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Build an Impressive Back

Many people mistakenly focus on their "beach muscles" then wonder why they don't look strong.

The solution is to build your back.

All of these photos were taken just after my 50th birthday.

You can see significant structure in my back. Notice the thickness of the rhomboids and also how scalloped and thick the lats are.

This does not come from doing pansy routines on fancy machines.

It comes from the very hard work of pullups, chinups, and bentover rows done at high levels of intensity.

Because this kind of workout is grueling, the only way it produces results is with sufficient recovery time. You cannot do this 3 times a week as part of a circuit training regimen.

I alsosupplement appropriately, get adequate sleep, and maintain a healthy diet. These three practices are foundational to building a great body, yet few people put much thought or discipline into them. With a little attention to this area, you can really put your program on the fast track.

So, how do you build your back? Remember I said you cannot do this 3 times a week as part of a circuit training regimen? Instead, you do this as part of a split routine program. There is no single right way. There are a few ways that are generally accepted by serious athletes. Here's mine:

  • Workout one. Back and biceps.
  • Workout two. Chest and triceps.
  • Workout three. Shoulders.

I do these workouts on a rotating basis on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Three workouts and four days means the pattern changes each week.

In addition to this rotating pattern of upper body workouts, I do these:

  • On Mondays, I do front squats. I try to do these every week, and that's possible only because of supplementation with glutamine. Even so, there are occasionally Mondays where I skip this workout due to recovery concerns. Done properly, front squats work the core and are a fantastic ab exercise.
  • On Fridays, I do hanging leg raises followed by calf raises.

In these photos, I was at 5% body fat and am still there about 3 weeks later as I write this. In fact, I have been at 5% bodyfat for about seven months now. I'll probably stay that lean well into the future.

One reason I can be that lean is the way I have these workouts scheduled. This kind of scheduling plays off the cortisol/testosterone responses the body goes through when subjected to the kind of stress that an intense workout puts on it.

Of course, eating six small meals a day and paying attention to what's in those meals is another factor that allows a 50 year old person to be at 5% bodyfat. It isn't genes, trust me. If I can do it, anyone else can do it.

This article touches on the key aspects of building a powerful back that makes you look powerful. Many people will focus on some minor detail or another, but not properly assemble the big pieces. Now you have a good idea of how the big pieces go together. In our other articles, you'll find the details of exercises and diet. Before you implement those details, put together your total fitness plan based on what you've just read.

More back shots, below. See if you can find what's a little different about each one.

Photographer: Aaron Lindberg,







Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please view the aboutus pages, or write to mark @ We do want your business.