Back Exercises

Build A Back Like Arnold's

A wide, v-tapered back starts with time spent at the pull-up bar. Here’s how Arnold beefed up his lats with this bodyweight move.

Build A Back Like Arnold's

It’s rare when it happens but it’s always something of a spectacle to see someone heaving around a quarter-ton of clanking iron on barbell rows. Big weight, bro. More common but in the same realm of performance are the stack-pulling cable rowers grunting through a set to failure, wrist straps and all. Good set. These feats of strength are impressive, to be sure, but strangely, you will find fewer of these alphas strutting their stuff at the pull-up bar.

Pull-ups are an equalizer – no matter how many plates you can row, you’re still likely to encounter some difficulty when pulling your bodyweight through space. Arnold certainly found that to be the case. But instead of being humbled by the pull-up, he attacked it with vigor and built the thick, here-to-there lats that made his waist appear smaller than it already was.

How did he do this, you ask?

Sets To Failure

Arnold was a fan of failure. And with pull-ups – for most of us – failure tends to come quickly. But that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice on volume.

Instead of locking himself into a cut-and-dry scheme of 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps, Arnold would instead pick a number – say 50 or 60 – and complete as many sets to failure as it took to reach that number. Usually, this meant starting off with a set of 10-12 quality reps, with the numbers quickly falling off after that. By his last set, it wasn’t uncommon to be trembling through 4-5 reps. But that didn’t matter. What did matter was that he put in the work it took to get his lats growing.

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