Rich Gaspari’s Legendary Bodybuilding Back Workout

Rich Gaspari back workout bodybuilding

Legendary bodybuilder Rich Gaspari crushes a back workout and gives crucial tips. 

Veteran bodybuilder and entrepreneur Rich Gaspari walked Generation Iron through a back workout and gave essential tips for building a strong, ripped back. Rich Gaspari is a 3x IFBB Pro Mr. Olympia runner-up–1986, 1987, and 1988. Now, he’s the CEO of Gaspari Nutrition, which sells vitamins and supplements

Before diving into the back workout, Gaspari explained the importance of a well-developed back. Gaspari stated:

“I believe the back is a very big muscle. There’s different angles to train the back. You got your upper lats, lower lats, middle back, lower middle back, you know, spinal erectors, So there’s a ton of different parts to train. So you got to train at different angles.”

Below we’ll go through part one of Rich Gaspari’s bodybuilding back workout. 

Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns 

The first workout Rich Gaspari performed was the wide grip lat pulldowns. This is a critical movement to target your lats–the outer back muscles. It’s done on a cable lat pulldown machine with a wide grip bar. Rich Gaspari said: 

“The biggest issue that people who do these is they kinda like they want to use heavy weight, so they swing back like this, and when you’re doing this, you’re working more of your middle back. Kind of, you want to make sure that you stay straight up; I mean, you can sway a little bit. But you want to kind of keep your body straight up so that you’re hitting your lats and not the middle back.”

Rich Gaspari noted that he’s swinging back a bit, but not too much to where it takes the focus off the lats. Gaspari also pointed out that the wider grip targets more of your upper back, whereas a reverse or close grip will work more of the lower part of your lats. 

In addition, Gaspari said to use a stationary pole to stretch your lats. He said to pull (on the poll) on one side and have the leg of the side you’re pulling in the back to feel the stretch. 

Rich Gaspari mentioned that muscle growth comes from the contraction, not the extension. So he said it’s essential to control the weight on the weight. Moreover, Gaspari stated that he performs most sets until failure because that is what activates it to grow. 

Lower Block Sitting Rod (Narrow Grip) 

The following exercise in Rich Gaspari’s workout was the lower block sitting rod (narrow grip), aka cable seated row. You’ll do this exercise on a cable machine with a V bar double grip attachment. Gaspari said these are often done incorrectly. Gaspari asserted:

“You want to make sure you stretch your back out. But you’re not like doing that. You want to make sure you stretch your back out but not curve your back.”

He also noted that it’s important not to lean back too far. 

Rowing V Bar Lat Pulldown 

Rich Gaspari then went on to a lat pulldown with a narrower grip, rowing V bar lat pulldown, after the lower block sitting rod (narrow grip). This exercise will target more of your lower lat. Gaspari recommended wearing straps to engage more of your lats. Gaspari said:

“A lot of guys are like, uh, you need to strengthen your grip, but if you’re training your back muscle, what happens is your hands will give out before your back, so, you want your back to give out, so that’s why use ,you know straps.”

Moving on to part two of the back workout, we’ll go into more tips and guidance with Rich Gaspari. Check it out below:

T-Bar Row

Rich Gaspari started on the T-Bar row to kick off the second part of his back workout. Gaspari commented:

“We’re doing a basic T bar row. Very, really good for overall thickness again for your back. We’ll start, you know, light and then move up.”

The T-Bar row is performed with a barbell via a neutral grip (palms facing each other), which allows you to pull more weight.

Generation Iron director Vlad Yudin asked Gaspari if it’s essential to keep your back straight during this movement. And Gaspari responded that you should keep your back straight with a slight knee bend.

Gaspari added drop sets to the exercise, so he performed each set until failure and lowered the weight of each set. Gaspari stated:

“What I feel it does when you do drop sets, which is a method I used when I competed, is you can go into deeper deeper fibers. A lot of times when you just do a single set, you do hit the muscle, but I don’t believe you can hit that muscle really really deep. And I felt that I made a lot of gains, I was a hard gainer, so I had to really train a muscle to failure. And the way I did it was through drop sets.”

Top Deadlifts (Smith Machine)

The following exercise in the second half of Gaspari’s back workout was the smith machine top deadlifts. Gaspari said performing this movement on the smith machine rather than a free-weight barbell thickens your lower and upper back muscles. Because he said a full deadlift would activate your glutes and legs, but with the smith machine variation, you’re mainly engaging your lower back and midback. Gaspari stated:

“There’s a lot of parts of the back to train. It’s not just one muscle, you gotta train it at different angles, to get results. You know, what’s really important too, is you want to have a back that has a lot of depth.”

The following clip in Rich Gaspari’s workout was him preparing his intra shake. Gaspari said his drink contains:

Wide Grip Seated Cable Row

The wide grip seated cable row was the final exercise in Gaspari’s back workout. This movement targets your upper back and precisely activates your trapezius, rhomboids, and rear deltoids.

Rich Gaspari’s Back Workout

Here are the exercises Rich Gaspari did in part one of his exclusive GI bodybuilding back workout:

  • Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns: 5 sets x 15-20 reps (last set until failure)
  • Lower Block Sitting Rod (Narrow Grip): 4 sets x 15-20 reps (last set until failure)
  • Rowing V Bar Lat Pulldown: 3 sets x 15-20 reps (last set until failure)
  • T- Bar Row: 4 sets x 10-15 reps
  • Top Deadlifts (Smith Machine): 4 sets x 10 reps
  • Wide Grip Seated Cable Row: 3 sets x 12 reps

In part I of Rich Gaspari’s workout, he targeted his back. He went through three exercises to target his upper lats (wide grip lat pulldowns), middle back (lower block sitting rod with a narrow grip), and lower lats (rowing V bar lat pulldown). 

During Gaspari’s workout, he gave crucial tips for performing the exercise to target the desired muscle appropriately. Gaspari noted that wide grip lat pulldowns shouldn’t be done with too much swinging because it takes the tension off the upper lats. Instead, only use a little momentum and stay upright. He pointed out that you should stretch your back out but not curve your back on the lower block sitting row (narrow grip) to stretch your lats. And Gaspari recommends using straps on rowing V bar lat pulldown because he says it will engage your lats more. 

Gaspari performed a high-volume workout, completing between 3-5 sets in the 15-20 rep range per exercise. And he also made sure to include a set until failure for his final set on each movement because he believes it will help your muscles grow. 

Rich Gaspari’s back exercises in part II contained slightly less volume than part I of his back workout. Instead of performing reps in the 15-20 rep range, he lowered the reps to 10-15 reps.

The first part of Rich Gaspari’s workout heavily targeted the lats, whereas the focus of the second half of his workout aim was to build a denser, thicker back. Therefore, the movements mainly engaged his lower and upper back.

Gaspari gave firm reasons why he included these specific movements and drop sets in the workout. For example, Gaspari said he added the T-Bar row in the plan for back thickness and performed the deadlifts on the smith machine because he said it would target your legs less and your back more. And Gaspari noted that he likes to include drop sets in his workouts because they hit your muscles deeper and help you gain more muscle.

Overall, Gaspari completed a high-volume back workout that engaged all the back muscles using movements that hit your back at various angles through various exercises and equipment, hitting the upper, middle, and lower lats and upper back and lower back. In addition, Gaspari added drop sets to increase the intensity of his sets and better grow his back muscles.

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Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.