13 of the best fullbacks in competitive bodybuilding
There’s an old adage in bodybuilding that still holds true today: the show is won from the back.
A barrel chest and round arms are great, but the best bodybuilders in the sport are known for their rear double bicep poses that accentuate the vaunted V-taper and rear side splits that seem to widen as you go. the competition is progressing.
There are countless athletes with phenomenal back development, but the 13 competitors below – listed in alphabetical order – stand out from the rest.
Three-time Classic Physique Olympia champion Chris Bumstead has become a mainstream superstar, with a physique to match his bill. “CBum” has exceptional size, shape, symmetry and detailing across its back from top to bottom, and it is wide from side to side. That’s why he’s at the top of his division and why so many people want to emulate him.
Bumstead isn’t afraid to be heavy and hard with dumbbells, but the machines allow him to focus on the finer details. Many of his workout videos feature exercises like seated machine rows and variations of the lat pull-up, showcasing his time-tested approach to back workouts.
Ronnie Coleman is still known for his massive arms and legs, but his back was arguably his most amazing asset on stage. This helped him claim 26 professional victories, including eight Mr. Olympia titles and the 2001 Arnold Classic championship.
Coleman focused on heavyweight with free weights throughout his training. And videos of him barbell rowing 500 pounds and lifting 800 pounds for a double are still watched by fans decades after they were shot.
The late Franco Columbu has the unique distinction of being both a Mr. Olympia winner and a participant in the first World’s Strongest Man contest in 1977. Even though he competed under 200 pounds, its density more than made up for its weight.
Columbu championed wide-grip pull-ups in his back workout and is credited with a deadlift of around 750 pounds at his peak. In the 1977 movie pump ironhe showed off his back (and posterior chain) strength to the masses when he picked up the rear bumper of a car and pulled it out of a parking spot.
If you’ve ever wanted to see an athlete tailor-made for physique contests, look no further than Shanique Grant. The two-time Women’s Physique Olympia champion had unrivaled structure which she showcased through shredded conditioning. And she rode her unrivaled figure to two Olympic titles before she turned 26.
When Grant faced the curtain, her back was tapered, wide, and had incredible detail — and her lower body matched her, making it game over for anyone hoping to top her. She hasn’t competed since 2020, but fans are still hoping for a comeback.
Kai Greene really broke into bodybuilding after winning the 2009 Arnold Classic, evoking memories of the great Ronnie Coleman as he hit his arsenal of back poses. Greene was smaller than the eight times Mr. O, but they both had similar “wow” factors.
Greene won three Arnold Classic titles and engaged in one of the most important rivalries in bodybuilding history with seven-time Mr. O Phil Heath. Greene’s back development is still revered today, nearly six years after his last competition. And while his competitive future remains a mystery, he still maintains a physique that could be considered stage-worthy.
When Samir Bannout won the Mr. Olympia in 1983, his wide upper back and “Christmas tree” lower back were two of his most notable features. But the following year, Lee Haney came up with an even more impressive package. He was taller, fatter and even wider than Bannout – and although he was tall from every angle, his back was the highlight.
Haney won eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles from 1984 to 1991. Even though his overall physique improved throughout this reign, his back was still his greatest weapon. His training philosophy was “stimulate, not obliterate,” meaning he trained with high volume while using moderately heavy weights. It helped him in moves like the reverse shrug, which built those beefy traps.
The best bodybuilder of the 2010s would have to be Phil Heath. ‘The Gift’ was also known as ‘Mr. Saturday Night’ because he would show up for the Mr. Olympia finals with full muscles, shredded skin and a back that would slam the door on any opponent hoping to slam the door. seize the Sandow trophy.
Heath worked with trainer Hany Rambod, and he was an advocate for Rambod’s FST-7 system. Doing seven sets with short rest periods at the end of the workouts helped him add a ton of volume quickly. The results speak for themselves as his seven Mr. Olympia titles are tied for second with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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James “Flex” Lewis was a teenage prodigy before becoming the greatest 212 bodybuilder in history. Even early in his career, he was striking some impressive back poses that got more and more impressive as the years passed.
His trainer, Neil Hill, changed his training style often so that Lewis’ routine didn’t become stale. He did heavy sets of six to eight reps one week and supersets of 20 reps the next. The muscle confusion may or may not be real, but the Welsh Dragon results certainly were. Lewis retired from competition in 2022, but his impact will last for decades.
At the start of the Ms. Olympia, size wasn’t the name of the game. Then came Lenda Murray. Following the retirement of six-time champion Cory Everson, the more muscular Murray was seen as a game changer and fans loved it.
Murray dominated the stage with grace and struck his poses with intensity. When she rolled over for the backstrokes, you could see her months of training — including endless pull-ups and pull-ups — had paid off. She won eight Olympic titles before making it her career in 2004.
When Andrea Shaw took the stage at Ms. Olympia 2020, fans knew women’s bodybuilding was back. When she faced the back of the stage, clenched her fists and pushed her elbows to flex her upper back, fans knew the contest was over. The following year brought the same results, as Shaw further improved his back.
Shaw’s lower back is on another level, and it’s clearly something she’s spent countless hours perfecting in training. It’s hard to say how many Ms. Olympia titles she could rack up before calling it a career, but she already has one of the best fullbacks in the sport across any division.
It might be the one name that leaves fans scratching their heads, but Joel Stubbs is on the list for good reason. Stubbs competed as a professional from 2005 to 2010, and although he never won a show, he had one of the biggest fullbacks in the sport at the time. And remember, this was back when bodybuilding was dominated by Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Markus Rühl and other mass freaks.
Stubbs – who also worked as a driver while competing on stage – was 6’3” tall and reportedly weighed around 300 pounds during his off-season. Unfortunately, he had underdeveloped legs that kept him from seeing victory. His highest-profile contest was the 2009 Mr. Olympia, where he failed to place. Stubbs’ career in the sport isn’t over, however – he is currently president of the Bahamas Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (BBFF).
Sarah Villegas is the woman who beat Shanique Grant for the Women’s Physique Olympia title in 2020. (And successfully defended the title the following year.) Besides her ability to get super lean, her lats are an important part of her physique . Even when she strikes front poses, you can see her width, which makes her height even smaller.
Once Villegas turns around and shows the rippling details in his upper and lower back, it’s a tough act to follow. Expect her to maintain her reputation as having one of the best fullbacks in the sport as she continues her dominance in the division.
Dorian Yates had a methodical approach to training. He used specific exercises, built a complete working set until complete failure, and moved on to the next. His “Blood & Guts” version of high-intensity training, combined with moves like the Nautilus pull machine and the Yates line, helped him create a back that was ahead of his time in the 1990s.
Yates’ only loss at the Mr. Olympia was against Haney in 1991. From 1992 until his retirement after his sixth win in 1997, no one touched him. More often than not, he shut the door on his opponents when he turned around to show off that dense, gritty back he has sculpted at his Temple Gym in Birmingham, UK. To date, he is the only British men’s Open Olympia champion.
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Featured Image: @philheath on Instagram