Although I now have a better sense of what to expect going into an international trip after visiting Germany a few weeks ago, I was still anxious to get to Birmingham, U.K. where BodyPower fitness expo is held. I didn’t want to stay up the entire 10 hour flight, so I took some sleep aids that knocked me out. The only time I woke up was to use the bathroom and eat my next meal. As soon as that was done, I was right back asleep.
All rested during the flight, my first destination was an easy 20 minute cab ride to my hotel. When I arrived, I unpacked all my luggage and got my meals instantly into the tiny refrigerator provided by the hotel. This is a great example of why it might be good to not be too prepared in case you have nowhere to store your food. Thankfully it all worked out. A local food prep company offered clean meals—I chose chicken and beef as my go to protein sources and sweet potato, rice, and pasta as my carb source. Healthy fats are easy to come by. I took a short trip to the nearest gas station where I picked up some cashews and other essentials.
Once I’m all settled in, food is readily available, and everything unpacked, I unwind and relax. I like to schedule my rest day from training on the day I fly so that once I get to the hotel, I don’t have to search for the gym and train exhausted and run down, maybe even dehydrated from the flight. Prepare ahead of time and it should all work out. Don’t stress.
I was excited to go to the booth on the first day of BodyPower. It’s always a great atmosphere when you’re around some of the best bodybuilders on the planet and the most enthusiastic bodybuilding fans. How can you not be pumped up? I was also looking forward to checking out the iconic Emporium Gym and get back to training and crush another session with my good friend Evan Centopani.
We chose back as a good body part for both of us to train that day. I lead the first exercise starting with a reverse grip row machine. My intentions on this exercise was to target primarily the lower lats before anything else. We did 6 sets of the reverse grip row machine pushing for 12-15 reps per set. A few of the sets were single arm and the reps were the same, 12-15 each arm.
The next exercise was single arm dumbbell rows. This is one of Evan’s go-to movements. We did 4 sets of 12 reps each arm with a moderate to heavy weight. This exercise is great for strength and overall back development.
After the free weight, I wanted to go back to a more controlled movement. The next exercise was the cable pull over. I personally like this exercise so that I can get a strong squeeze as I contract my lats. Adding this exercise in the middle lets my central nervous system calm down by using a lighter, more controlled movement. I like to keep the rep range between 12-15 reps. After 4 sets of slow, hard sets it was time to move on and finish demolishing the rest of the back.
Barbell bent over rows super set with deadlifts finished off our back training. The purpose of this exercise is to hammer heavy weight with high intensity after all of our muscles are fully warmed up and ready to go. This will cause the muscle to harden and mature faster, gain strength, increase stamina, and pump as much blood into the muscles as possible and fatigue the back as much as we can. This is exactly what we wanted and exactly the outcome. It’s all about digging deep and pushing as hard as you can.
We used 135 lb for 20 reps bent over rows followed by 10 reps deadlifts for the first set. On the second set we added a plate, which made the weight 225 lb, and performed 15 reps of bent over rows followed by 15 reps deadlifts. We used 3 plates total on the third set, which added up to 315 lb. The goal was to do 10 reps bent over rows followed by 20 reps deadlifts. On the last set we gave it everything we had and busted out a few extra, leaving no stone unturned. You have to give everything you’ve got on the last set. That doesn’t mean wait until the last set to go hard. That means you’ve totally spent what your mind is telling you you can do and then giving it even more.
This workout was exactly what I needed. Some sets were controlled and slower with harder contractions, some were focused more on strength, power, density, and cardio fatigue. It was an all around successful back training session. If you feel like you didn’t do enough when you left the gym, chances are you probably didn’t. If you feel completely spent and gave everything you had on every rep of every set, chances are you had a very successful workout. Go hard and leave nothing to question.
After the training session, it was important that I get my food in for fast recovery. Just because I’m traveling doesn’t give me an excuse to train less or not get my meals in. Always be prepared ahead of time. This is part of doing whatever it takes to be the best you can be. Training is only a part of the bodybuilding lifestyle. If I had not prepared to eat my post workout meal ahead of time, I would have still been able to find a way to make it happen. But your best option is not to be in that situation in the first place. Like the saying goes, “if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.”
Having a big back is crucial in bodybuilding. At least 2 of the mandatory poses require a big, thick back. I’ve always had the impression that if you have a big back, it’s likely that the rest of your body will be big—or at least grow as your back grows—and that you train like an Animal. If you haven’t checked out my article “The 5 Pillars of Training,” I suggest you go now and check it out. The 5 pillars will help guide you through my approach to back training. In this video, I show you how to use the 5 pillars approach to take you through a back and bicep training session.
Not too many people can say they’ve placed second twice at Mr. Olympia. Derek Lunsford can. But in true champion form, these runner up spots are not enough for him. He’s after the gold. To come up short two years in a row is a hard pill to swallow, but those that are destined for greatness are the best at looking introspectively and making adjustments, both physically and mentally. Derek catches us up on the changes he’s made going into the 2020 Olympia with plans to nail this one down.
A massive back is a status symbol among bodybuilders. Much like the ever-coveted big legs, having a back that turns heads is an indicator that an athlete has put in the heavy-duty work. You don't acquire a thick cobra backside by doing sissy movements, half repping, and training lightly. You have to put some elbow grease into it. Shawn Smith shares some tips for building a massive back.