MuscleTech-sponsored athlete Abel Albonetti is coming at you again, and this time he's after your back. As usual, he's going at it with a vengeance so you can build some serious muscle. Over 60-90 minutes, you'll suffer through some highly demanding double—and triple—dropsets, inter-set stretching, and supersets. Albonetti will have you making slight adjustments, mostly in hand position, to ensure you hit every back muscle.
After several exercises, you might be wondering if the workout will ever end. It will…but not until you're lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, wondering what size truck just hit you.
Think about that later. Right now, it's time to top off your tanks with the best pre-workout you can find, swallow your fear, and get started. (It might be a good idea to have wrist wraps and a weight belt nearby.)
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Overhand Wide-Grip Pull-Down
Albonetti likes to start with a pull-down warm-up to turn on the lat muscles and prepare them for the work ahead.
Focus on squeezing your back muscles as you do this exercise. Pull your elbows as far down as possible, pause for a second at the bottom, and then go straight back up.
Use this warm-up to pre-exhaust your back muscles by increasing the weight until you're hitting failure around 12 reps. On the fifth set, add a double dropset and try to keep hitting failure around the 12-rep range. Once you finish your 12 reps, drop the weight by about 20 percent, do another 12 reps, drop the weight 20 percent again, and do 12 more.
Bent-Over Barbell Row (Overhand Grip)
The meat of Albonetti's workout begins with this big compound move. He's got you using the overhand grip to help you develop the width of your back. Keep your back straight while you're bent at the waist. Albonetti says he sees too many people turn this into a trap row.
Bent-Over Barbell Row (Underhand Grip)
Albonetti likes the reverse, or underhand, grip because he says it engages his lats more than the overhand grip. Plus, the underhand grip makes it easier to keep your elbows in at your sides. As with the overhand version, pull the weight all the way back, and then pause for a good squeeze before letting it back down.
Close-Grip V-Bar Pull-down
The close-grip version of the pull-down helps with building back thickness. On the downstroke, pull down your elbows as far as possible. Squeeze at the bottom and then get a good stretch on the way back up. Maintain continuous tension on your back muscles throughout the exercise.
Underhand Cable Pull-Down
Albonetti likes to position his hands about shoulder-width apart.
"I don't like to get them too far out," he says. "Just enough where I feel a great squeeze in my lats."
You're doing 4 sets of this exercise. The third set adds a dropset; the fourth, a double dropset. Piece of cake, right?
Feel torched yet? Good, because now you can relax with some gentle dumbbell rows. Just kidding. These will feel like you're trying to row a suitcase full of gold bars (which would weigh about a ton, in case you're wondering). As you do these, make sure you're pulling your arms back far enough. Too many people limit the pull, turning a back exercise into a trap row. Don't go there. Bend over, squeeze as you pull back, stretch forward, and then pull back again.
On the third set, you're going to do a triple dropset. As you do them, keep tension in the muscle the entire time: Don't let it rest at any point!
Dumbbell Incline Row
For Albonetti's favorite exercise, set the incline bench at about a 45-degree angle, high enough so the dumbbells won't touch the ground during the stretch. To do the inter-set stretching on the last set, go to failure for around 12 reps. Still holding the dumbbells, let your arms hang for 30 seconds. Drop the weight by about 20 percent, do another 8-10 reps, then stretch again for another 30 seconds. Drop the weight 20 percent one more time, do as many rows as you can, let your arms hang down as you hold the weights, and then you're done.
Superset: Seated Cable Row and Rope Cable Straight-Arm Push-Down
After all the work you've done so far today, you don't need to use super-heavy weight here. Anyway, this exercise isn't so much about the weight as it is building your mind-muscle connection and squeezing throughout the entire range of motion of each rep.
When Albonetti does these rows, he likes to use a close grip, go all the way forward, stretch, then pull his elbows back as far as he can.
For the push-downs, grab that rope, bend slightly forward, and when you go down, squeeze your back at the bottom of that motion, bringing your elbows as far down as possible. As you approach the bottom of the movement, imagine you're trying to pull the rope apart. Feel. That. Burn.
Barbell Rack Pull
This is the last exercise in the workout, so you can go pretty heavy. Just be careful not to hurt your lower back. Consider using a weight belt for added protection.
On rack pulls, stop your motion and reset the weight every single time. This prevents you from using momentum to lift the bar for the next rep. You'll also notice that Albonetti is using wrist straps. He recommends them for any lifts where your wrists might give out before your back muscles.
Ready to pull this baby out every week for a straight path to a superhero back? Not so fast. This workout is a killer, so limit yourself to about once per month. While you're waiting, check out some of Abel Albonetti's other workouts: