Sunday Mass: Record-Breaking, Muscle-Exploding Back Training


Sunday, June 4th, 2006. Strong and shapely gym, East Rutherford, New Jersey. We’re near the peak of Muscle MASS PHASE now, and entering new territory. New personal records were hit today. In fact, we had to do today’s session at Strong & Shapely because we needed the 125+ lb dumbbells, the 300 lb lat stack, and of course the “torture rack”…


A1 Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
3 light warm up sets
Set 1: 240 lbs X 12 reps
Set 2: 260 lbs X 11 reps
Set 3: 280 lbs X 7 reps + 2 forced reps
Set 4: 240 lbs X 10 reps (slow, strict), drop to 140 lbs X 33 reps (fast)
B1 Pullover machine (affectionately known as the “torture rack”)
Set 1: 150 lbs X 8 reps
Set 2: 120 lbs X 9 reps with 3 second holds in stretch position, slow 5 sec negative
Set 3: 120 lbs X 7 reps with 3 second holds in stretch pos, slow 5 sec negative, then 6 reps fast.
C1 One Arm Dumbbell Rows
Set 1: 125 lbs X 12 reps
Set 2: 130 lbs X 9 reps
Set 3: 135 lbs X 7 reps
D1 Seated row pull high to chest, elbows wide
1 set X 150 lbs X 10 reps
D2 Seated cable row, pull low to stomach, elbows tucked in
1 set X 150 lbs X 10 reps


A1 Smith Machine Shrugs
1 warm up set
1 set X 315 X 15 reps
1 set X 365 lbs X 11, 10, 9 reps


A1: Angled standing calf machine (hack calf raise)
4 sets X 15-20 reps
B1: Seated calf raise – Kaiser hydraulic
4 sets X failure plus drop weight (pressure), continue to failure again

Workout Commentary

I really didn’t expect to blast through personal records today like I did. It was just one of those days where my strength was much higher than normal and I’m not even sure why. I try to pay really close attention when this happens – I look at my sleep, what I ate the day before and day of, my mental state… everything – but this time, no particular difference. The weights just weight UP and UP! (no complaints!)

My training partner Kostas (The Greek Statue) Marangopoulos and I kicked it off with wide grip lat pulldowns. We usually do chin ups or pull ups more often than pulldowns, but we’ve been on lat pulldowns for several weeks with good results. We’ll be going back to chin ups soon, as we rotate routines at least every month and usually change something in the workout every single time, so there is continuity as well as “muscle confusion” at every session.

After a few warm up sets, it was 240 for lbs for 12 strict reps – pretty easy – not to failure. Then it was 260 lbs for 11 reps – just to the brink of failure. Then 280 for 7 reps – good reps too – all out, plus Kostas spotted me for 2 forced reps. That’s a new PR! That’s what its all about!!!!

Then the grand finale – a drop set with tempo change: 240 lbs for a very strict and slow 10 reps, then pulled the pin and put it in at 140 lbs and banged out 33 fast reps! YEOW! Killer! If you think high reps are worthless, well… just try ONE high rep finishing “pump set” at the end after your heavy sets and then tell me about it.

Second exercise – the dreaded “TORTURE RACK” – favorite of Dorian Yates, and rarely found in any gym anymore…. Yes I’m talking about the old fashioned, old school pullover machine… yeah… the one with the bicycle chain and full range of motion. THAT ONE!

Three sets, each set using a different technique. Set one – a regular straight set, fairly heavy. Set two – nice slow negatives, then a hold for three seconds in the stretch position. Set three same as set two, but after the slow reps, keep going with fast reps (same weight)

Next, we dragged our pumped and sweat drenched bodies over to the free weight dumbbell area for one arm dumbbell rows…. Past the 250 pound dumbbells with “Ronnie Coleman” painted on them in big white letters…. We’ll settle for half of that today… (the Ronnie dumbbells another day… ok, another life maybe, LOL)

Started with 125 pounders for 12 reps – no problem. Not to failure. Then up to the 130 pounders – 9 GOOD, solid, controlled reps, full range! NICE – there’s a personal record. Previous best – 130 pounders for 6.

Feeling strong. Up to the 135 pounders – 7 good, solid reps with each arm. That’s TWO personal records! Never pulled the 135 pounders before. I was tempted to go for the 140’s, but my back was getting close to toast at this point…

Usually we would do three sets on a fourth exercise because back is a big muscle group and can take a higher volume and requires more variety and angles than small muscle groups, but today we didn’t have much left, so we did one set: It was actually two sets in one- Seated rows pulling high to chest with elbows wide, then superset into seated rows pulling low to stomach with elbows tucked in.

That was it for back and lats, but then it was on to shrugs. We vary the shrugs often between dumbbells, barbells, and machines. Today we switched over to smith machine shrugs. After a couple of warm up sets it was 365 lbs for three sets for around 10 reps per set.

NOW that back was toast… top to bottom. Time for calves.

Two exercises for calves, four sets each. Being a smaller muscle group, 8 sets often does it, although we vary the volume on calves for variety.

The first exercise was a machine most gyms don’t have: A standing calf machine with a slight forward incline that you face into (prone). Its like facing into a steep hack machine and doing your calf raises that way. Its an awesome peak contraction at the top.

The second calf exercise was seated calf machine, but this time we did something totally different we’ve never done before. Strong and Shapely gym is one of the best equipped gyms in the world. How many gyms do you know that have FIVE different seated calf machines, each one a different feel and angle?

One of those seated calf machines is the Kaiser hydraulic machine, where you control the pressure with buttons on the handles. This makes it easy to increase or decrease resistance DURING the set. It’s a different feel than free weight or weight stack machines, and I wouldn’t want to depend on this all the time, but it was a nice variation (and it burned and pumped like you wouldn’t believe.

As promised in a recent blog post, Im going to up the frequency of my posts in the days and weeks to come. I don’t have time to blog all my workouts anymore, but I will post all my workouts this week so you can see a full 4 day split routine cycle and then I will also post my current mass building diet (around 4,000 calories or so).

Tomorrow is arm day, and I’ll show you the arm specialization routine that we’ve been using… (it’s kick ass!)

Train hard and expect success!


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Comments on Sunday Mass: Record-Breaking, Muscle-Exploding Back Training Leave a Comment

June 8, 2006

Steven @ 1:09 pm #

Hi Tom,
Great blog! Tommorrow is back day for me and I happen to have access to a “torture rack”. It is a Nautilus Super Pullover from the probably the 80s. Has the bicycle chain but doesnt have those classic Nautilus “shell cams”. That thing can kill you if you let it! Arthur Jones was awfully dogmatic in his ideas of his machines but he sure as hell got the pullover right! Stay strong and I look foward to your contest prep.

Sarah-C @ 2:15 pm #

What tastes better than Personal Records? Not much. Go for it!

July 20, 2011

dwg @ 4:20 pm #

Damn, dude–good on those one-arm dbs, especially. I’m on my way back up there, too–used to max 130, and at 110 for 3-4 now. Couple more weeks…couple more weeks. Thx for the inspiration.

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