Subject: A “Normal” Back Workout For A Change (Heavy & Basic)


Tuesday, August 9th. Just yesterday, I wrote that “conventional” workouts of regular straight sets often “bore” me and sometimes they don’t seem to do as much for my physique as all the high intensity stuff. My precontest training consists of a LOT of supersets, drop sets, add sets, continuous tension and other intensity techniques. However, today’s workout was nothing but simple, basic exercises, with no intensity techniques except a couple of drop sets. This might seem like I’m contradicting what I said yesterday, but a “normal” workokut was the perfect change-up after the “insane” intensity of the last few back sessions.


A1 Bent Over Barbell rows, Reverse Grip
3 light warmup sets
Set 1: 185 lbs X 12 reps
Set 2: 205 lbs X 10 reps
Set 3: 215 lbs X 8 reps, drop to 165 lbs X 8 reps
Set 4: 235 lbs X 6 reps, drop to 185 lbs X 6 reps, drop to 115 lbs X 10 reps
B1 One Arm Dumbbell Rows
Set 1: 110 lbs X 12 reps
Set 2: 115 lbs X 12 reps
Set 3: 120 lbs X 10 reps
Set 4: 125 lbs X 8 reps
C1 Seated Cable Row, (wide Neutral grip)
Set 1: 150 lbs X 15 reps
Set 2: 160 lbs X 12 reps
Set 3: 170 lbs X 10 reps


A1 Behind back shrugs with cambered bench press bar
1 warm up X 225 lbs X 15 reps
3 sets X 275 lbs X 12, 12, 11 reps


A1 Standing Calf Machine
1 warm up set @ 200 lbs
4 sets X 400 lbs (stack) X 20, hold 3-4 seconds at top
B1 Seated Calf Machine
4 sets X 180 lbs (4 plates) X 15-20 reps

Workout Commentary

I felt surprisingly strong today, considering I’m dieting and down almost 10 lbs in body weight already, so I just went with it and kept pyramiding up. Got up to 235 lbs on bent over barbell rows which is the most I’ve done in a long time, because I was avoiding this exercise due to back trouble. Felt fine today, although I always approach this exercise with caution.

I modify my form slightly to keep as much stress of the low back as possible and keep it on the lats. First, I use the reverse (supinated) grip more often than the pronated grip. I keep the bar very close to the legs/body through the entire range and I pull to the low stomach, not the upper stomach or chest. I angle my body at about 45 degrees (I do NOT bend over completely as this puts too much stress on the low back). I maintain the chest up, flat or slightly arched back position through the entire exercise (the minute you flex the spine or round over your back, it puts enormous strain on the lumbar area. Many back injuries occur or re-occur when the spine is
flexed and under load). Lastly, I control the weight on the positive and negative and never heave or swing the weight. Form must be impeccable on this one. I cue myself (mentally) with phrases like, “stay tight”, “down slow”, “control”, “squeeze”, “pull from the lats”, “just from the lats” and so on

In my case, exercises like bent over barbell rows are risky. However, it’s very difficult to build any thickness and “density” in the back without deadlifts or at least free weight rows, so I “take my chances” and do the rows occasionally when I feel up to it like I did today.

My second exercise was one arm dumbbell rows. These felt great today and I was actually surprised with my strength. I got up to the 125’s and the form was perfect – no swinging or heaving up the weights, full range of motion and always a controlled negative. These are easier on the lower back than barbell rows, because they are performed with a one arm support (or sometimes with 1 hand and 1 knee on the bench).

Last, but not least was seated cable rows, with a different handle attachment than usual. Instead of the close grip triangle bar, I took the wide grip bar with the neutral grip (palms face each other). This grip allows a great squeeze and contraction, and if you pull to the high stomach or low chest instead of the low stomach, and keep your elbows up and flared out wide, you hit areas of the upper middle back you don’t get with the other grip. The key is to really SQUEEZE in the contracted position.

After back I hit a few sets of behind the back shrugs using the cambered bench press bar. This is the bar that has a bend in the middle allowing greater range of motion on the bench press… or in this case, it allows the bar to clear a path around your butt, making the behind the back version of the barbell shrug easier to do.

The session finished up with calves; four sets each of standing calf machine and seated calf machine. I’ve been hitting my calves twice a week. I haven’t blogged all of those workouts, as some of them were done as separate sessions on off days, and I just didn’t get around to writing an extra blog entry.

In case you’re curious about what I do in the “off season” when I’m training for mass/weight gain, today’s back workout actually looked a lot like an off season workout: 3-4 sets per exercise, pyramid up in weight and down in reps each set; heavy 6-12 reps on basic exercises; 10-12 sets on large muscles, 6-9 sets on small muscles.

If I were eating in a calorie surplus instead of the opposite, this type of workout would put on good muscle mass… although I would probably throw pull ups in there as the first exercise
instead of having 100% row exercises.

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