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

Some things may change, but the basic blueprint that built one of the world’s thickest and densest backs remains virtually unchanged. 

Considered the strongest-ever IFBB pro, Jackson heaves poundage more suited for a powerlifter than a bodybuilder—indeed, he has competed in that sport as well, most recently at the Raw Unity Deadlift Competition in early 2012, where he deadlifted 832 pounds for an all-time personal best.


Wide lats are critical for an impressive taper onstage or on the street in a T-shirt.

Jackson dutifully knocks out two warmup sets of 15 reps, resting only about 30 seconds between each. “When I do this with Branch [Warren], we’ll only rest as long as it takes the other person to finish his set,” Jackson explains, a revelation that becomes ever more surprising as the brutish, exceedingly heavy sets pile up over the course of the next 45 minutes.

Three of the four working sets are done with the full stack, but all sets are to 15—each pull is explosive, and while the negative is controlled, there’s nothing “slow” or “measured” about each rep. As Jackson is quick to admit, he ain’t looking to pose for a training textbook, he’s aiming to build muscle.

“It’s controlled madness, ’cause you definitely have to explode,” he says, “but we are in control of our bodies to make sure we’re not risking injury. With the weight we handle, you can’t help but to overcompensate a little and use other muscle groups, too, but that’s the whole idea. It’s about not giving your body a choice but to grow. We force-feed it weights.”


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