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The Foundation Training Series: Back Day
It's the only thing left for the fire department to save once flames take hold and turn a lifetime of memories into a dump-truck full of ashes. It's what kept child star Ronnie Howard from turning out like child star Danny Bonaduce, and it's the singular fundamental element that will make you into a bodybuilder rather than just a guy who lifts weights. It's your foundation, both physical and mental. The foundation is the base on which all things are built, the template that all decisions are measured against, and in that foundation the cause of every failure or weakness can be found. Nothing in life, and certainly nothing in bodybuilding, is more important that building a strong and complete foundation. This Foundation Training Series is about building a strong foundation both physically and mentally that will stand the test of time with determination, patience, and an unshakable and fearless work ethic.

Under Construction - Back Day

Back TrainingNo other body part impacts a physique more significantly than your back. It's visible from all angles in all poses and when it's full, round and detailed, it can make a physique look overwhelming and even compensate for other slightly weaker body parts. When your back looks like a training afterthought then no matter how good everything else looks, the whole package appears inferior and out of balance. Your back training is perhaps some of the most important training you will do and it's also some of the hardest. It can be extremely taxing when you do it properly and most people fear the discomfort that is a part of maximum effort training. You will need a big set of coconuts and a lot of determination to build a thick, detailed and massive back. Back training is also very technical. There are multiple joints and muscle groups involved in the movements so if there is a lapse in concentration, it's very easy for things to go wrong and muscle groups other than the ones you want to train can take over most of the workload. You have to mentally prepare yourself so that amidst all the pain and discomfort that comes with maximum effort, your mind remains locked onto the task at hand, never breaking concentration. A strong mind is a critical element of a strong foundation. Muscle groups you can see are always easier to train because you can visualize the movements, see the muscle group work, and more easily identify errors in form and effectiveness of motion. You can't see your back when you perform an exercise so to train your back properly you need to learn to "feel" your back or mentally identify and control the stretch and contraction of the various muscle groups that comprise your back. Muscle grows by stretching and contracting under a heavy load so learning how to stretch and contract your back muscles under a wide variety of angles and levels of resistance is the optimal way to stimulate growth.


Your mind has to be trained just like your body and the most effective and widely used technique is visualization. By mentally rehearsing your workout in extreme detail, seeing the muscle groups working, feeling them stretch and contract, feeling the weight in your hand and the stress on your body, working through fatigue and discomfort, the sounds, the smells; and then imagining success in each rep and set, you sharpen your focus, and lay the blueprint of how your workout will actually be. By visualizing your workout exactly how you want it to be, you eliminate anything that would distract you such as fear, fatigue, discomfort, and so on because your subconscious mind has rehearsed the event and if done with enough detail, cannot differentiate between something being visualized and something that actually happened. If you have already done it then it's easier to do it again. The most effective way to visualize your workout is to find a quiet place just before you train, get comfortable, close your eyes, then imagine every second of that workout from the moment you walk into the gym, the sounds, the smells, the feelings the gym gives you, right through every set and rep until the completion of your workout. Imagine the feel of the weight, the discomfort of the burn, the point where you would usually quit then doing one more rep successfully and with good form. See the whole thing entirely in your imagination first. Once you have finished the workout, avoid distractions that take you away mentally from the task at hand. Before each set once again sit quietly and in your mind rehearse the set you are about to do with as much detail as possible.

Foundation Building Program

This will be a six week training program broken into two distinct components.
  • The first 3 weeks the objective is to teach your body to locate individual muscle groups then stretch and contract them under a moderate resistance load maintaining muscle control through the entire movement. Each rep is performed slow and controlled and at one constant speed. No bouncing or launching at the bottom of the movement and no jerking or snapping the movement during the peak contraction. It's all about controlling the weight and maintaining maximum tension on the muscle group you are working during the full arc of the movement. It is imperative that only moderate weight is used so most likely you will have to decrease the poundages you are using now on each exercise as form and getting a maximum contraction is paramount to anything else. You are learning muscle control and that is it. Heavy muscle building weight will come later, right now you are building the foundation.

  • The second 3 week segment involves adding more resistance while still maintaining muscle control and getting a maximum contraction on each rep. The first 3 weeks was about learning muscle control, the next 3 weeks is about learning to use that muscle control under increasingly heavier poundages. The goal at the end of this program is to perform the exercises with maximum resistance and flawless form. This will create a foundation that enables you to make unprecedented gains when you graduate on to more advanced and specialized training techniques because you have control over the muscle groups you want to train regardless of how you choose to stimulate that growth. You are again building the foundation that will ensure success regardless of the training program you use.
Weeks 1 through 3
  • Start each workout with a 5 minute ride on the stationary bike to warm your body.

  • You will pre-fatigue muscle groups with a concentration exercise before using heavier compound exercises so you can get a pump and physically feel the muscle group you are working therefore easily identifying it in your mind so you can concentrate on it more effectively. If it's pumped you can feel it working easier.

  • At the peak of each movement, hold the contraction for about one second, contracting as hard as you possibly can. Use a weight about 50% to 70% of your maximum normal training poundages.

  • Stretch between sets and rest enough that you can contract hard and feel a pump through the workout.

  • The two days following your workout when you are stiff and sore, without using any resistance simulate the back exercises you did while contracting your sore muscles. This will help train your mind to find those muscle groups when you train again.

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated cable row (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Seated cable row 3 12
Pulldown to the front 3 12
Seated cable row, straight bar, palms up 3 12
Barbell deadlift 3 12

Week 4
  • Warm up the same as always.

  • Pre fatigue your back with the first two sets using about 20% of your normal working weight on that exercise.

  • This week add weight to your working sets so you are at about 70% to 80% of your normal working weight.

  • Stretch in between sets

  • No longer hold a peak contraction at the top of the movement but maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep.
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated pulldown (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Bent over barbell row 3 8
Seated Machine Row 3 8
Wide grip pulldown to the front 3 8
Dumbbell deadlift 3 8

Week 5
  • Same warmup and pre-fatigue sets as always.

  • Increase your working poundages to 80% to 90% of your normal working weight.

  • Stretch in between sets.

  • Maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep.
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated pulldown (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Chin up with shoulder width grip 3 8
One arm dumbbell row 3 8
Wide grip seated cable row 3 8
Weighted Hyper extensions 3 8

Week 6
  • Same warmup and pre-fatigue sets as always.

  • Increase your working poundages to 90% to 100% of your normal working weight.

  • Stretch in between sets.

  • Maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep.
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated cable row (use 20% of your usual resistance) 2 20
Underhand grip barbell row 3 8
One arm Hammer Machine or seated cable row 3 8
Underhand pull downs 3 8
Weighted Hyper extensions 3 8

Read Foundation Training Series: Chest Day

Read Foundation Training Series: Legs Day