Athlete Profile: Evan CentopaniLeg Day Training | Big Back Routine | Build an Animal Chest | 15-Minute Arm Blast | Get Bigger on a Budget

If you follow IFBB pro Evan Centopani, you know that his workouts are not for mall walkers. Centopani's pretty clear about what constitutes a workout.

"Hard and heavy training is the single most effective tool we have for getting in shape," he says.

This back-breaking and back-making workout routine of his works in four dimensions. It builds muscle, increases endurance, improves conditioning, and, if done properly, enables you to build strength. It's not going to be easy, but if you want a back that spreads out far and wide like the Mississippi River Delta, you've come to the right place.

Evan Centopani's Big Lifts, Big Back Routine
Perform the exercises in order with no rest between exercises and 2 min. of rest between sets.
Seated Row
3 sets, 10-20 reps (no rest)
Barbell Row
3 sets, 6-12 reps (rest 2 min.)
Close-grip pull-down
3 sets, 8-20 reps (rest 1 min.)
Perform the exercises in order with no rest between exercises and 1 min. of rest between sets.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
2 sets, 10-12 reps (left side, no rest)
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
2 sets, 10-12 reps (right side, no rest)
Barbell Deadlift
2 sets, 8-12 reps (rest 2 min.)

Training Tips

Cable Row

Cable seated Row

Centopani gives you a broad range of reps here, but deep down he really wants you to hit the 20s. If you get aggressive about adding weight, your third set might be in the 10-rep range. If so, make it a very strong, productive 10.

Barbell Row

Start these rows with your muscles already a bit fatigued, but instead of backing off on the weight, add more. Fully engage your back, your glutes, and your hamstrings, and try to maintain good form. You want to really work your muscles here with extra weight, but keep it light enough that you can still do enough reps to exhaust your back.

Get a good back stretch as you do these rows. Achieve a full stretch without leaning so far forward that you risk hurting your back.

"At the peak contraction, I try to picture keeping my body straight and envision leaning into the movement a little bit," Centopani says, "By doing that, I usually end up with my back in the right position."

Close-Grip Lat Pull-Down

Close-Grip Lat Pull-Down

Start with lighter weight for more reps to give yourself a little bit of a break after the cable and barbell rows—and before the coming superset beats you up some more.

As you release the weight, fully extend your arms and get in a good lat stretch while keeping your back as straight as possible. Centopani tries to avoid rounding his back, which can engage his biceps more than necessary.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

After years of doing dumbbell rows both on a bench and on a rack, Centopani has learned he can move a hell of a lot more weight doing rows off a rack. As far as actually working his back though, rowing off a bench with his back closer to parallel to the ground is a hell of a lot more challenging and, to his mind, much better for back development.

When doing any isolateral movements, he says, begin the first set with your right arm, then start the second set with your left arm to keep your workout balanced. He also advises extending your arm slightly as you come down on the negative. When you come back up, lift the dumbbell out and back toward your hip.

Barbell Deadlift

Barbell Deadlift

Since you're supersetting deadlifts with the dumbbell rows, start with less weight than you may be accustomed to, but add difficulty by doing your negatives slowly.

"Doing reps very, very slowly completely changes the movement," Centopani says. "It gives me a really great feeling in my back every time, especially when I'm supersetting these two movements."

Centopani also recommends doing deadlifts in your socks to create more stability and concentrate tension more on your heels. Keep the bar close to your body and use your legs as much as possible on the negative as you lower the weight. Focus attention on your back as you drive back up.

Centopani says this workout might be a little too intense to do every week, but every other week is fine.

About the Author

Hobart Swan

Hobart Swan

Hobart Swan formerly wrote and edited for He also worked as a producer of health content for CBS Radio, and as a health-content specialist at Healthwise, the nation’s...

View all articles by this author

Back Workout