BUILD A GIGANTIC BACK LIKE TOP NATURAL PRO BODYBUILDERS
By Ben Yosef with Philip Ricardo Jr. & Martin Daniels
The back. A complex structure unlike any other area of the human musculature. This portion of the body is one that we cannot easily see when we are training or throughout our daily lives. One must rely primarily on “feel” in order to work this area. Perhaps this is the reason that so many Bodybuilders are lacking impressive backs.
Although most top Bodybuilders do posses certain impressive attributes, when viewing them from the rear rarely do we see a “complete” back. We may see incredible width, but when the athlete turns to the side they almost disappear due to the lack of thickness and density, almost like looking at a flat sheet of paper then looking at it from its side. Or perhaps we see tremendous density and thickness, but when attempting to “open” the back, as in a rear Lat spread pose, the wings just don’t have much span.
Well the topic of quality backs is one that interests me greatly. So, I inquired with a couple of top Pros who I felt posses the type of complete backs that most of us covet. The following is their candid feed-BACK
In your opinion, which Natural competitors (past or present) possess the best backs?
RICARDO: The best backs would have to be Jim Cordova, Rob Hope, Doug Miller, and Valentine Ezugha.
DANIELS: It’s hard to say who has the best back.
“…without peak condition you won’t see the development that may be present.”
Although just about all top Bodybuilders have decent back development rarely do we see fully “complete” backs in terms of size, shape, balance, thickness, and detail. You are one of the few that do display all of these qualities. Why do you think so many Bodybuilders are lacking a totally “put together” back?
DANIELS: Most publications focus on frontal views. Always upper body and ab shots pictured. That in itself is the problem with the new and up coming athletes. They don’t see it so they focus on what’s in front of them.
RICARDO: I believe less seasoned competitors may not focus on back training in the beginning of their careers, and may not focus on all of the areas of their backs to get overall development. Also, even if you have good development, without peak condition you won’t see the development that may be present.
And what are you doing that has brought your back to the level that it is at?
DANIELS: I use a 1/2/3-1 method. Every pull or rowing type exercise is 3 reps regular (1/2/3) and on the next rep I squeeze at peak contraction for 5-7 seconds. If I can’t squeeze at the peak contraction point, I hold in the stretching position. Never allowing the weight to rest until completion of the set. Normally it’s 5 x 8-12. To push the limits, I perform minute sets. That’s when all sets last for 1 minute. No numbers, no counting. Just move the damn weight.
RICARDO: I have been training consistently for over 20 years, and I always made it a priority to bring up each body part that I saw was out of balance to the best of my ability. Since I have always chased overall size I kept a lot of compound movements, including deadlifts, to bring more density to my back.
Do you think power moves like dead lifts and cleans are necessary in developing the back?
DANIELS: I perform deads every other back day and always at the end when my back is fatigued. You can’t get that thick and fullness without deadlifts.
RICARDO: No! But the great backs I have seen have been developed from incorporating deadlifts and other power movements, combined with hypertrophy training using focused movements targeting each area of the back with good volume.
Do you feel free weights must be incorporated or can the back be fully developed with machines only? Or is it best to use both?
“You have to incorporate both free weight and machines for full development.”
DANIELS: You have to incorporate both free weights and machines for full development. There are days when it’s 100% machines and others with 100% free weights. Normally I mix the two but I keep it different every time. No two consecutive back workouts are the same.
RICARDO: I like to use both free weights and machines, but I feel you can build a good back with either one. Variety is always best to hit each area of the back!
If you only had one piece of advice to give to jacked-back hopefuls what would it be?
“Do your homework. Find out what exercises works best for you.”
DANIELS: Do your homework. Find out what exercises work bestfor you. Controlled movement and strict form will be your key. Who cares if you can perform bent rows with 315lbs if you are throwing and catching it. Do 135lbs for a minute while squeezing at every 4th rep. It’s quality over quantity.The last exercise I perform each and every time is posing. I run through every pose that incorporates my back muscles. This is where the details and fine lines are etched.
RICARDO: One piece of advice: Prioritize back by giving it its own training day early in the week when you’re fresh (don’t combine it with another body part or train it later on in the week). Form is key, so concentrate on feeling each area of the back. If that means using lighter weight and building up to heavier weight with strict form and mind-muscle connection then go for it!
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