A Back Workout for the Ages

The training routine that built one of the world’s thickest and densest backs in the IFBB Pro League.

Per Bernal


Even the hardest of the hardcore use machines, so don’t feel like you’re cheating if you do, too.

The constant quest for 15 reps—which he aims for again at the next stop, the plate-loaded machine row—may seem counterintuitive, since so many tend to drop their repetition count as the poundage increases. Yet Jackson has never trusted that common edict, and indeed, he has made the higher number an absolute must-attain goal of his workouts.

When asked, Jackson says, “You set your mind to 15, and you’ll get 15.” Do they use techniques like rest-pause, stopping for a moment when the load becomes too much to bear for a short-term recovery, or forced reps, where they’ll help each other to the finish line? “Nope, just straight sets,” he answers.

Per Bernal


Jackson takes a more upright stance than recommended, but he feels it works better. Can’t argue with his results.

That said, he comes to the one exception in today’s back workout, the unsupported T-bar row, where over the course of four sets he works up to five plates, churning out a “mere” 10 reps per set.

On these, he stands nearly upright and extends his arms to a full stretch at the bottom—a major benefit of this particular move, as he feels the muscles of his back open up in the lowermost position, while holding the top flexed position for a solid one count. It’s a beast of an exercise for the mid- and upper back, including the lats, rhomboids, teres major, infraspinatus, and trapezius.


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