One Saturday Morning

No School Like the Old School

I’ve always liked the saying, “There’s no school like the old school”. It’s long been the foundation of my training philosophy and mindset. As I was preparing to write this article, I was reflecting on my training leading up to the Arnold Classic and Mr. Olympia. My goal was to put those thoughts onto paper, but it wasn’t going to be an easy task given the amount of time that had passed, 25 years to be exact.

Then, one Saturday morning, something unexpected happened. I was going through some old storage crates with my wife, and to my surprise I ran across my old training records that had been tucked away for decades! I had everything written down - what I trained that day, every ounce of food I ate, doctor’s appointments, travel schedules, guest posings, photo shoots, phone calls to return… everything. I then came across photos from my beginning days in local competitions all the way through to the Arnold and Olympia stage. Wow, you talk about memories flooding back, not to mention the reminder of what it took to go from a local show to the pinnacle of the sport.

I kept digging and digging and eventually came across a very special folder that was simply labeled “Arnold”. Inside was my detailed records leading up to the 1995 Arnold Classic, the year I won. I started analyzing everything and realized I had recorded all the workouts I used from the offseason all the way through the show. I particularly was intrigued by the back training and the plan I had implemented to improve this bodypart leading into that year’s Arnold Classic. I remember knowing I needed to make drastic gains in order to compete against the likes of Flex Wheeler, Andreas Munzer, Lee Labrada and many others. I had to be honest with myself and address my weaknesses and so I did just that.

It isn’t pleasant for anyone to admit their weaknesses, but that is exactly what you must do if you truly want to improve your physique. This applies to all competitors at every level of bodybuilding. Whether you are competing at the pro level, beginner level or somewhere in between, turning your weaknesses into strengths is the key to achieving success. If you keep putting all your efforts into your 21-inch arms, what good will that do you if your quads are that same 21 inches! We’ve all seen “that guy” in the gym - phenomenal arms, but no legs. But what body part is he training every day, you got it… ARMS!

Like “that guy”, I too had to analyze my physique. I quickly realized that my back wasn’t where it needed to be, and I had to bring it up if I ever wanted to reach my goals. My dream wasn’t to just get better, I wanted to be the best I could be on stage. In order to do this, I had to devise a plan of attack that would allow me the best opportunity to achieve the aggressive goals I had set for myself. I was never the type who would say much about what my aspirations were. Instead, I would just do the homework needed and keep pushing and quietly do whatever it took to improve. I knew what needed to be done and the only thing left to do was work!

Back training is hard! Let’s face it, training your back can be painful…single-arm 200-lb dumbbell rows, 400-lb reverse grip rows, 800-lb rack pulls, etc. I personally loved it and training my back was probably my favorite, however that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. The brutal training is what led to results, which in turn created the motivation to push harder and get even better.
  

  
 

Now it’s time to get to it! Below I have outlined my 9-week mass-building back training that helped me win the 1995 Arnold Classic:

9 Week Back Program

A FEW THINGS TO NOTE:

  1. I trained my back (and all bodyparts) one time per week.
  2. Any weights listed are for demonstration purposes only, and you will need to adjust accordingly.
  3. Rest approximately 2 minutes between rack pulls and deadlifts for weeks 1-6.
  4. Rest approximately 1 minute between deficit deadlifts for weeks 7-9.
  5. Rest approximately 45-90 seconds between auxiliary exercises.
  6. Warm up properly before beginning.

WEEKS 1-3

MAIN EXERCISE

Rack Pulls (mid shin level)

Instructions: Perform 2 sets of 10 reps followed by 2 sets of 5 reps. You will then keep adding weight and performing a single rep until you fail (or barely get the rep). I want you to feel you are going as heavy as you can that day.

135 lb x 10 reps
225 lb x 10 reps
315 lb x 5 reps
405 lb x 5 reps
495 lb x 1 rep
585 lb x 1 rep
675 lb x 1 rep

AUXILIARY EXERCISES

Shrugs
4 sets x 10 reps

Pull downs
4 sets x 10 reps

Dumbbell rows
4 sets x 10 reps

Reverse grip barbell rows
4 sets x 10 reps

Reverse hypers
4 sets x 15 reps

  
WEEKS 4-6  
  

MAIN EXERCISE

Deadlifts (off the floor)

Instructions: Same rep pattern as rack pulls

135 lb x 10 reps
225 lb x 10 reps
315 lb x 5 reps
405 lb x 5 reps
495 lb x 1 rep
585 lb x 1 rep

AUXILIARY EXERCISES

(Same as weeks 1-3)

  
WEEKS 7-9  
  

MAIN EXERCISE

Deficit deadlifts:

Instructions: Either lift off a sturdy 5-6” box or lift off floor using 25-lb plates instead of 45-lb plates. Notice the changed rep scheme for these 3 weeks. Reminder: Rest only 1 minute between these deadlifts, not 2 minutes as in prior weeks.

135 lb x 10 reps
225 lb x 10 reps
315 lb x 5 reps
405 lb x 5 reps
405 lb x 5 reps
405 lb x 5 reps
405 lb x 5 reps
405 lb x 5 reps

AUXILIARY EXERCISES

(Same as prior weeks)

AUXILIARY EXERCISES

Deficit deadlifts:

(Same as prior weeks

Supplements

Must haves:

In order to train this intensely and still recover in time to hit your other bodyparts with the same ferocity, these supplements are a must:

  1. Glutamine Select: This product contains the BCAAs and Glutamine at the levels necessary to aid in muscle recovery.
  2. UMP: A great way to get in the extra protein and calories you need when training intensely. Mix it with fruit and ice and blend into a high protein smoothie! But, honestly this high quality protein powder tastes phenomenal right out of the jug!
  3. FitTabs: FitTabs are vitally important to make sure all your bases are covered nutrient wise.

Other supplements to consider

If you are on a calorie restricted diet, here are a few additional supplements that will aid in your recovery, metabolism and fat burning. These scientifically designed and researched supplements are specifically manufactured for those in contest prep and/or are on calorie restricted nutrition plans.

  • 7-Keto MuscLean
  • Muscularity
  • Quadracarn
  • Lean Out

In Closing

There is nothing glamorous about this back-training workout. Given our high-tech environment, I realize everyone has access to a plethora of training information on the internet (some good, some not so good). However, in the end, it still comes down to ‘old school’ basics.

I can’t guarantee I will be around in another 25 years to open that storage container back up, but I can confidently say that this back workout will stand the test of time. I challenge you to give it a try.

Contact Info: mikefrancois.com

Instagram: michaelfrancois33

Posted in 2021 Collection.