Hardcore Contender - Rich Gaspari

Overcome genetics with this hardcore back workout!

It is often said Gaspari had to train harder than his fellow competitors, especially Lee Haney, because he was cursed with poor bodybuilding genetics. Not exactly. It's difficult to argue that a bodybuilder who won his class at both the NPC Nationals and IFBB World Championships at 21 and placed 3rd in the Olympia as a 22-year-old rookie lacked any DNA for building muscle. The guy was a muscle-building phenom, and he set new standards for high-definition. It is true, however, that he lacked an ideal structure, especially in comparison to the statuesque Haney.  At 5'7", he was naturally blocky. His narrow clavices limited his back width, and breadth was Haney's greatest asset.

Haney and Gaspari were training partners in 1984, the year Haney won his first Sandow. For the following seven years, as Haney collected seven more Sandows, Gaspari was chasing him, notching three straight runner-up Olympia finishes (1986-88). And while he had no hope of matching Haney's lat spread, The Dragon Slayer was determined to out-muscle the champ with back thickness and detail. To that end, his back workouts focussed on all the knotty details others overlook, not just in his lats but also in his spinal erectors, traps and rear delts. (Shrugs and rear laterals are not included in our sample back routine, but were typically done before deadlifts.) Weights were maximum, rests were minimal and intensity was sky high. He never caught Haney, but Gaspari overcame structural limitations to forge one of the best rear double-biceps shots of the '80s and make himself, for three years, the second-best bodybuilder in the world.


  • Front pulldowns, 3 sets, 10-12 reps, 250 lbs max weight
  • Reverse-grip pulldowns, 3 sets, 10-12 reps, 220 lbs max weight
  • Seated cable rows, 3 sets, 10-12 reps, 300 lbs max weight
  • One-arm dumbbell rows, 3 sets, 10-12 reps, 200 lbs max weight
  • Barbell rows, 4 sets, 10-12 reps, 365 lbs max weight
  • Deadlifts, 3 sets, 10-12 reps, 495 lbs max weight
  • Back extensions, 3 sets, 12-15 reps, 45 lbs max weight


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