Looking to switch up your back routine and put on some mass? Regan Grimes, IFBB pro bodybuilder and Primeval Labs-sponsored athlete, is here to show you how.
Seated Single-Arm Cable Row: 5 sets of 8-10 reps
Grimes starts his workout with seated single-arm cable rows performed as a pre-exhaust exercise to get blood into his muscles and warm up his back. A pre-exhaust set uses lighter weight to get the muscles working before the main lifts. As Grimes explains, there’s no need to go too heavy with the weight right away.
“We’re doing 5 sets, and the first set is always a feeler set,” he says. “Keep it light and get that good contraction and that good squeeze. You never go too crazy on the first exercise because you don’t want to pull something. Just go light and get a good feel for the motion; you also get tons of blood into the lats. Then you can go heavier afterward.”
To perform this exercise like a pro, Grimes recommends creating a slight arch in your back to better activate the lats. From there, just drive your elbow straight back.
“My hand is a hook,” says Grimes. “I’m not really trying to use my arm to move the weight because the focus is the back.”
Bring your elbow along your side, past your hip as far as you can, while simultaneously trying to drag your shoulder downward to engage the lower lats. If you don’t drop your shoulder, you’ll end up raising your arm and shoulder and working the upper traps and delts rather than your back.
Pull-Up: 4 sets to failure
Pull-ups are a staple of back routines. Many lifters drop them from their lineups as soon as the competitive season ends, but a pro like Grimes knows that’s a mistake.
“A lot of guys veer away from pull-ups in the offseason because it’s a hard movement to do,” he says. “But I keep it in. I think it’s a staple, it’s an OG movement, and I think everyone should be doing it.”
Bottom line: Suck it up and bust out some pull-ups. If you have to use an assist machine or a spotter to help you, that’s OK. But to build and maintain the kind of mass that will get you to the top, you want to keep this exercise in your routine, even in the offseason.
Single-Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Row: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
As Grimes will tell you, the key to a great back routine is a mix of machines and free weights.
“I love machine work, but you’ve still got to throw some free weights in there,” he says.
Bent-over rows help build size, strength, and mass. You can do either barbell rows or dumbbell rows, but for this routine, Grimes chose dumbbells.
To set up like an IFBB pro, lean forward, put one hand on the rack, and move the foot on that side forward. This staggered stance gives your working arm the space to stretch down between reps. Grab the dumbbell with your free hand and kick up your glutes to create an arch in your back which helps maintain the focus on your back and keeps your shoulders out of it. Bring the dumbbell forward, then drive upward with your elbow. Stretch down on every rep and focus on the contraction at the top.
Wide-Grip Lat Pull-Down: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
No back workout would be complete without a lat pull-down. Grimes uses a special attachment with a unique neutral grip on this exercise, but you don’t need the exact attachment to get lat-building results.
“Just use whatever bar you have available that will allow you to go wide with your grip,” he says.
The wider the grip, the more this exercise targets the width in your lats, which is going to improve your V-taper.
Rack Pull: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
Last but not least, Grimes finishes his back work with a heavy rack pull.
“I always do a rack pull,” he explains. “It hits my traps, my middle back, and my lower back all in one movement, so this really smashes everything at the end.”
The critical point in a rack pull is making sure you don’t go all the way to the ground. A rack pull only goes to about the knees because you’re not trying to train your legs or hit your hamstrings, you just want to hit your back.
Set up for rack pulls with your feet and hands about shoulder-width apart. Kick up those glutes to lock in that lower-back curve, and keep your knees unlocked. If you’re in the gym, you can use a Smith machine or a barbell. If neither is available, or if you’re at home or traveling, just grab heavy dumbbells instead.
Give Grimes’ favorite back workout a try on your next back day! And for more muscle-building Grimey workouts, check out his shoulder workout.