Month: March 2012

Vertical Low Row on Lat Tower Back Training

A strong, muscular back is important if you intend to carry a backpack, walk with trekking poles, ice climb, rock climb, or even ascending fixed lines with an ascender. With our longterm goal of the Seven Summits quest in mind, these are all important for each, if not every, one of the seven (or nine as the case may be). The image below shows me in a lockoff position rock climbing – wherein the handhold is gripped at about waist to chest level with a small amount of tension.

Lead Solo Climbing at Rock Canyon - The Wild
Lockoff position Lead Rope Solo Climbing

One of my favorite exercises is a modification of a low row done vertically on a lat tower on my power rack. For the video below I set the bench under the lat pulldown of my power rack, clipped on a set of Double Handle Cable Attachment (Double-D handles), put 115 lb on the weight platform, grabbed onto the handles, and sat down with my knees under the highest setting on the knee pads. I pulled down and sat all the way back till I was parallel to the ground, laying flat on the bench.

I get full range of motion by pulling all the way down till my hands touch my chest, retracting the middle of my upper back, and on the way up let my upper back curve so that my shoulders lift off the bench. I think if you have shoulder problems it might be best to lock your shoulders into place and only swivel your elbow up and down with the handles.


One thing to watch out for: some people have a tendency to flex their wrists inward at the back (retracted) position, presumably to get more range of motion (ROM) but that’s pointless and can lead to injury if you have any kind of repetitive stress at your job (typing/mousing). Pointless because the muscle you’re training is behind and below your shoulder, not in your forearm, so the extra “oomph” in your wrist won’t help much.

Note that by laying back and keeping flat on the bench you’ll also be working your obliques a bit. Not a lot, but well worth the effort to stay flat and resist the effect of the weight pulling you up off the bench. You can modify this to work with bands, or on another type of machine, but this is my favorite. Don’t get hurt, train smart, and let me know how this works for you.

Too exhausted to Repin on Pinterest

I was chatting with my wife Angie this morning on FB Messenger. She’s been skating really hard, having just completed one competition and on the way to another, with the goal of working in a double jump and getting her axel solid. She was having some recovery issues, and she said:

Angie: you know you are exhausted when you are too tired to hit REPIN on Pinterest

Angie and Coach Todd Gilles at Desert Ice in Las Vegas Nevada, November 2013
Angie and Coach Todd Gilles at Desert Ice in Las Vegas Nevada, November 2013

It was so fun talking about her recovery, and the usual stretching, ibuprofen, rolling, hot bath, consuming a few more calories, a few more quality carbs, a few more aminos. I got the sudden inspiration:

Me: that is so totally worth being a slogan

I spent a few minutes in Gimp (my current photo editor of choice) and whipped this up in just a few minutes. I had a tough time selecting pictures since I’m not on my main photo editing computer, so don’t have access to a lot of my favorite images. But it’ll be a good test of the system, to see how this works out. Could be fun.

Too exhausted to repin
Too exhausted to repin on Pinterest

As an aside, this was in December of 2010 at about 185 lb and 14% bodyfat. This image originally appeared in my Blogger Blog article DIY: Twin D-Handle Long Chain Workout Accessory – how to make your own Lat Row extension so you can pull back farther past your chest for a longer range of motion (ROM) while doing various lat exercises. I should do an article on how to use it here on this blog.

What Type of Climber are You?

Not a typical bodybuilding post, but I was reading a funny article about climber psychotyping with a clever approach. I got a good chuckle at the list, and found this one particularly applicable:

Trainers ostensibly train in order to climb harder, but can lose sight of climbing and become obsessed with the cleansing act of self-mortification through extreme physical activity. This subtype is common amongst mountaineers and alpinists, as masochistic tendencies is integral to these types of climbing.”

So yeah. That’s totally true. Some days I’m training away and look out the window at a particularly attractive cliff near my house that’s never been developed. I tell myself someday – but know I’d probably rather ride a stairmaster than pop off chossy holds.

Is that so bad? I began this training quite a few years ago after a miserable ice climbing class during which I could barely haul myself up 40′ of WI3 without sewing-machine legs and hands sliding off my tools in spite of my wrist leashes. I had a really good year leading up to summer 2010 during which I was all around the world attempting climbs both group and solo, but minorly psychologically damaged by my Liberty Ridge near-death experience. Somewhere in the middle of that I discovered that I’m slightly better at training for climbing than I am at climbing itself.

No, it’s not so bad. I can share my insights with you, and give you a few shots of boost to get your rockets firing.