by Bobby Ashhurst Bodybuilding.com
Physique and bodybuilding shows are often won and lost from behind. Although judges at men’s physique shows aren’t supposed to take our back into consideration in scoring, I credit mine for helping me to stand out against competitors who outweighed me by 20-40 pounds.
Everywhere I look, I see people taking selfies to show off how shredded they are. Although they do a great job of leaning out, one thing I see both online and on stage is a lack of muscle density. A super-shredded physique is great for getting more “likes” on Facebook, but it won’t do much for you if you’re performing on the athletic field or competition stage.
A strong back helps protect the spine and allows for correct posture when training every other body part. If you’re spending all your time trying to bring up those little details, then you’re missing out on a much more important training aspect: building a big, thick back.
Let’s build one. Here’s how it’s done:
WARM-UP // PULL-UPS
(100 reps, for time)
I like to use pull-ups as a warm-up. It’s a great compound bodyweight exercise that will prepare your back for the upcoming work.
Rather than doing traditional sets and reps, I like to go just short of failure before I dismount and recover. Feel free to change hand positions and types of pull-ups to ensure that you hit your back at different angles.
EXERCISE 1 // DEADLIFT
(5 sets of 5 reps)
I consider the deadlift one of the best exercises out there, including variations like the sumo deadlift. The deadlift should be a staple in everyone’s training routine. Because it’s a full-body exercise, you move more weight and burn more calories than you would doing isolation movements like the hamstring curl.
The deadlift is all about building strength—the stronger you are the more weight you can lift. When you lift more weight, your muscles are forced to adapt. The result of that adaptation is more quality muscle.
EXERCISE 2 // PENDLAY ROW
(3-4 sets of 6-8 reps)
This exercise is named after Olympic lifting coach Glenn Pendlay. If it’s good enough for Olympians, then it should be good enough for anyone. This exercise will strengthen your back and teach you how to keep you core tight when you do other lifts like squats and deadlifts.
The Pendlay row is a bent-over row that starts at a dead stop each rep. You won’t be able to lift as much as you can on the barbell row, but the amount you can lift on your barbell row will improve by doing this movement.
EXERCISE 3 // DUMBBELL ROW
(3-4 sets of 6-8 reps)
This is an awesome movement for the lats, rhomboids, and traps. Guys usually love this exercise because you can move some heavy weight. However ego tends to get in the way; I see a lot of guys doing more cheating than lifting. Avoid excessively rounding your back, pull with your lats, and focus on maintain control of the weight on each rep!