30-Minute Commercial Gym Back Annihilation

By: Josh Bryant

It’s the new year, you’ve decided to take your strength and physique to a new level. Unfortunately, so has every other mullet this side of ten buck two.

You only have 30 minutes to get a workout in before your next conference call and the gym is busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony.  

So, what do you do?

Cluster sets!  They are simply sets with built-in intra set rest periods that allow for more weight, reps, and total tonnage lifted.  AKA, a hell of lot more volume albeit in less time.  So instead of the played-out, early 1990s spandex clad three sets of 10 reps, the cluster sets you do will last for five total minutes; you will do 3-6 reps, then rest for 15 seconds until five to six minutes is complete.  With each exercise listed, I will give you the specifics.  We also have a video demonstration at the end of the article.

I know you are short on time so let’s divulge into the meat!  Do this back workout one day a week and twice if you are focusing on bringing up your back.

Exercise 1—Smith Machine Rack Pulls

This is just a partial deadlift in the smith machine.  Set the bar approximately one inch below the knees.  If you do not have a machine you can use a power rack or set a barbell on boxes at the appropriate height.  Load the barbell with a weight you could perform 12-15 repetitions with but perform six, rest 30 seconds and do this for six minutes straight completing as many sets as possible within six minutes.

Exercise 2—Pull-Ups (Mechanical Advantage Drop Set)

From start to finish, pull-ups will be done in five minutes.  You will do four reps, rest 15 seconds and repeat this sequence for five minutes.  You will start with wide grip pronated pull-ups if you hit failure you will move to supinated chin-ups and finally if you hit failure there go to neutral grip pull-ups.  If you can do over 15 wide grip pull-ups fairly easily add weight, if you have a problem with pull-ups, opt for band-assisted or use an assisted machine which are common in most commercial gyms.

Exercise 3—Seated Rows

Perform a seated row with a neutral grip on a plate loaded or cable machine—which one is not important, your full effort is!  Pick a weight you can complete 15 reps with but do it for six, rest 15 seconds and repeat this for five minutes.  Make sure to keep this exercise VERY STRICT!  Hold the contraction position for one second.

Exercise 4—Straight Arm Pulldowns

This exercise, again, allows no room for error!  Make sure you feel your lats do the work.  Perform 10 reps in a slow, controlled style, rest 15 seconds and repeat this for five minutes.  If you do not have a cable stack you can always use bands.  Remember, feel over function!

Final Thoughts

Building a huge back requires your full effort but not endless hours of your most precious time.  You have the desire and now the means to accomplish this objective, even in the most crowded commercial gym settings.

Here it is in action:


Grab Tijuana Barbell Club for a plethora of cluster set routines