Big Ramy Blasts Back

Mamdouh Elssbiay's six favorite exercises for a monstrous back.


It’s hot. Triple-digit hot. Desert hot. That’s the forecast most every summer day in Kuwait City. Though it’s comfortably cool in Oxygen Gym, Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay brings the heat to his back workout, grinding out set after set, hoisting 315-pound barbell rows and repping out fiveplate partial deads, making additions to what are already two of the largest lats the world has ever known.

This year, Elssbiay worked with trainer Ahmad Alaqi, who brought a progressive component to training days. “For the chest, back, shoulders, and legs, we vary the rep range from 15 to 6,” Alaqi explains. “Each week, we decrease the number of reps. So we start Week 1 with sets of 15 reps. Next week we go to 12 reps. The week after, 10, then eight, and finally six. And then we go back to 15 and start over again.” As the reps go lower, the weights grow bigger over the five-week progression. (For arms, the reps stay in the 10-to-15 range with an emphasis on maximizing pumps.) 

The day FLEX watched Elssbiay work back under Alaqi’s supervision in Oxygen Gym was a Week 3, 10-rep session. This means 10 was the target for every working set, though sometimes Big Ramy grinded out an extra rep or two with Alaqi’s helping hands. Trainer and trainee rarely spoke. During the last two exercises, when intensity was at risk of waning, the phenom who has won all three of his non-Olympia shows clamped his red Beats headphones onto his hears, and hip-hop drove him through the toughest reps as his face contorted with pain. Mamdouh Elssbiay already has the world’s widest back. But in workouts like the one we observed, he’s attacking that back with a diversity of exercises and angles, all designed to accentuate the plateaus and canyons of his dorsal landscape.

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