. This is your start position. Bend your arms, elbows pointed straight back behind you, and tap your butt on the mat. Push yourself back up to your starting position, then lift and extend your right leg and try and tap your toes with your left hand. Return to start and repeat the entire sequence on your other side. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then continue to the next move.

Tripod Pushup

How to: Get into a downward dog position — your body should form a “V” shape. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your forearms toward the ground until your elbows nearly touch the mat. Return to start with control. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then continue to the next move.

Diamond Pushup

How to: Assume a high-plank position, but with your hands close together under your chest so your thumbs and forefingers form a triangle on the ground. Lower your body, with your elbows pointing toward your feet and biceps close to your body. Then press back up. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then continue to the next move.

This article was originally published on 

READ MORE ON: Arm Workouts Fitness Fitness Advice Upper Body Workouts Workouts

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25 Jul

It’s now official — the Kansas City area has been selected for the new home of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Economic Research Service (ERS). Many of us in the agricultural research community are still in a state of shock. Soon after the announcement, we saw the secretary meeting with affected personnel who turned their backs on him.

These developments are jolting. 

ERS and NIFA were created with much debate and careful, respectful deliberation by all parties who had a stake in them. It is perplexing how such fundamental changes can be proposed intelligently by USDA with little or no input by any party in a very “hurry up” time frame.

Having studied the history of how the USDA, the Land-grant university system, and our agricultural research, education and extension system came to be, USDA’s actions are truly unprecedented. Even though the legislation that created the Land-grant university system was passed during the heat of the U.S. Civil War, there were many, many debates and discussions about the legislation. The agricultural research system was formalized in 1887 following over 16 years of debate, discussion, and after some 14 states had initiated some form of agricultural research effort.

If allowed this move would be detrimental to our agricultural research effort in the long run, but more concerning is the lack of recognition, appreciation, and respect by the secretary for agricultural research and the agricultural research community. 

Regardless of how we have arrived at this situation — and where it ends up — we must find a way out that re-engages all parties such that they can work collegiately in support of American agriculture. With Secretary Perdue not listening to agricultural research experts or USDA employees, we need the leadership of Congress. The House appropriations committee — through the leadership of Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) — has moved forcefully to block the relocation in a fiscal 2020 bill.

The U.S. Senate does not yet have a fiscal 2020 bill for USDA. So far, however, the Senate majority has shown little appetite to stand up to the secretary and advocate for the agencies or the integrity of USDA science. Even if the Senate does match or agree to the House language blocking the moves, the fiscal 2020 appropriations bill for USDA is months from being finalized and Perdue is working to use non-federal funds — effectively skirting congressional input — to complete the moves this fiscal year.

I simply refuse to believe we are unable to find a workable solution that will enable all parties to work collegiately for American agriculture.

Recently, I proposed that Perdue and the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) co-chair a joint commission that would consider and address all aspects of the agricultural research effort including the secretary’s relocation of NIFA and ERS. Perdue and APLU should engage the National Academy of Sciences to convene a panel that includes agricultural research leaders to conduct an in-depth review and study to chart a course for agricultural research in the future. It should be developed with ample opportunity for input by all parties who have a stake in agriculture. Such studies have been effective, indeed transformative, on a variety of topics, including agriculture. 

Congress should mandate USDA to fund such a study and delay any relocation until it is completed. If Perdue succeeds however in sidestepping Congress to achieve the moves — or if the Senate allows Perdue’s upheaval of the USDA research arm — Congress should still mandate the USDA-funded study to get American agricultural research back up on its feet. 

Gale Buchanan was USDA chief scientist and undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics under President George W. Bush and dean of agriculture at the University of Georgia. He is the author of “Feeding the World: Agricultural Research in the Twenty-First Century” (2018) and “Branch Research Stations in Agriculture: History, Development, Operation, and Future” (2019).

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18 Jul

When journalist Eric Umansky discovered that the machine that helps him breathe at night was “transmitting” his sleep habits to his insurance company, he was not happy, reports An Arm and a Leg podcast.

He was also less than pleased to learn that his insurer wanted to use that information to avoid paying for the treatment his doctor prescribed.

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