By Steven Stiefel
“Back in the U.S.S.R” is one of the quintessential songs from The Beatles’ groundbreaking White Album. Like The Beatles themselves, though, the USSR no longer exists, despite the fact that both have left an indelible legacy on the planet, linked by the song penned by Paul McCartney. Russian bodybuilder Evgeny Mishin, who hails from the USSR — now Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, wants to leave a similar imprint on the pro bodybuilding world by presenting a fully developed physique with an impressive back.
Evgeny grew up in St. Petersburg, which became part of Russia when the USSR collapsed exactly two decades ago. Evgeny now calls America home, living in Los Angeles. “I always wanted to live in America because I love the country,” Evgeny says. “The opportunities here are incredible.”
Evgeny became a pro bodybuilder by winning his pro card at the 2002 European Championships in the heavyweight division. He made his pro debut in 2003 at the Night of Champions, finishing out of the top 20. Then, last year, he qualified for his first Mr. Olympia, where he finished 17th. He’s already qualified for the 2011 Olympia via the same route as last year — finishing 4th at the Europa show. This year, however, his expectations at the Olympia are much higher. “I believe I can finish in the top 10,” Evgeny says. “This year, I’ve already beaten some of the guys who finished ahead of me a year ago.”
Evgeny believes his success in reaching the upper tier of this year’s Olympia will be connected to shake-ups in his training. “I’ve focused on my back, making it thicker and wider.” He’s also emphasized increasing the size of his legs. “They look fine, but I want to make sure they compare well to other guys onstage.” That’s because, at 6´2˝, Evgeny’s legs are long and, thus, comparatively “smaller” than those of shorter bodybuilders. “Plus, increasing the size of my legs will create the effect of a smaller waist,” he adds.
“When you see me on the 2011 Olympia stage, I’ll be 5 pounds heavier than I was last year.” In 2010, Evgeny weighed 290. This year you can expect to see a 295-pound model.
Front to Back
Evgeny’s primary concern this year has been improving the width and thickness of his back. It’s not that Evgeny has suffered from weak genetics where his lats and other back muscles are concerned, but “in the past, I didn’t pay much attention to my back,” he admits. He was more concerned with how he looked from the front, emphasizing broader shoulders and thick pecs over background Christmas trees and flaring Vs.
But when he started competing in the pro ranks, he began to consider how he could place higher. “I looked at my whole body from the front and back, and I could see that, even from the front, I had nothing behind me when I looked at pictures from old competitions.” He revised his training philosophy, training for a physique that would impress judges from every perspective.
The result? “My back started to grow.” So, even if you aren’t satisfied with your own back development, this comrade has your back, so to speak. Learn from his mistakes and follow his advice so that you can make the most of your lat development.
Back to Basics
Evgeny says that every move you choose to perform for your back should feel as though it’s improving your back. “I’ve made minor changes in how I perform many exercises based on how they feel when I’m working my back.” He says that you should be able to feel a move working the width or thickness of your back if you want it to be effective. Keep all the variables in mind as you adapt Evgeny’s workout to your own needs — sets, reps, weights, angles and techniques. You have to use what works for you. For instance, Evgeny says, “I recently cut down on my back-training volume because I realized I was overtraining.”
While he still performs a hefty 24-set back workout, he often uses a predetermined number of reps with pyramiding weights, meaning that his earlier sets are done with lighter weights and serve as warm-ups for the heavier ones to follow. “I also believe in performing fewer exercises and more sets per exercise.” You can always swap in other exercises in subsequent back workouts, but Evgeny recommends using each exercise until you feel that particular move has exhausted its purpose in your back training. The exercises included here are those Evgeny deems the most effective and have given him the best results.