In 2008, FLEX editors undertook a rather daunting task, journalistically speaking—they gathered to choose the 20 bodybuilders who, in their estimation, represented the best back development of all time. The list was stacked with greats, from Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates at the top of the heap to Melvin Anthony and Albert Beckles snagging the final two spots. You could argue vociferously for a favorite who didn’t make the list (and have a valid point), but all told, no one could debate the quality of the final 20. They were giants in a sport that boasts more than its fair share of larger-than-life physiques.
But, beyond their being members of the bodybuilding brotherhood and having competed in the upper echelons of their chosen sport, what indelibly linked these 20 men?
Undoubtedly, it was the implements they used in the gym to create those magnificent expanses of detailed muscle that separated them from their peers whenever they turned around onstage. In bodybuilding, individuals forge their own path, but they all tend to rely on the basics when it comes to training: exercises that have stood the test of time, been passed down through iron generations, and played a vital role in some of the sickest transformations ever witnessed.
Ten specific exercises are prominent throughout the workouts of those 20 men. Ask them and they’d swear allegiance to these monstrous mass builders, telling any avid newbies within earshot to dedicate themselves to mastering any and all.
The following, then, are the integral moves for anyone seeking a wider, thicker, and more extremely defined back. They develop the back from top to bottom and from inside out—from the trapezius down through the erector spinae, and from the peripheral edges of the latissimus dorsi through the teres major and minor, rhomboids, and serratus posterior. If you dare to dream of one day wielding the rear view of, say, Lee Haney, Michael Francois, or even the Bahamian Behemoth, Joel Stubbs, this is where you begin your journey.
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