Stretchers, Activators, and Pumpers For Back Training

I really think the concept of stretchers, activators, and pumpers can allow for optimal training and is important for trainers/trainees to understand because of the implications it has. Here’s a simple breakdown:
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The exercises shown in the picture are a few examples for each category. There are many other exercises for each category that aren’t listed above. For example, a T-bar row could be a good activator movement and straight arm pulldowns could be a solid stretcher movement. Really it’s just up to your imagination to apply this concept to other exercises.
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Stretchers: Maximum tension is when the muscle is at full stretch. Examples of this are the barbell row, lat pulldowns, or dumbbell pullovers. These can be done every 3-4 days.
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Activators: Maximum tension happens when the muscle is fully shortened/contracted. Examples of this are dumbbell shrugs, 1 arm dumbbell rows, and pull-ups. These should be done every 2-3 days.
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Pumpers: Low levels of metabolic stress which leads to a relatively low amount of muscle damage. These exercises are best performed for higher reps (15+). Examples of this for the back are facepulls, back extensions, and bent over reverse flyes. These can be done up to 5-6 days per week because of the low stress they cause to the muscle.
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Something to remember is that the frequency that people can do these movements will vary greatly. For someone that has never done a pull up, then a pull up would be considered a stretcher because of the large stress placed on the muscle. However, if someone can do 20 bodyweight pull ups, it would better suited as an activator for that person.


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