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Roc's Reality Back Workout
Roc ShabazzWhy is Rashid "Roc" Shabazz the guy you should talk to if you want to learn how to pack some lbs of beef on your back?

Because in 1991 when he graduated college and moved to Atlanta to learn how to become a bodybuilder from Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, he weighed a paltry 132lbs soaking wet. In 2004 Roc won the NPC Nationals earning his pro card and in 2006 cracked the top ten in his pro debut and has not placed out of the top ten thus far in his pro career.

So why talk to a 5'5", 220lb rookie bodybuilder about packing on size?

Because unlike the genetic freak beef monsters in the IFBB, Roc wasn't blessed with natural size so he had to pack on all of his muscle through superior knowledge and an unequaled work ethic. He had to learn how to beat genetics to be a bodybuilder and any guy that can do that is a guy you can learn something from.

Roc's Rules for Growth
  • Weight makes you grow, heavy weight makes you stronger, too.
  • On heavy basic movements use a little momentum to move more weight, on isolation exercises, isolate.
  • Resting and eating is how you build the muscle you damage when you train. Eating and resting is just as important to recover and prepare for each workout as the workout itself.
  • Don't try anything; just do what you set out to do. Saying you will try is just giving yourself an opportunity to fail by giving up on yourself. Saying you are going to do something means quitting is not an option.
  • When you set goals for yourself, start off by putting together a game plan then follow it from A to Z. You will get out of it exactly what you put into it.
  • Being mentally strong is just as important as being physically strong because building muscle is not easy. But it can be done if you do the work, eat and rest, and believe you can reach your goal.
Most photo shoots for magazines are staged where the athlete simulates a workout that they do. It's meant to look impressive and grab your eye, but Roc wanted to shoot what he actually did in the gym. No sunglasses or cut-off jean shorts. No spray-on sweat, and all facial expressions are from moving an extreme load while his muscles are on fire and he's searing his brain with a burn you only feel from training to total failure.

This is Roc's Reality Back Training shoot in the gym as he actually did the workout and recorded rep-for-rep exactly as it went down.

Golds Gym, Las Vegas (Flamingo and Sandhill Location)

Roc arrives at Golds Gym and, wasting little time, heads directly to the locker room to get dressed for his workout while the photography crew starts setting up. Roc mentally prepares himself for each workout and this one is the real deal, not something staged, so while the lights are being set up he takes quiet time in the locker room to keep his focus.

10:38am  Lights are all set up and ready to go, so Roc moves into position to start his workout. Roc will be setting the tempo and it's the photographer's job to keep up as Roc will be moving at his pace doing his workout his way. The first exercise is hyper extensions and starting with just his bodyweight Roc bangs out 15 reps in a slow methodical fashion to warm up his back muscles. After the set is done he immediately hits the floor and performs a bridge for 30 seconds. (A bridge is performed by assuming a pushup position but resting on your elbows rather than your hands and holding the position with your body straight for the prescribed time.) With that out of the way, he continues to do hyperextensions, this next set with 25 lbs held on his chest for 15 reps, more bridges for 45 seconds this time, another set of hypers with 35lbs for 15 and another set of bridges for 60 seconds. The last set of hypers is with a 45 lb plate and when the set is done and Roc dismounts he is breathing hard but the look in his eye says he is just getting started. No sign of fatigue, just hunger for more.

10:52am After warming up thoroughly, Roc moves to a heavy basic compound movement that he categorizes as " mass movements". The idea is to pick an exercise at the beginning of his workout that involves lifting a lot of weight to stimulate a lot of growth. He heads over to the power rack and after setting the safety bars so the Olympic bar will rest just above his knees, he starts to load up the bar to do Deadlifts from the rack. Starting off with 225lbs to warm up and get the feel, he picks a moderate cadence and bangs out an easy 10 reps. Second set is 315 for 8, third is 405 for 6. The fourth set is no-foolin' time as he loads up 5 plates on the bar to make the load 495lbs. Roc wraps up like each set, sets his body in front of the bar to pull tension into all of his muscles and while his arm muscles erupt in striations and veins, he easily dispatches a solid set of 4 reps. The bar goes back to the rack and thinking he is done we start to move lights for the next exercise. But a quizzical Roc quietly sets us straight as he manhandles another pair of 45's onto the bar, making the load a back-breaking 585lbs. We scramble to get set up to take the shot but Roc isn't waiting. Roc's environment in the gym is an unforgiving place where excuses don't stand a chance and only results get respect. He doesn't wait and bangs out two Roc Solid reps while the plates clang out his achievement. Unfortunately we underestimated this powerhouse, something too many have done. And just like us, each has paid the debt of humility when Roc proved them, and us, wrong for doubting him. This time we asked if he was done and he gave us permission to move our gear, and asses, to the next station.

11:17am  Roc moves to the lonely end of the dumbbell rack where the weights are so heavy that most people leave them laying on the floor rather than return them to the rack where they got them. It's as if they tried to lift them and were vaporized on the spot leaving no trace of their existence other than the heavy black iron dumbbell abandoned on the ground. Roc starts to weed through the pile and with a foot seasoned by years of sorting dumbbells left laying around, he moves a massive 100lb dumbbell beside a bench where he needs it for his next set. Roc always uses lifting straps when he is training back because in his words "If I don't use straps I will use my arms. I don't want to train my arms on back day, I want to train back." He straps in and with a full range of motion dispatches a quick set of one arm dumbbell rows, ten reps with each arm. The tempo Roc uses with his exercise is similar to what he does with all his heavy training. It's a quicker pace but the weight is always in control even when he uses momentum, "On heavy basic movements I use momentum so I can move more weight but never enough so I can't always feel it and be in control." He finds a 120 next, then 140, 160 and the last set is done with a 180lb dumbbell. Each set, Roc only rests enough to catch his breath and each set is comprised of 10 reps per side. You can see the fatigue starting to set in when he set down the 160lb dumbbell and. rather than talk, Roc takes some quiet time to get his head into the game. "This is when I start to grow, when other guys would quit, this is when I get started." He takes a couple minutes to rest on the rack, his hands on the dumbbells as if touching the iron drew himself closer. Iron is not his enemy and he's not at war with gravity, he's at war with the voices that say he can't, voices he has never believed or listened to. The iron in his hands is the same iron that resides in his blood and after strapping in for the last set with a very awkward 180lb dumbbell, Roc and this massive chunk of metal are about to make history like he has done every workout since 1991. Each rep draws every fiber of muscle in his body into the fray. The strain is frighteningly evident, every muscle taut and hard, running past its maximum like a machine run amok and about to explode. The scene is awe inspiring and as Roc digs deep to a place few men ever find within themselves, a chorus of voices standing by watching, unable to be contained any longer, burst into a battle cry urging him forward until the job is done. It's exhausting, but not over yet.

11:42am Last exercise of the day and while the heavy stuff is all done and Roc always finishes off with an isolation movement, the intensity is not about to drop off. "I just change the stresses and get more of a squeeze, but the workout ain't over, it's still gonna be hard." Setting up the bar and seat the way he likes it Roc peels off his tee shirt so we can see how swollen his back muscles are. He is just about as wide as he is tall. Wide grip pulldowns is the exercise he chose to isolate his lats and finish off the workout, "I do these with a full range of motion, taking the bar all the way up and then all the way down to my chest getting a good squeeze. The weight isn't that heavy so I can isolate the movement and not move around too much." With that Roc executes a perfectly performed 4 sets of 10 reps with 200lbs on the stack.

The workout is over and while you would expect Roc to be worn out and dragging his butt out of the gym, that's not his way. "Never show weakness ... it's time to eat." And so it ends as we leave the gym and head across the parking lot to Blueberry Hill, a favorite post-workout pit stop to feed those ravenous muscles. Roc never shows defeat, never shows weakness, simply because it's not part of his game plan. Training is supposed to hurt, it is supposed to be hard and very taxing. If it wasn't then everyone would be packing on muscle like he does, and that is where you find his secret to getting big. No secret training programs or magical supplements. Just lots of good food and lots of rest and recovery time after training your body to its limit. You need to be in the right mindset to do that everyday, and you have to have the balls to go out and do it.

Roc's Reality Back Training Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Hyperextensions Superset with bridges for 30 seconds, 45 seconds, and 60 seconds after each respective set 4 15
Deadlifts from the rack 5 10-8-6-4-2
One arm dumbbell row 5 10