Do you know what the Line of Pull is?
If not, you need to know.
It has a BIG impact on your gains. Here’s why…
We all want to achieve maximal contractions in our workouts in order to stimulate maximum growth.
So it’s important to understand that:
a muscular contraction can only achieve its maximal physiological and mechanical efficiency when performed along the line of pull.
Don’t worry about the fancy definition, let me explain by example.
Let’s take the squat.
Many guys make the mistake of having their feet too far apart. Shoulder-width apart allows you to work along the line of pull.
Because any wider actually WASTES contractile force. You are not moving along the most efficient path for the movement, hence some of the force you are producing is moved away from actually moving the weight up and down and is simply wasted.
That’s an example of the line of pull as it refers to an exercise. We can also refer to the line of pull for an individual muscle.
Let’s look at the biceps.
You know that in previous articles I’ve mentioned that for any given body part, an exercise should be included that works along the path of its FUNCTION.
So we look at the function of a muscle and see what exercise works in harmony with it. Then we can be sure that we will be recruiting 100% of the muscle fibers for that muscle.
The function of the biceps:
- To supinate the hand i.e. turn the palms to face up
- Elbow flexion i.e. raising the forearm up towards the upper arm
Supinating the hand is actually the primary function of the biceps. It therefore follows that the hand must be in the fully supinated position (palm facing up) to fully contract the bicep.
Test it yourself now…
- Raise your forearm so that it is at a right angle to your humerus (upper arm bone).
- Now turn your hand from a pronated position (palms facing down) to a fully supinated one. Feel how to bicep starts to contract and ONLY reaches a position of FULL contraction when the hand is fully supinated.
Having the hand in a more pronated position, as with EZ bar curls, forces you to lose a lot of the potential contractile force. It can’t maximize muscle fiber recruitment, and you therefore can’t stimulate maximum growth.
The line of pull is one of the reasons why I state time and again that isolation exercises are a requirement in addition to compound movements if your goal is COMPLETE muscular development.
As I stated in ‘What is Muscle Growth‘, we produce tiny micro-tears inside individual muscle fibers. As they repair they become thicker i.e. your muscles grow.
But you simply can’t create these tears in fibers that weren’t even recruited in the exercise. So many compound-only routines make the bold claim that you can get maximum muscle growth without isolation exercises.
For example, you may be advised to do the overhead press for big biceps. This is just wrong.
An overhead press is simply not optimally mechanically effective for the biceps. There is no theory here. It’s a fact.
You need an exercise that will work along the line of pull. In the case of the biceps, the best exercise is cable preacher curls.
So what are you, the reader, going to do? You don’t have to worry about it.
- All the best exercises for each body part
- The correct mix of compound and isolation exercises for maximum all round development
- The correct form for each exercise to ensure maximum motor unit activation.
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Very helpful. Thanks for this Mark
Hi Mark, I feel what you say, but what if you do feel a little “pain” in the whirst doind straight supinated curls? I do feel much more confortable with the easy bar… :o( What should I do???
@Cesar. Make sure your grip is wide enough. Each person should assess this for themselves. Start with a shoulder-width grip and go from there. Too narrow or too wide will hurt the wrists. If this truly doesn’t help, there is the option of doing cable preachers one arm at a time, which will remove the wrist pain. You don’t need to remove EZ curls, just ensure that your bicep routine includes a fully supinated movement.
Would supinated dumbell curls suffice?
@Matt. You can use them for sure.Only drawback is there is no resistance at the top of the movement. Cable preacher curls or a preacher machine delivers resistance at the top i.e. the ‘peak contraction point’ as I call it. So I’d like all hackers to include this in their bicep work.
hey mark, you’ve said in the past there should be 48 hours between conflicting body parts when lifting. or im just assuming that but anyway in THT 5.0 arms are done wednesday including biceps then the back is worked on thursday which requires rows, which uses the biceps. im just a little confused, and great post by the way!
Yeah jesh make a good point. I just started THT5 but I remember from the THT4 book I think chest came after legs, with back on Friday. Why the change? Or am I not remembering things correctly? Lol
By the way Mark I just got back to the gym a couple weeks ago after missing six months and I’m loving THT. I used to fit in 24-30 sets in an hour and I find the less sets and longer rests help me get more mentally prepared for each set and I don’t find myself rushing to get out of the gym quicker, which probably resulted in prematurely failed sets. I used to follow everything else in your book except the sets/rests because I felt like a dogf—er in the gym but now I realize how beneficial it is! I should have done this sooner but ultimately I did because I know you’re the only source I can rely on for workout advice and you haven’t been wrong yet!
@Jesh @Allen. Conflicting body parts are chest, triceps, and shoulders. Rows don’t use biceps to any great intensity. Most of the stress is taken by the lats, so it’s not going to hamper your bicep recovery. Make sure you’re doing them as I instruct though i.e. don’t be using an underhand grip for rows.
@Allen. Fantastic. Yes it is very beneficial to have those longer breaks. We’re there to stimulate growth, it’s not an aerobic workout or an endurance contest. Those have nothing to do with stimulating increases in size and strength,
Mark, Thanks for these useful tips. I am back at the gym after a long lay-off. Lost my motivation after a bad fall. I’ll be coming to your blog often for help and clarifications.