By Andy Haman, IFBB Pro
[Q] What’s your favorite exercise for building mass in your back?
[A] My favorite exercise is probably the row — any row. When I started doing more rows, I felt my lats get more involved and my back really began to grow fast. I was a pretty good guinea pig for it, too, because I hadn’t really trained my back when I was younger. When I started doing barbell, T-bar and dumbbell rows, I just felt it more in my middle back and my upper lats, and they really responded. Sometimes it’s hard to feel your back — you feel your forearms and your biceps working but it’s hard to engage the right muscles in your back. I think it helps by thinking more about what you’re doing. You’re not just sitting down at a machine and trying to move weight from point A to point B. I’m thinking about contracting the particular muscle group. It’s key, and you develop it with practice. The guys who can focus on it get better results.
[Q] What’s your take on doing weighted pull-ups? Worth the effort or unnecessary shoulder strain?
[A] Some guys might like this exercise but I think it’s totally a bust. I think that’s one reason why you very rarely see top bodybuilders doing them. One, it’s a pain in the ass because finding straps to put around your waist aren’t even available in most gyms. Two, for me it stresses everything but the lats. You just end up swinging and straining on the bar. If you go to a lat pulldown and add weight where you can control the range of motion and the resistance, you’re far better off in my opinion. I stay away from pull-ups. The inherent shoulder strain outweighs any gain you’re gonna get.
[Q] Do you prefer reverse-grip or overhand-grip barbell rows? Where do you feel these the most?
[A] I spend most of my time doing underhand barbell rows. I didn’t do those until late in my career but I think guys need to spend more time doing them. I feel it in my lower lats and middle back way better than overhand-grip rows. Some guys think there’s too much biceps involvement and sure, you can’t eliminate it but you don’t get as much biceps involvement as you would with say, a chin-up. Again, just focus on the muscles you’re trying to work and you’ll be fine.
Andy's Offseason Back Routine
Machine-Assisted Pull-up 5 Sets x 20–25, 15, 8–12, 8–12, 8–12 Reps
Neutral-Grip Seated Cable Row 5 Sets x 20–25, 15, 8–12, 8–12, 8–12 Reps
- superset wth -
Reverse-Grip Pulldown 5 Sets x 20–25, 15, 8–12, 8–12, 8–12 Reps
Bent-Over Barbell Row 3-4 Sets x 8–12 Reps
Deadlift 3-4 Sets x 8-12 Reps
* On the final three sets of the assisted pull-up machine, Andy uses no weight.
* Andy moves from exercise to exercise without rest, then rests 1–2 minutes at the end of each superset. On his second and third sets, he adds weight, then maintains that weight for the remainder of his working sets.
* “If I’m feeling numb and spry, which doesn’t happen much anymore, I’ll deadlift at the end so that I don’t have to go as heavy,” says Andy. “Sometimes, I’ll get up to 500 pounds.”