Ever since Lee Haney, a big, detailed back has been an Olympia requisite. Eight-time champion Haney, six-timer Dorian Yates, and eight-time winner Ronnie Coleman each upped the ante in dorsal development, pushing the boundaries of what was possible (and what came to be expected) when we’re talking Olympia-level back building. The Mr. Olympias since—Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, and Phil Heath—have built on and refined what the TotaLee Awesome One, the Shadow, and the Big Nasty ushered in.
The guys with the best, most complete backs today—three-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath and two-time Olympia runner-up Kai Greene immediately come to mind—have been in this game for more than a decade. They’ve mastered advanced techniques like dropsets, rest-pause, and static contractions.
But then there’s Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay. Big Ramy hasn’t. He hasn’t needed to yet.
“He’s a newbie,” Dennis James says of Kuwait’s Elssbiay. “Last November was three years he’s been training. Three years!” Sure, when Elssbiay gets together with James, the Menace schools the relative youngster in a thing or two: “Every time I train with him, I get him to do something he hasn’t done before.” But the thing of it is, Elssbiay is still growing from basic nuts-and-bolts exercises, from typical sets-and-reps schemes.
And what growth it’s been! “He’s unbelievable,” says James, the awe apparent in his voice. “I have no explanation for it. There is no explanation for it. He must have a severe myostatin deficiency, and grows just looking at the weight.”
Elssbiay’s back is wide and detailed. There’s been no HIIT, no Doggcrapp or Mountain Dog, no Y3T or FST-7. There have been just rows and pulldowns; barbells, dumbbells and machines; set after merciless set; and growth—lots of growth. Elssbiay’s got the size. The detail and the graininess will come as this 29-year-old’s muscles mature.
Here, James walks us through a typical Big Ramy back workout, giving us a glimpse of the greatness unfolding before bodybuilding fans’ eyes.
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