I’m Back… and Back!


I told you I’d be back… and I just did back. Here’s the current mass building back routine:

Today, September 1st, 2011 marked an official beginning of a 4 month MASS building phase for me. I’m on a mad quest to get bigger than I have ever been in my life. Never mind that I’m not 25 anymore. Age means nothing. In fact, I’m seeing some of the best natural bodybuilders in the sport today continuing to peak at lifetime bests in their late 40’s.

My weight was fairly steady around 189-191 for a long long time as I had been experimenting with staying leaner and doing body recomposition protocols which I published in my new book, the Holy Grail Body Transformation system.

Using that program I had successfully stayed very very lean but my muscle gains came very very slowly. That was predictable, not a surprise by the way. Body recomp is a tough goal to achieve and you have to be a patient man to succeed with that approach. For the next 4 months, I’ll be doing a somewhat modified mass gaining protocol which still uses the holy grail nutritional periodization techniques (calorie cycling), but is aimed at being somewhat more aggressive in the muscle gains.

My body fat may creep up a bit more, and as long as there are at least some abs showing and I don’t turn into fat bastard, I’m at peace with that. After a long period of time weighing under 190 lbs, hearing the taunts of my training partner about how “small” I was (damn him!), I finally started cranking the food up again. I’m currently about 196 (On the gym scale today, I weighed in just under 200 lbs today with shoes on, fully clothed and fully fed (high carbs) and fully hydrated.

Heaviest I have ever been: Two-o-fat. Er, I mean 205. Yes, the truth is, my body fat was too high last time I was at that weight; it wasn’t ideal. For me to get up to 206-210 without getting as soft as the stay puff marshmallow man will be a monumental achievement, and absolutely new territory.


You think it’s hard to get ripped? I find that simple and predictable if not easy. Hitting a higher lean body weight than you ever have in your life, naturally seems more of a challenge to me. If I don’t keep forcing food down my gullet, I tend to immediately drop under 200 lbs. Its a very unnatural weight for me, but I like challenges and I’m determined to enter new territory this year.

That brings us to the first workout. Day one of MASS PHASE: Back day…. second only to leg day for putting on sheer body weight… and if deadlifts are in the mix, back day could arguably exceed leg day as the superior bulk builder.

I didn’t deadlift today though. That will be a future challenge when my low back is a bit better prepared.

Here’s my current program: The old standby… the classic… old dependable… the FOUR DAY SPLIT.

The four day split gives me one day just for training upper back, lower back and calves. That’s a typical mash up for the body parts: one major body part (back) – which is very energy demanding, and one small minor body part (like calves), that is not demanding. It’s all about energy allocation. For example, I would never want to do legs and back in the same day. Not the way I train for bodybuilding anyway. Whatever came second would suffer.

First exercise: Low cable rows; pyramid up: 210 pounds for 15 reps, 220 for 10 reps, 230 for 8 reps, 240 for 7 reps. Stack goes to 300. Plenty of room. Love Strong and Shapely gym and dem big ass weight stacks! Try to find that at Planet Fitness!

Last set was one ultra strict lighter set with 1-2-3 count “mechanical” reps: from stretch position pull to stomach in one long pull, hold and contract, thats ONE! with ZERO upper body movement / ZERO pivoting at the hip, slowly extend the arms until they are straight, TWO! then pivot at the hips, lean forward and S T R E T CH! Thats THREE! then PULL all the way back to contraction… ONE! Each 3 count is one rep by the way. 140 pounds. More excruciating than the 7 with 240. Amazing what you can achieve with tweaks in form, tempo and leverage.

Second exercise: pull up medley: medium grip parallel, wide grip pronated, curl/supinated grip narrow and ultra wide grip parallel. Very strict sets of 10-12 with a hold / contract at the top of each rep. None of that kipping shit. Contractions. Bodyweight only today for very strict reps

Here’s a tip you might try in your own workouts: we are all victims of our own habit patterns. We not only gravitate to the same exercises, we gravitate to the same order of exercises. If you do pullups, do you usally do them first? Yeah me too and so do most people. Pull ups are difficult and the more fatigued you are, the the harder they are do to. But why not throw your body for a loop and do them 2nd… or even last in the workout and see what happens. You won’t lift as much weight or get as many reps, but you may get some new stimulation. Also, by rotating the exercise you do first, whatever it is you do first, you WILL hit that fresher, and hitting different exercises when you are at your strongest can also produce some new stimulation. Mix up your order of exercises more often and see what happens.

Third exercise: T bar rows with pronated shoulder width grip: Very strict with tight contraction and full stretch; 105 lbs, 115 lbs, 125 lbs. I go very heavy and do semi-cheating sometimes on some exercises, but I prefer going strict here with less weight as this exercise is a bit precarious with the lower back. its a GREAT mass builder though. If you dont have a T bar in your gym… get a real gym dammit! Just kidding… I meant to say, you can do corner bar rows. All you need is an olympic bar. Wedge it into the corner and row one end of the bar.

Rope straight arm pulldowns. 3 sets super strict. Stick your butt out, keep a tight arch in your lower back to maximize the stretch and contraction. I take a very tight contraction and squeeze at the bottom position and a full stretch at the top position on every rep – and then even an “extra” stretch on top of that (straighten out my arms and let the weight pull even more on those long fibers of the lats). You can literally feel your scapulae popping out. Drop set on last set. This is the one – this is the exercise that’s going to bring out the front lat spread. Wicked finisher


Straight Arm Pulldowns: Start/Stretch Position

Next up was lower back. I would tell you what exercise we did, but then I would have to kill you. Sorry, ultra top secret exercise designed to bring out Christmas tree lower back, striated glutes and lower lat striations at the same time – ITS THE COMPETITION CRUSHER! What, you don’t have a striated butt and a christmas tree? Sucka! You lose!

All I can say is I must give my training partner Kostas the “Greek Statue” props for pulling this one out. NO! we’re not telling you. guess you’ll have to come to East Rutherford and spy to find out (then we’ll kill you anyway for spying).

I finished with calves: donkey calf raise machine stack + 2 45’s 4 sets of 20; will increase weight next time. Quads were so crippled from last leg workout couldnt do the seated calf machine (thigh pads crushing down on sore quads = murder)… so instead did hack-style /calf raise machine. Will do seated calf next time

I’ll be back again with more workouts soon, plus I have a “champion’s interview” on deck with Skip Lacour that I’ll publish in the next few days.

Until then, no slackin off on the holiday weekend, ya hear!

-Train hard and expect success!

-Tom V

PSIf your current goal is fat loss check out Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle – that’s my fat loss bible and the fat loss bible for many of our readers here…

If on the other hand you are interested in “body recomposition” – gaining only lean muscle while losing fat at the same time, be sure to check out the “Holy Grail” body transformation.

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Comments on I’m Back… and Back! Leave a Comment

September 2, 2011

Chris @ 12:17 am #

Are you keeping a secret on bodybuildingsecrets.com?!

Tom Venuto @ 12:19 am #

yes. and blame kostas.

Chris S @ 10:02 am #

Hey Tom,
I’m so glad you’re updating this site again. I’ve had it in my RSS feed reader for years, waiting for it to be regularly update, too afraid to delete it in case I miss some of your wisdom. I’ll be reading, thanks!

When I started reading that you did pull-ups after the seated rows I thought, “This man is insane!” …then I read the paragraph about falling victim to our own habits and I thought, “This man is a genius and I’m grateful to have him as a mentor.”
Great lesson there and one that I needed to hear.
I’m 4 weeks away from a mass building phase. Can’t wait!!!
I am sooooo loving that you are reviving this blog. ROCK on bro!

September 3, 2011

Chris Franklin @ 1:12 am #

I use to use straps to train back,now that i have big forearms im never going back.

Kris @ 9:36 am #

Hi Tom!
Looks like quite the workout!! Never did the Straight Arm Pull Down with the butt out like that but will definately give that a try.
By the way….what was the other exercise you did to get the glutes/Christmas Tree effect? C’mon you gotta at least give us a hint!!

Dave66 @ 11:01 am #

Hey Tom,
GREAT to see you’re blogging another training phase. The contest prep blogging you did back in 05 was pure gold! I’m really looking forward to following your MASS building phase this Fall.
Thanks for all the priceless training & nutrition info you provide us!

Kyle @ 12:46 pm #

Okay, I’ll bite, do we need to wait to find out about the lower back exercise, join a secret society, or will it remain classified?

tom venuto @ 12:56 pm #

maybe… maybe… the secret exercise will be de-classified… AFTER competition has been crushed and said striated glutes, striated lower lats and christmas tree lower back have been displayed on stage one last time…
… or maybe not

September 8, 2011

Hardgainer @ 8:23 pm #

Welcome back! I’ve been following your blog for some time. 205 is nothing and you are going to be bouncing back before you know it!
Keep providing us with updates and rock hard. You are an inspiration and I can’t wait to see you in top performance condition again.

September 12, 2011

Ethan Revard @ 4:04 pm #

HI, Tom it is nice to see you are back and hitting it hard. Ironically I was kind of bummed, because i had started reading your blog a lot and noticed you weren’t really active. To me I think your one of the best fitness specialists, because you have such an open mind. Also, because i love Vince Gironda and you seem to know quite a bit about him, but not as dogmatic as he is. He couldve been far more effective in bodybuilding.
Anyways, I have my first competition in like 2 weeks and i’ve done it all by myself and learning from guys like you and skip and hugo. My question for you Tom IS i’ve done Vinces 8×8 in the past and thats when i grew the most then half way through the comp. I went to 6×6 and 2 weeks ago went back to the 8×8 and i feel my weights have really dropped its been messing with my head. Something is telling me to ride it out. What do you think?

September 16, 2011

Norm @ 6:53 am #

Here a big hello from the Netherlands!
Welcome back and gracias for updating this great website and thanx again for sharing your inspiring words & good trainingmethods with us.

September 18, 2011

Tyler English @ 7:05 pm #

Glad to see you back! Looking forward to reading. It was an honor hearing you speak this past weekend in New Jersey. Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing your story! All the best!

September 22, 2011

Lose man boobs @ 10:36 pm #

Wicked workout Tom,
I would definitely start on deadlifts. You don’t have to go all the way right away. Just start little lighter.
Other than that, solid routine

September 26, 2011

Frank @ 9:03 am #

Hi Tom, good luck with your goal of gaining quality muscle mass this winter. I have not really tried straight arm pull downs myself but it seems that this exercise is definitely worth a try. Thanks for sharing.

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