The Larry Wheels Back Workout!


Larry Wheels is one of the biggest names in the fitness industry. He is one of the strongest powerlifters in the world and has also competed at a high level in bodybuilding and strongman. Larry Wheels is a well-rounded athlete but his back size and strength are on a completely different level!

Here is a funny video of Larry barely missing a 937 pound deadlift in training:

Now THAT is a strong back! Larry Wheels’ favorite way to build up his back strength is to alternate between bodybuilding and powerlifting phases of training.

When Larry is training for bodybuilding he performs high-volume back workouts with lots of sets, reps and exercises to stimulate as much muscular growth as possible.

Larry almost never performs deadlifts during his bodybuilding workouts because the exercise is so difficult to recover from. He would rather save his energy and train hard on several different exercises to stimulate all of the muscles in his back.

On the other hand when Larry is training for a powerlifting or strongman competition he focuses almost exclusively on increasing his deadlift strength.

Larry usually works up to one heavy set of deadlifts in the 1-10 rep range and performs 1-3 easy accessory exercises and calls it a day. Larry believes that if you really push yourself on the deadlift then you don’t need to perform a lot of accessory work to get super strong.

Here is one of Larry’s typical high-volume back workouts that he uses during his bodybuilding phase of training. Check it out:

Larry Wheel’s Bodybuilding Back Workout #1

  • A1: Barbell row (bounce on floor), 3 sets of 5 reps
  • B1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • C1: Pull ups (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of AMRAP**
  • D1: Hammer strength low row, 3 sets of 10-15 reps

**Perform as many reps as you can with just your bodyweight

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is one of Larry’s favorite ways to design an upper back hypertrophy workout. Larry starts of the workout with some heavy sets of barbell bent over rows. Larry uses close to 600 pounds for this exercise which is absolutely ridiculous!

After his main heavy exercise Larry performs a variety of upper back accessory exercises including pull ups, pulldowns and machine rows. Larry uses this type of powerbuilding workout to build muscular hypertrophy while maintaining a very high level of strength.

Now let’s look at a higher-volume back workout that Larry likes to perform when he really needs a break from the heavy weights. Check it out:

Larry Wheels Bodybuilding Back Workout #2

  • A1: Hammer strength shrug, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • B1: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of AMRAP**
  • C1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • D1: Machine chest supported row (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • E1: Hammer strength pulldown (narrow / supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Larry picks a handful of upper back accessory exercises and performs several high-rep sets on each of them. This is very similar to how a lot of professional bodybuilders train when they are training for their bodybuilding competitions.

Larry does a good job of using exercises to target all of the muscles of his upper back including his lats, traps, rhomboids and teres major.

The only back muscle that Larry does not train in this workout is his spinal erectors. Larry probably felt he needed a break from spinal erector exercises like barbell bent over rows or t-bar rows for this workout.

Now let’s look at some of Larry Wheels’ powerlifting style back workouts. When Larry is training for powerlifting his back workouts are focused on one thing: getting stronger on the deadlift.

Larry starts performing his heavy deadlift workouts about 12 weeks out from his next powerlifting competition. He starts his peaking cycle by performing heavy sets in the 8-10 rep range. As his powerlifting competition gets closer he slowly lowers his reps until he is lifting in the 1-3 rep range right before his competition.

This is known as “linear periodization” and it works extremely well for peaking for a powerlifting meet.

Here is a typical workout that Larry would perform 10-12 weeks out from his next powerlifting meet. Check it out:

Larry Wheels Powerlifting Back Workout #1

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 set of 10 reps
  • B1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • C1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • D1: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Larry performs one heavy set of 10 reps on the deadlift with 700 pounds. Talk about a strong deadlift! After his main heavy set Larry performs a few different accessory exercises for his back and biceps.

For the accessory exercises Larry is just “going through the motions” with pretty light weights. There’s no need to go heavy on something like lat pulldowns when he already deadlifted 700 pounds for 10 reps at the start of the workout! As Larry gets closer to his meet he keeps increasing the weight on the deadlift and lowering the reps.

Here is a deadlift workout that Larry Wheels performed with the world’s strongest man Hafthor Bjornsson while preparing for a strongman competition. Check it out:

Larry Wheels Powerlifting Back Workout #2

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 set of 7 reps
  • B1: Atlas stone loading, 5 sets of 1 rep

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Larry deadlifts 800 pounds for 7 reps. It’s hard to think of another athlete who performs high reps on the deadlift as often as Larry. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Larry is such a strong deadlfiter?

After his main heavy set of deadlifts Larry performs a few sets with the Atlas stones while being coached by Hafthor. This makes perfect sense as Larry was training for a strongman competition and the atlas stones are almost always one of the main events.

When Larry is getting very close to his powerlifting workouts he sometimes performs speed workouts. Larry will load up the barbell with a moderately heavy weight and perform 5-10 singles as explosively as possible.

For example here is one of Larry’s speed deadlift workouts. Check it out:

Larry Wheels Powerlifting Back Workout #3

  • A1: Band deadlift, 10 sets of 1 rep

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Larry performs 10 speed sets on the deadlift with a moderately heavy weight and extra band tension. This type of workout is awesome for building strength on the deadlift without burning out your central nervous system.

Many other top powerlifters and strongman competitors like Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw and Eric Lilliebridge also like to alternate back and forth between “heavy” weeks and “speed” weeks to build their deadlift strength.

Larry Wheels did not perform any accessory work for this workout because he was getting ready to peak his strength. Accessory exercises like pull ups and lat pulldowns would do nothing but eat into his recovery ability at this time.

Finally let’s look at a deadlift workout where Larry Wheels worked up to a 1-rep max. Check it out:

Larry Wheels Powerlifting Back Workout #4

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 set of 1 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Larry Wheels works up to an incredible 937 pounds on the deadlift. Larry Wheels says this is the heaviest deadlift he has ever done in training!

Once again Larry Wheels skips the accessory work for this workout. He performs his one heavy set of deadlifts and calls it a day. If you are lifting as much weight as Larry Wheels on the deadlift then I am sure you would be tempted to skip your accessory work too!

The bottom line is Larry Wheels alternates between bodybuilding style back workouts and powerlifting style back workouts to build his upper back size and strength. This is a great approach to training that many famous bodybuilders and powerlifters including Ed Coan and Stan Efferding have used in their training.

So what are you waiting for? Go design your next Larry Wheels style back workout and watch your upper back explode in size and strength!

I will leave you with a great quote by the legendary strongman Jon Paul Sigmarsson to pump you up even more:

“There is no point in being alive if you cannot do the deadlift!”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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