Two-time Classic Physique Olympia champion Breon Ansley is documenting his prep for the 2022 Arnold Classic on his YouTube channel. On episode four of that series, released on Jan. 19, 2022, Ansley ventured to The Gym Venice in Los Angeles, CA, for an intense back workout that emphasized stretching his lats before each rep’s contraction to add thickness.
The full-back session included unique hand positioning during the high-volume workload, including bent-over barbell rows, lat pulldowns, seated single-arm rows, face pulls, and more. Check out the full video below:
[Related: Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay Weighs 341 Pounds During Off-Season Training]
Ansley’s session opens with his face wincing as Sport Physical Therapist Amirhesam Jannat assists him through a mobility warm-up. There is a lot of attention paid to scapular control and stretching the lats. Ansley raises and lowers his arms overhead with a thick resistance band to help open his lats while maintaining a neutral spine. Jannat furthers this motion by pulling back slightly on Ansley’s arms while stabilizing him.
When you’re grimacing during the warm-up, you know you’re in for one.
The back session leads with standard lat pulldowns. Ansley maintains a relatively upright position with a wide grip and pulls the lat pulldown bar to his sternum. He controls the bar to full extension on the eccentric as Jannet checks to ensure Ansley engages the proper muscles at the start of each contraction.
Ansley moves on to his first set of bent-over barbell rows with an underhand grip. Uniquely, the power rack he performs the reps in has two metal poles on each side that the barbell tracks on during the set. This allows for Ansley more stability — he can focus on the concentric portion of each rep without the limitations imposed by having to stabilize the barbell.
[Related: Bodybuilder Sadik Hadzovic Says He’s Competing at the 2022 New York Pro in May]
Ansley supersets the bent-over rows with what appears to be a rack pull variant that removes the rack and adds a rounded back. This isn’t to say that Ansley isn’t bracing; he mentions that his core is engaged. The rounding comes from allowing the lats to relax into a stretch before contracting them on the upward pull.
Don’t loosen your core. It’s going to loosen your back — that’s how you’re going to pull your back. Keep core tight.
Ansley moves on to single-arm seated rows with a twist (figuratively and literally). During the eccentric of each rep, Ansley reaches as far as he can as the weight lowers to feel the stretch in his lat while simultaneously pronating his grip. He then supinates his grip during each rep until it’s fully underhand at peak contraction.
The two-time Classic Physique champ triple sets the seated rows with low cable rows and paused face pulls. Between sets, Ansley hits a lat spread pose for Jannet to analyze symmetry before the next set begins.
The training session closes with underhanded seated rows (with both hands) before Jannet performs deep tissue and mobility work on Ansley’s upper back. The idea that “shows are won from the back” seems to be on the minds of many top Classic Physique competitors. Two-time Olympia runner-up Terrence Ruffin recently trained back at Westside Barbell in Columbus, OH, and reigning three-time champion Chris Bumstead trained back in his first session back in the gym after recovering from COVID-19.
Ansley seemed pleased with his training session and believes he’s on the right track to challenge for the win at the 2022 Arnold Classic. If successful, it could position Ansley to move back up the ranks of the Olympia and potentially reclaim the title.
Featured image: @breonma_ on Instagram