For weeks leading up to a bodybuilding show most competitors are already thinking about the off-season. Beyond fantasizing about donuts and pizza, we are also planning what needs improvement once off-season starts. Hitting the stage is a perfect way to really gain some perspective on where you stand. Coming out of my last contest, the Dallas Europa, I had my weaknesses on my mind. This last show came down to the details and those lost details ended up pushing me down to 5th place. I know, going forward, that I need to be complete without a single glaring weakness.
The first step is to get some feedback from the judges. You might not catch them at the show, but if you email them your stage pictures they can give you some guidance, especially if you aren’t able to look at yourself objectively. When I look at my own stage pictures and compare myself to the guys who beat me, a few things really stand out. All the top placing guys had very developed abs and I did not. They also had small waists that went into broad shoulders. It’s not that I am not broad, but I have a wider hip girdle than they do, so my V-taper looks less extreme. So, to fix this I know I need to train the hell out of abs, side delts, and lats.
Now that I know what I need to work on, I have to put the plan together. I can’t just train more of those weak areas while maintaining the same amount of work on my strong parts. It would be too easy to overtrain. I need to consider exercise selection and the order of exercises. If I wanted more lower lat, it would not make sense to do a barbell row as the first exercise, but rather a lat pull down or pull up. I could also count up the total number of sets I do for a muscle for the week, then add on a few more sets to that muscle (but I would then need to drop back some sets on another muscle). My legs are real strong points, so I am backing off on leg training volume and adding more into back training.
Current Training Split:
Day 1: Back (horizontal rows), rear delt, bicep
Day 2: Shoulder, chest, tricep
Day 3: Quads, calves, abs
Day 4: Off day
Day 5: Back (vertical pulling), rear delt, bicep, abs
Day 6: Shoulder, chest, tricep
Day 7: Back (vertical and horizontal pulls), hamstrings, calves
Day 8: Off day
You can see from my training split that I will be training back 3 days out of my 8 day training split. I allocate a day to rows, another day to vertical pulls, and a final day doing hamstrings and a mix of vertical pulls and horizontal rows. My training frequency will be really high for back and I also increased my total work sets from 24 sets to 28 sets for the week.
Today, I will take you through Day 5 of my training plan—a back width day focused on vertical pulling variations.
John’s Back Width Session
*All sets are work sets and taken to muscular failure.
*No warm up sets are listed. Take as many warm ups as needed to get to your work sets.
1. Wide Grip Pulldown Using Mag Grip: Set 1 at 6-10 reps. Set 2 at 12-15 reps.
- Warm up to your first work sets and hit failure between the prescribed rep range. Drop 20-30% of the weight for the second set and try to hit failure between the prescribed rep range.
- Keep hands 1.5 x wider than shoulder width. Start with the pull-down bar in the fully stretched state, let it pull your scapula upward. As you pull the bar down, aim to hit the sternum while retracting and depressing the scapula. I want a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase.
2. Close Grip Pulldown Using D Handles: Set 1 at 12-15 reps. Set 2 and 3 stay with same weight and get as many reps as possible.
- Use the same lifting protocol as on the previous exercise. I want you to start fully stretched with shoulders up high and then retract and depress the scapula as you pull the handles down. As you pull the handles down, supinate the hand to really drive the elbow down along your sides. This is a great exercise for targeting the lower lat.
- I want a 3 second eccentric with a slight pause at the bottom of the lift.
3. Band Assisted Pull Ups: Set 1 at 15-20 reps. Set 2 at as many reps as possible.
- Use a band to enable stability and hit a higher rep range. The previous lifts were heavier and meant to be used for progressive overload, now we are getting into high rep metabolic work.
- I want a different grip on this exercise, so take a neutral shoulder width grip with palms facing each other. Pull yourself up from the fully stretched position, driving the elbows down and into your sides. Use a three second eccentric and explosive concentric phase.
4. Cable Pullovers on Incline Bench: Set 1 at 15-20 reps. Set 2 at as many reps as possible.
- Set up an incline bench facing away from the cable attachments. Use an EZ bar for the attachment choice. Set up on the bench with shoulders dug together and down. Keep the chest pulled up throughout the lift.
- Perform the exercise in the fully stretched state and make sure to bring the EZ bar all the way into the hips for maximum range of motion.
- I want a controlled 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase.
5. Pec Deck Rear Delt Fly: Perform 2 sets at 20-25 reps.
- I have found rear delts respond very well to high reps. As this is a stronger body part for me, I will perform only 4 total work sets in this work out. Grip the pec deck handles with palm facing outward and arm internally rotated. This will take teres major out of the movement. Bring your arms back only until the rear delt is maximally contracted, keep the scapula retracted for the duration of the lift.
- Perform a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric.
6. Face Pull with Rope Attachment: Perform 1 double drop set.
- Perform this movement seated with a rope attachment in front of you at eye level. I want you to pick a weight you are only able to lift for 15 reps. Then drop weight 2x, getting 15 reps for each drop.
- Pull the hands to eye level and try to spread the rope apart at the same time. I want a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase.
7. Single Arm Preacher Curl Machine: Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
- Since biceps are one of my strengths, I will only perform 3 work sets. Set up on the preacher station so that, when you look down, the arm that is lifting the shoulder, elbow, and wrist are all in a straight line.
- I want a 3 second eccentric and hard isometric squeeze at the top of every rep. Take a 60 second rest between each arm until 3 sets are completed.
That wraps up my post show back width day. Remember to really analyze your physique and have others help you by pointing out some areas for improvement. Add volume in to bring up weak muscle groups, but don’t forget about exercise selection and order. Best of luck in bringing up your lagging parts and have fun in the off-season.