A body builder recommends 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps.
We should all seek to inspire comments like this. If not for yourself, do it for your country.
And natural bodybuilder Julian "The Quad Guy" Smith has 3 baby got back moves that will help you do just that.
1. Feet-elevated barbell bent-over row
Any gym rat knows that the barbell bent-over row is the battle-tested back-builder used by all the great physiques, past and present. But Julian likes to do them with his feet-elevated on a low box or step to stimulate more gains.
Julian says "elevating your feet allows the barbell to travel further, increasing the range of motion of the exercise. It also allows for your trunk to be more parallel to the floor, which is harder than being more inclined like you see with most guys at the gym."
I'll also add that this variation provides an angle of pull that seems to activate the lats more. It's definitely worth a shot if you have a strong lower back and the hamstring mobility to pull it off. If not, use the hamstring smash and the hamstring stretch to help you get there.
Julian recommends 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps. He mixes between faster reps and slower negatives for variety.
"Focus on pulling with your elbows, not your hands," says Smith. "This will take your biceps out of the movement and force your back to do the work it's supposed to do."
2. Chest-supported incline dumbbell row
This is another beaut of a back exercise that allows you to work each arm independently to clean up and strength or muscular imbalances between sides. And you can do it at home or in any hotel gym setup.
This move also happens to be an ideal substitute if you can't do the previous exercise without pain. By supporting your chest on the bench, it takes your lower back out of the movement and allows you to isolate your upper and mid back. It's also easier to recover from so you can do these more frequently through a given training week.
Julian says "I usually do 4 to 6 sets of 10 to 20 reps on these. When the reps are closer to 10, I like time under tension training where I slow down the lowering portion and pause for a count or two at the top of the move. When I'm doing closer to 20 reps I'll tend to pump the reps out faster and stop just short of fully extending my arms at the bottom of the movement for more metabolic stress."
3. Wide-grip seated cable row
"No back workout is complete without some cable work," says Smith. Cables allow for a more consistent and continuous tension to the working muscles throughout the entire range of motion of the exercise than free weights do. They also allow for a horizontal vector of resistance which is perfect for rows.
Julian recommends 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps with pauses on both the contraction and stretch of each rep. He also likes to do multiple drop sets on the final set, where he bumps the weight down 20-25% at a time to crank out more reps and extend the overall time-under-tension. This technique completely exhausts all of your muscle fibers, provides an epic muscle pump, and practically guarantees gains.
"Don't lean back too far," says Smith. "Keep your torso vertical with a slight arch in your lower back and a proud chest for the ultimate contraction!"