Train the Rear
A Size/Strength Program for Massive Lats, Traps, Lower Back and Hamstrings
(A.K.A: The Puddin’ Power Chronicles, Volume One)
Just for the hell of it, my workout partner Puddin’ and I decided to go to the local bodybuilding show. Puddin’ wanted to check out all the girls—the “hoes” in his vocabulary—whose boyfriends would be on stage posing. “Easier for the pickins,” is what he said. I wanted to see if there would be any physiques that had been built with some serious power training instead of all the light, high-rep pumping crap that’s so popular among bodybuilders.
Puddin’ left the show a happy man. He got the phone numbers of a couple of girls whose boyfriends took home a trophy. I left the thing disappointed—though far from surprised. A few of the contestants actually had good development from the front, but not a single one of the sumbitches looked good from the rear. Oh, a few of them had lats, but none of them had anything approaching stellar trap, mid-back, lower back, hip, or hamstring development. In other words, the muscle groups that matter.
Why the Rear?
What’s so important about the rear of the body, ya’ ask? It doesn’t matter what your goals are, you must train the rear. Nothing looks worse than a bodybuilder with big arms, a big chest, and good quadriceps development who doesn’t have the back development to match. If you have a good chest, then it’s equally important to have good lats and a good mid-back. If you have large biceps, then it’s equally important to have good triceps. And if you have good quads, then it’s equally important to have well-developed hips and hamstrings.
Do you want to be strong? You’ll never get anywhere without training the rear of the body. Want a big bench? Then you better train the dog-mess out of your triceps and lats. Want a big deadlift or power clean? You’ll never get anywhere without strong traps, lower back, hips, or hamstrings. And what about the squat? My quads won’t cut it, you ask? Louie Simmons once wrote that the only muscles on the front of your body that you use when you squat were your abdominals (no doubt a lot of bodybuilders are shaking their heads about now). Was he correct? You bet. In fact, the same muscles that you squat with, you deadlift with. Your lower and mid-back, hips, and hamstrings better be strong or you can forget about it.
Okay, Sloan, You’ve Convinced Me. Now What?
The Monday after the bodybuilding show, Puddin’ and I decided to go to the Power South gym to train. Most of the time we train in my garage, where we don’t have bozos at Power South bothering us or the manager of the gym looking at us funny when we use the squat rack to actually squat in. Every so often, however, we like it for a change of pace.
On this Monday, we were due for some heavy benches and deads. I needed to work on my weak point on the bench press (which is mid-range), so I hit board presses, working up to a double with 375. Puddin’ has a problem with the start of his bench, so he decided to work bottom-position bench presses. He managed 400 for a double.
Benches over, it was time for the fun stuff. We both hit the deadlifts with ferocity. And we both managed 500 for a triple. As we were mid-way through our sets, I noticed a couple of bodybuilders—no less wailing away on the utterly useless pec-deck machine—watching us. They looked familiar. By the time we made it over to seated good mornings, they decided to come over and talk to us.
“Hey, ya’ll are a couple of them butt-wipes from the show the other night,” Puddin’ said. He wasn’t popular with the bodybuilding crowd.
The two guys didn’t know what to say. Maybe they thought Puddin’ was going to eat them for dinner, along with his nightly T-bone steaks, loaded baked potato, and six-pack of (holy) Budweisers.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“We were watching earlier and wanted to know how you both developed such thick backs and hamstrings,” one of them said. I guess he was the appointed leader of the two. The other, younger fella just stood there, staring at the ground. He might have been afraid Puddin’ wanted to use him for a punching bag.
Puddin’ said,” Ya’ seen us deadliftin’, didn’t ya’?” The leader nodded. “Well, there ya’ go.”
“I hate to be a nuisance, but do you think you could give us more details?”
Puddin’ looked like he was ready to spit some Copenhagen on the guy—it was a good thing he didn’t have any in his mouth at the time. “Tell ya’ what,” I said. “Let us finish our workout, and then I’ll see if I can’t give you some tips for bringing up the rear of your physique. Deal?”
Puddin’ and I finished our good mornings, then hit traps via some heavy shrugs. When we were done, Puddin’ decided to take a shower while I talked to the bodybuilders. He winked at me and said, “I think I seen one of them puss’s girlfriends hittin’ the shower, too. I might take a peek in the gals’ side, and if there ain’t no one else in there, I might just join her.” He grinned one of his big shit-eatin’ grins after he said it, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
Once I reached the bodybuilders (they were “pumping” and “toning” on the cable crossover), I asked, “So, what do ya’ll want to know?”
“We’d like to know what you and that big guy do for a routine,” the leader said. “That way, we can start the same program on back day.”
“Whoa,” I said. “It ain’t quite so simple. First off, we don’t follow a routine that’s probably anywhere close to what you guys do.”
“Whadda you mean?” the second guy asked. It was the first time he had spoken.
“Well, Puddin’ and me don’t split our workout sessions. We train everything at once. Now, if ya’ll aren’t going to do that, then that at least means you need to train the entire rear of your body in one session.”
“That’s what we do,” he replied, slightly defensive.
“Not exactly,” I said. “I mean, do you squat on the same day that you deadlift on?”
“Uh, we don’t do either one of those exercises, to be honest,” the first guy said. He looked sheepish when he said it, like a kid that’d been caught with his hand in the candy jar.
“This’s what I’m going to do. You two finish your workout. I’ll go to the front desk and see if I can’t get that cute gal working at the counter to give me a pen and some paper. That done, I’ll map out a program for you. But you better as hell follow it.”
“We will,” they assured simultaneously.
I went to the front desk, quickly managed to wrangle up a pen and a spiral notebook. Within twenty minutes, I had an entire four weeks of training mapped out. When I was done, the bodybuilders came walking out. They winked at the desk girl and tried to flex their pecs a few times. I’m fairly sure none of it impressed her.
“Here ya’ go,” I said, handing over the notebook. “Check it out.”
The Train the Rear Program
What follows is a program that’s just like the one I mapped out for the bodybuilders. It’ll not only add size and thickness to the rear of your body—from the bottom of your hamstrings to the top of your traps—it will also make you one strong sumbitch (as we like to say in Alabama).
This is a three-days-a-week program. Therefore, you have a couple of options when it comes to the rest of your body. You can either train the front of your body on the same days as this program—at the end of the workout or during another session—or you can train the front of your body two-days-a-week on another day. The second option is probably the best if the rear of your body is really lagging. If you perform this program on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then train the front of your body on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Here it is:
1. Squats—5 sets of 5 reps, 1 down set of 8 reps. Work up over five progressively heavier sets. Make sure that the jumps in weight are harmonious. In other words, if your goal on your 5th set is to squat 405 pounds, then your jumps might look like this: 135, 225, 315, 360, then 405. After your last set, drop down to the weight you used for your 3rd set and crank out 8 repetitions.
2. Power Cleans—5 sets of 5 reps. Use the same format as with the squats, omitting the down set.
3. Wide-grip Chins—5 sets of 8 reps. Unlike the prior exercises, these should be straight sets, using the same weight (even if it’s just your bodyweight) on all 5 sets.
1. Olympic-style Pause Squats—5 sets of 5 reps. Use the same format as with the squats on day one, omitting the down set. Make sure that you work up to a final set that is no more than 80% of the weight used on your final set of regular squats on the first day.
2. Good Mornings—4 sets of 8 reps. Use progressively heavier sets, and make sure that you use strict form. When done consistently, however, this exercise will work wonders in boosting both your squat and your deadlift.
1. Squats—5 sets of 5 reps. Use the same form and technique used on Day One. This time, however, you are only going to work up to 90% of the weight used for Day One, and you aren’t going to include a down set. For our hypothetical 405-lb. squatter, the jumps in weight would look like this: 135, 225, 315, and 360 for 2 sets.
2. Power Snatches—5 sets of 5 reps. Work up over 5 progressively heavier sets. Make sure all sets have speed, however. Stop adding weight whenever your speed begins to degrade.
3. Bent-arm Barbell Pullovers—3 sets of 12 reps. Use the same weight on all 3 sets, and use a weight that takes you several reps shy of failure on all sets.
1. Squats—5 sets of 3 reps, 1 down set of 8 reps. Work up over 5 progressively heavier sets, hitting a maximum triple on your final set. Take equal jumps in weight similar to the previous week. On the down set of 8 reps, try adding ten to twenty pounds from last week.
2. Deadlifts—5 sets of 3 reps. Perform these using a conventional form (as opposed to sumo-style). Work up over 5 progressively heavier sets.
3. One-arm Dumbbell Rows—4 sets of 8 reps (each arm). Use strict form on all sets. You should also approach failure on the last couple of sets.
1. Overhead Squats—5 sets of 3 reps. Work up over 5 progressively heavier sets. The last set should be tough, but make sure you use a weight where you know you will get all 3 reps.
2. Rounded-back Good Mornings—4 sets of 8 reps. Use progressively heavier sets. Keep you back rounded throughout except for at the top of the lift, when the barbell is resting across your shoulders.
1. Bottom-position Squats—5 sets of 3 reps, 1 down set of 5 reps. Work up over 5 progressively heavier sets. Make sure you rest on the pins briefly at the bottom of each repetition. For the down set, attempt the same weight you use for 8 reps on regular squats on Day One.
2. Deadlift Shrugs—5 sets of 3 reps. Work up over 5 progressively heavier sets. Make sure you shrug your shoulders at the top of each repetition, attempting to touch your traps to your ears.
3. Cross-bench Dumbbell Pullovers—5 sets of 5 reps. Use the same weight on all sets, and a weight that’s heavy enough to make you work very hard on every set.
1. Squats—4 sets of 10 reps. Work up over 4 progressively heavier sets. Try a personal record for 10 reps on the last set.
2. Good Morning Squats—3 sets of 7 reps. Perform 3 progressively heavier sets. You should be fairly well warmed-up from all the reps on the squats, the reason for the fewer sets. As for form, bend over at the waist—the same as with conventional good mornings—and once your upper body is parallel to the floor, squat as deep as possible.
3. Close-grip Chins—3 sets of maximum reps. Use only your bodyweight on all sets. Perform as many reps as possible.
1. Wide-stance, Low-bar Squats—4 sets of 8 reps. Use as wide a stance as is possible, making it very hard for you to even reach parallel. Perform 1 warm-up set. The other 3 sets should be all performed with the same weight—a good rule would be the weight you used for your 2nd set of squats on Day One.
2. Seated Good Mornings—3 sets of 12 reps. Use the same weight on all 3 sets.
1. Olympic-style Pause Squats—4 sets of 10 reps. Work up over 4 progressively heavier sets.
2. Drop Snatches—4 sets of 8 reps. Use the same weight on all 4 sets. This exercise is sometime referred to as a “drop squat.” Set up with the same stance and bar placement you use for your regular squats, except take your grip out wide (same grip you would snatch with). As you squat down, drive the bar overhead at the same time. This simultaneous squatting and pressing will take a little time to get used to, but this is still a great exercise.
3. Bent-arm Barbell Pullovers—2 sets of 20 reps. Each set should be tough, but neither of them should be taken to failure.
1. Squats—5 to 8 singles, 3 sets of 3 reps. Work up over 5 to 8 progressively heavier singles. The last single should be all-out. The number of sets will depend on your strength level. Someone squatting 300 to 400 pounds, for instance, would only need 5 sets. Someone squatting more than 500 pounds will need upward of 8 sets. After the singles, drop down fifty to one hundred pounds (this will once again depend on your strength level) and perform 3 sets of 3 reps with the weight.
2. Deadlifts—5 to 8 singles. Work up over 5 to 8 progressively heavier singles, using the same system as the squats. No down sets.
1. Squats—5 sets of 2 reps. Work up over 5 progressively heavier sets. The last double should be about 70% of the last single from Day One.
2. Power Cleans—5 sets of 2 reps. Work up over 5 progressively heavier sets. Try to maintain speed on all sets.
1. Bottom-position Squats—5 to 8 singles. Work up over 5 to 8 progressively heavier singles. Most lifters will need only 5 sets because of the nature of the exercise—it’s tough.
2. Deadlifts Off Blocks—5 singles. Use only 5 progressively heavier singles, even if you are a 500-plus deadlifter. If you don’t have access to blocks, simply stack two pairs of two 45-pound plates on top of each other. Space the plates out however wide (or narrow) your stance is.
Here are a few pointers for getting the most out of the program:
1. Once you are finished with the 4th week, you can either start the program over using the same exercises, or you can change exercises. If you change exercises, make sure you substitute “heavy” exercises for other “heavy” exercises, “light” exercises for other “light” exercises, and “medium” exercises for other “medium” exercises.
2. Eat plenty of food while on the program. If you need to gain weight, then make sure you are consuming plenty of protein, carbs, and fat.
3. Get plenty of sleep.
4. If you are an advanced lifter, don’t be afraid to add extra workouts on your days off. Either do some GPP work, or perform some bodyweight only conditioning programs.
After quickly scanning over my workout, both of the bodybuilders gave me rather dubious looks. “Hey,” I said, “you asked for my advice, and now you have it. And that’s a lot more than I usually do for folks.”
“But, I’m not going to get much of a pump training like this,” the more withdrawn of the two said.
“You never said anything about wanting a pump,” I replied. “You asked for a program to beef up your backs. That’s what you got.”
“But we usually just train things once a week…” the first guy started to say. I knew he had a lot more opinions he wanted to voice, but I cut him off before he could get to them.
“Just do it,” I said. “Forget about the hows and the whys, and do the damn thing. Me and Puddin’ll be back in this place in another month or two. Stick with the program until then, and then come complain about your lack of a pump or how often you had to train. I bet—if you actually stick with the blasted thing—you won’t have a single complaint.”
They looked at each other, then finally nodded. “We’ll try it.”
“Good,” I said. I didn’t have anything else to talk to them about, so I decided to talk to the girl at the desk. She was looking cuter by the minute.
I was still talking to her when Puddin’ walked out. He was combing through his wet hair, and still grinning big as ever. “D’ya give them suckwads a program?”
“Think they’ll follow it?”
I shrugged. “Dunno. But if they do, they’ll thank me later on. They probably never worked their backs that hard in their lives.”
“I know one thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“That short one’s girlfriend never had a back workout like the one I just gave her. I had her twisted and contorted ever which a way.”
“You gotta be kiddin’, right?”
“Do I ever kid?”
I didn’t know if Puddin’ was joking or not. But the one thing I do know is he has better back development then most of the rest of Alabama combined. Do you have great back development? If not, it’s time to start training the rear.