Maxx Charles is bringing up his rearview and climbing the IFBB ranks.
WHAT A GUY TRAINS ON MONDAYS CAN TELL YOU A LOT ABOUT HIS PRIORITIES.
While most other guys are banging away on their chests, rising IFBB star Maxx Charles is getting in some “detail” work on his back to start the workweek. Apparently, he believes that carving out the utmost separation between the lats, rhomboids, traps, and other back musculature is the quickest path to the top of the IFBB ranks. And he’s probably right.
What a guy trains on Fridays can also tell you a thing or two about where his head’s at. For some, “TGIF” signifies a lower-priority workout where, let’s be honest, you’re more or less going through the motions to reach the weekend. Not the case for Charles. No, he’s hitting back again on Friday, this time in heavier fashion to pack even more mass on to a body part that’s doing just fine in that department.
“Back is definitely an area I focus a lot on,” says the Haitian- born behemoth who trains all other body parts only once a week. “I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a weakness of mine—I’m just always trying to get better.”
For the gym rat who wants to build a bigger, more defined back in the confines of a single workout, a hybrid of Charles’ routine combining his detail-oriented Monday round, emphasizing lighter weights and more “squeezing” of the muscles, combined with his Friday session that involves bigger weights, provides the best of both worlds.
CHARLES’ TRAINING SPLIT
- Sunday | Hamstrings
- Monday | Back (“detailing” workout)
- Tuesday | Chest
- Wednesday | Quads
- Thursday | Shoulders
- Friday Back | (“heavy” workout)
- Saturday | “Touch Up” workout*
Notes: Charles trains abs only in the last two to three weeks leading up to a competition and doesn’t train calves.
*Whatever body part he needs to “touch up”—typically arms and/ or legs.
CHARLES’ BACK WORKOUT
- Machine Pullover (not pictured) | SETS: 3 | REPS: To Failure**
- Bentover Barbell Row | SETS: 4 | REPS: 16-20
- Torso-Supported T-bar Row | SETS: 3 | REPS: 16
- Hammer Strength Lat Pulldown | SETS: 3 | REPS: 20
- Neutral-Grip Lat Pulldown | SETS: 2 | REPS: 16
- Seated Cable Row | SETS: 2 | REPS: To Failure**
**Charles selects a moderate yet challenging weight and reps out until failure.
BENTOVER BARBELL ROW
START | Stand holding a barbell with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward at the waist so your torso is angled roughly 45 degrees to the floor; maintain this position throughout. Start with your arms extended, hanging straight down toward the floor.
EXECUTION | Contract your back muscles and bend your elbows to pull the bar into your midsection. At the top, squeeze your shoulder blades together for a count to fully contract your back, then slowly return to the start position.
TORSO-SUPPORTED T-BAR ROW
START | Place your feet flat on the platform and lean forward onto the pad so that it’s in contact with your midsection and your chest extends off it. Grasp the handles with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position, in line with your spine, and start with your arms fully extended below you.
EXECUTION | Contract your back muscles to pull the weight up as far as it will go. At the top, squeeze the contraction hard for a count, then slowly lower back down to the arms-extended position.
NEUTRAL-GRIP LAT PULLDOWN
START | Place a neutral-grip attachment on the cable and adjust the seat of the machine so your knees fit snugly under the pads. Sit down, grasp the handles, and start with your arms extended above you, torso vertical with the floor.
EXECUTION | Contract your lats to pull the bar down to your upper chest, bringing your elbows straight down and slightly behind you. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the bottom, then slowly return to the start position.
HAMMER STRENGTH LAT PULLDOWN
START | Adjust the pads of a Hammer Strength pulldown machine so that your knees fit snugly beneath. Load the machine with plates, sit down on the seat, and grasp the handles above you with an overhand grip, arms extended.
EXECUTION | Leading with the elbows and focusing on your back, pull the handles down as far as possible and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the bottom.
SEATED CABLE ROW
START | Sit on the bench of a cable row station. Bend at your waist to grasp a neutral-grip handle attachment with both hands and sit upright (back flat, chest out), your arms extended in front of you.
EXECUTION | Pull the handle toward your midsection by contracting your back muscles. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold the contraction for a count.
Different Day, Different Mindset
- “On Monday, I focus on the details of my back, and I don’t go very heavy,” says Charles. “Friday is my heavier day, and I’m also focusing on the lower back here because my up- per is so overpowering.”
- Charles doesn’t do deadlifts, an exercise some would deem a no-brainer for his Friday session; instead, heavy barbell bentover rows are the featured move. Mondays is where the cable exercises come into play. “Some exercises are better for mass. I’m not going to do bentover rows on a Monday,” he says. “But aside from exercise selection, the technique and amount of weight I use is also different between the two days. I’m going lighter on Monday and squeezing the muscles in certain ways. I do pulldowns and rows on both days, just different variations.”
- “On Mondays I don’t really count my reps,” says Charles. “I just focus on going to failure and really feeling the contractions. On Friday, with the heavier weights, that’s when I count my reps.”
Squeezing the shoulder Blades
- Range of motion is actually not the main thing Charles thinks about during a set. He’s more concerned with achieving full muscle contractions. “So many people don’t really contract the back when they’re lifting,” he says. “If you don’t squeeze the shoulder blades together, nothing is happening. They pull back with the arms, not the back, so they’re not using the muscle that they claim to be working.”
Mastering the mind
- “Establishing a good mind-muscle connection is important,” says Charles. “People don’t get the connection because they have such an ego. Always think, ‘How do I get the most out of my back?’ And little by little, you’re going to find tricks and techniques to help you work your back better. The problem is, people don’t know they’re not doing it right. They think they know what they’re doing, and a lot of them are just wasting their time.”