How Big Ramy Built His Ridiculously Thick, Wide Back

Will it be enough to pull off an upset at this year's Olympia?


Per Bernal


Targets: Latissimus dorsi, midback muscles (rhom- boids, teres major, teres minor)

Also Works: Traps, rear deltoids, biceps

Grip: Palms facing or palms down; straps are helpful to extend your ability to hold on

Training Tip: Elssbiay tends to focus on long contractions when doing this exercise, taking full advantage of the range of motion the Hammer Strength apparatus offers. He’ll pull his elbows back as far as he can behind his body, and he may add a few forced reps at the end of the final set with the help of his trainer to thoroughly burn out the area.


  1. Adjust the seat so that when you grasp the handles, your arms are straight out from your shoulders and your middle chest and upper abs can rest firmly against the pad.
  2. Grasp the handles with a palms-down (pronated) or palms-facing (neutral) grip, and lift the weight up a few inches into the starting position.
  3. Pull the handles evenly toward you as your elbows go backward past the plane of your back, while also simultaneously shifting your shoulder blades inward near the apex of the repetition.
  4. Hold the peak contraction for a brief count, then return along the same path, extending your elbows and feeling a stretch through your lats and midback.
  5. Stop before the weights touch down so that you can maintain tension throughout the set.

Per Bernal


Targets: Lats, rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius

Also Works: Erector spinae, biceps

Grip: Neutral (palm facing his body), with straps for additional strength

Training Tip: The secret of productive one-arm rows is to not overtwist the upper body, which can add unwanted momentum while also putting the spine at some unnecessary risk for injury. The movement should be driven by your back muscles contracting and your shoulder shifting up and inward. In addition, your head should remain in a neutral, aligned position with your back—no need to look up as you rep.


  1. While these can be done in a variety of ways—including with one knee on a bench— Big Ramy keeps both feet on the floor and, as is the case here, places his free hand on the knee pad of a pulldown machine for balance.
  2. Hold one dumbbell with your working-side hand, wrapping the strap around the handle and then placing your palm and fingers around it to get a solid grip.
  3. To start, your back should be flat from head to tailbone, your torso angled about 45 degrees in relation to the floor, with the weight hanging straight down from your shoulder joint.
  4. To initiate a rep, flex through your back and bend your elbow to pull the dumbbell toward your flank. Your elbow will rise up past the level of your back, and the shoulder blade of the working side should shift inward as you reach the top of your range of motion.
  5. After a flexing pause at the top, lower the weight down along the same path to a full stretch—just don’t let the dumbbell touch down to the floor between reps.

Per Bernal


Targets: Lats

Also Works: Biceps

Grip: Overhand, a few inches outside shoulder width

Training Tip: While a weight belt isn’t mandatory, Elssbiay relies on one—cinching a belt offers a helpful mental cue to keep your abdominals and lower back tight during back exercises, a good habit that helps protect the vulnerable lower lumbar region during heavy training.


  1. Grasp the bar a few inches past the point where each side angles downward—while Ramy doesn’t always wrap his thumbs around the bar, you should, as the open-handed grip doesn’t offer any additional benefit while increasing the risk of slippage. (You can also consider straps, which Elssbiay uses throughout his back workouts, to further boost your grip.)
  2. Sit in the seat with your legs tucked underneath the kneepads. Your feet should be flat on the floor to provide stability. In the seated position with elbows open, the weight stack should be lifted at least an inch or two.
  3. With your core tight and torso slightly angled back, pull downward to bring the center of the bar attachment down to your upper chest—you’ll bend your elbows and bring them rearward so they break the plane of your back at the bottom, while your shoulder blades, as with your other rowing motions, shift back and down.
  4. Once the bar lightly touches your chest, squeeze the muscles throughout your upper and midback for a count and reverse the motion, allowing the bar to again slowly rise to the starting position. Don’t let the weight stack touch down between reps.


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