The Milos Sarcev Upper Back Workout | The Ultimate Guide!


Milos Sarcev is an IFBB professional bodybuilder and one of the greatest bodybuilding coaches of all time. His nickname is “The Mind” because of his intelligent approach to training and nutrition.

Milos believes that the fastest way to build a huge upper back is to use a high-intensity training technique called “giant sets.

Here is Milos talking about this technique:

“What is the most intense training system? What creates maximum muscle fiber stimulation? If you’re truly honest with yourself then the answer is giant sets!”

A giant set is a high-intensity technique where you perform 4 or more exercises in a row for a body part with no rest between sets.

For example here is what a giant set for the chest would look like:

Upper Back Giant Set

  • Step #1: Perform exercise “A”, rest 10 seconds
  • Step #2: Perform exercise “B”, rest 10 seconds
  • Step #3: Perform exercise “C”, rest 10 seconds
  • Step #4: Perform exercise “D”, rest 2-4 minutes, then repeat!

With giant sets you are performing at least 4 exercises in a row for a body part. However, 4 exercises is just the minimum! Milos Sarcev sometimes performed as many as 10 exercises in a row for certain body parts!

Giant sets are so effective because they increase the time under tension of your sets and force your muscles to work longer.

Let’s say that a regular set takes about 20 seconds to complete. If you are performing a true Milos Sarcev giant sets routine with 10 different exercises then your 1 set will take over 3 minutes to complete!

That extra time under tension stimulates muscle growth by creating more muscle damage and giving you an insane pump.

Milos says that giant sets are especially effective for building a big upper back. The upper back is a very complex muscle group. You have to use many different exercises to train each of these different muscles.

Giant sets are so effective because you can use many different exercises to target all of these different muscles with one extended set.

Here is a classic Milos Sarcev giant sets routine where he uses 10 different exercises to train all of the different upper back muscles in one go. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Back Width / Thickness Giant Set Routine

  • Exercise #1: T-bar row, 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #2: Rack deadlift (just below knees), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #3: Standing barbell shrug, 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #4: Machine pulldown (wide / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #5: Trap-bar row, 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #6: Lying DB pullover, 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #7: Cable pulldown (medium / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #8: Cable pulldown (narrow / pronated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #9: Machine pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #10: Seated cable row (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 20 reps, no rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about an intense workout!

Most bodybuilders like to think of their upper back as two different muscle groups: “back width” and “back thickness.”

In other words there are muscle groups like your lats and teres major that make your back appear wider and there are muscle groups like your traps, rhomboids and spinal erectors that make your back appear thicker.

In this routine Milos uses a variety of back width exercises like lat pulldowns and pullovers and back thickness exercises like rack deadlifts and rows. This is a great strategy to use if you are looking for overall upper back development.

Other times Milos will actually perform giant sets where he focuses exclusively on back width or back thickness exercises.

Here is a back width giant set performed by IFBB pro Sergio Olivia Jr. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Back Width Giant Sets Workout

  • Exercise #1: Pull up (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #2: Machine pulldown (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #3: Behind the neck cable pulldown (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #4: Machine pulldown (narrow / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #5: Cable pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #6: Cable pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #7: Hammer strength pulldown (overhand grip), 3 sets of 20 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #8: 75 degree behind the neck cable pulldown (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #9: 75 degree cable pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, rest as needed

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this routine Sergio Olivia Jr. performs 9 different vertical pulling exercises targeting his lats. This is an advanced technique that works great for advanced bodybuilders who are stuck at a hypertrophy training plateau.

The main disadvantage for this type of workout is it is very difficult to perform in a normal commercial gym. You probably need to train in a private gym where it is possible to use 9 different pieces of equipment all at once.

Milos Sarcev doesn’t like to perform this kind of back width giant set on its own. Instead he likes to combine it with a “back thickness” giant set using different rowing exercises.

For example here is Sergio Olivia Jr. demonstrating a back thickness giant set. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Back Thickness Giant Set Workout

  • Exercise #1: Seated machine row (medium / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #2: Seated machine row (wide / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #3: Standing machine row (medium / pronated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #4: Machine pulldown (medium / semi-supinated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #5: Cable pulldown (medium / supinated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #6: seated cable row (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #7: 75 degree cable pulldown (narrow / semi-supinated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #8: Supine cable row (narrow / semi-pronated grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, rest as needed

Here is the training video for this workout.

Sergio Olivia uses a few different pulldown exercises in this giant set. However, the main focus was making his back thicker using different rowing exercises.

Deadlifts and rack deadlifts are also great back thickness exercises but Milos Sarcev almost never uses them in his routines. They are just too hard to recover from when you are using a giant sets training style.

The whole point of giant sets is to perform a huge amount of volume in a very short period of time to stimulate as much muscle growth as possible. If you start throwing in deadlifts into your upper back giant set routines then you may have a hard time recovering from your workouts.

Another one of Milos Sarcev’s favorite giant set strategies is to perform 1-2 heavy exercises at the start of his workouts before moving onto the giant sets.

This strategy is great because you can perform some heavy loading exercises early in the workout before performing your high-volume bodybuilding-style work.

I talk all about these powerbuilding-style workouts in my article “Powerbuilding: The Ultimate Guide!

Here is one of Milos Sarcev’s upper back powerbuilding workouts. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Back Workout

Part 1: Regular Sets

  • Exercise #1: Lat pulldown (wide / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise #2: Seated cable row (V-handle), 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 minutes rest

Part 2: Giant Sets

  • Exercise #3: Machine row (neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #4: Machine pullover, 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #5: Hammer strength pulldown (overhand grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #6: Lat pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise #7: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, rest as needed

Here is the training video:

For this routine Milos performs 2 heavy exercises at the start of his workout before moving onto his upper back giant set.

This is another great variation that you can use to mix things up in your workouts.

Conclusion

Milos “The Mind” Sarcev might be the most successful coach in the history of bodybuilding. He has trained more IFBB professional bodybuilders than anyone in the world today.

If you are an advanced bodybuilder then I highly recommend you give his giant sets training style a shot. He has used it with many of the world’s top bodybuilders including Mr. Olympia finalist Dennis Wolf to build a massive chest.

If you enjoyed this content then make sure you check out my article “The Milos Sarcev Training Program!” It may be just what you need to take your training to the next level.

“What is the most intense training system? What creates maximum muscle fiber stimulation? If you’re truly honest with yourself then the answer is giant sets!”

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

 

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

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