Brian Shaw joined hands with four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler for a bodybuilding back workout recently. Shaw is known to explore other sports and their training methods with a humble mindset. Having retired at the peak of his career, Shaw has the potential to try his hands at different athletic endeavors.
Brian Shaw is one of the most accomplished athletes in the Strongman Sports history. He won 27 international competitions during his storied career. Only three other athletes have more wins than the American. He also won the prestigious World’s Strongest Man competition in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016.
The 41-year-old hit a rough patch in his career during 2021-2022 when a hamstring injury forced him to remain on the sidelines. As he was getting ready to compete at the 2023 WSM, Shaw suffered a serious case of leg cellulitis. However, he returned in time and walked away with a seventh-place finish in the competition.
The decorated strongman retired from the sport after a thumping win in the final competitive appearance of his strongman career at the 2023 Shaw Classic. Shaw has taken a keen interest in combat sports and he is getting ready to compete in an MMA fight in early 2024.
But Brian Shaw is giving equal importance to muscle and strength building. A few weeks ago, he partnered with 8-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman for an arms workout. Recently, he joined hands with Ronnie’s archrival and four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler for a back workout.
Cutler is one of the elite bodybuilders who preserved their health while also achieving greatness in an extreme sport like bodybuilding. The 50-year-old’s training methods have enabled him to stay in phenomenal shape and enjoy performance longevity. Brian Shaw learned some of these methods from Cutler as they trained their backs together.
Jay Cutler and Brian Shaw go through a back workout
Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
Jay Cutler instructed Brian Shaw to start with the reverse grip lat pulldown on a plate-loaded machine. The reverse grip variation puts a lot more emphasis on the lower lats as the arms are placed closer to the body during the movement.
Cutler focused on warming up the muscles for the first couple of sets and then increased the intensity for the working sets. After finishing three working sets each, the training partners took to the next exercise in the workout.
Bent Over Machine Rows
The duo took to the machine variation of one-arm dumbbell rows to stimulate the back muscles. Cutler revealed that one-arm dumbbell row was his favorite back exercise in the 2000s – when he was at the peak of his bodybuilding career. But he opted for the machine rows for this session.
Cutler suggested Brian Shaw start with three plates and then slowly increase the weight through subsequent sets. The training partners executed all the sets of machine rows with the proper technique before jumping into the next exercise.
Cutler and Shaw next performed the lat pulldown on an iso-lateral plate-loaded machine. Cutler shared an important lat pulldown tip and suggested pushing the chest out to create a contraction in the back muscles for maximum benefits. The duo took their turns at the machine and annihilated some solid sets of lat pulldowns to stimulate the latissimus dorsi muscles for building a wide back.
Although he trains with an elaborate set-up now, Jay Cutler stated that pull-ups are the best exercise for building a massive back. He explained:
“Pull-ups were my number one lat builder in my opinion. Like width-wise, so a wide-grip pull-up… I think that’s the best. If someone wants to build a crazy V-taper, I think the pull-up is the best.”
Close Grip Seated Cable Rows
The workout concluded after a few sets of close-grip seated rows. Jay Cutler and Brian Shaw added the last bit of stimulus to their back muscles with this horizontal pulling movement and called it a day in the gym.
Overall, the workout consisted of the following exercises:
- Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown – 2 warm-up sets, 3 working sets of 10 to 12 reps
- Machine Bent Over Rows – 2 warm-up sets, 3 working sets of 10 to 12 reps
- Lat Pulldown – 2 warm-up sets, 3 working sets of 10 to 12 reps
- Close Grip Seated Cable Rows – 2 warm-up sets, 3 working sets of 10 to 12 reps
Strongman and Bodybuilding legends discuss the efficacy of deadlifts in bodybuilding
Brian Shaw and Jay Cutler discussed the different aspects of back building and shed light on some interesting details of getting a wide and thick back. Cutler stated that it is relatively easier to build a wide back but giving it the thickness is an extremely difficult and time-consuming process.
“Your back depth is carried over from your bent-over rows, one-arm rows, seated cable rows. It takes a long time.”
Deadlift is one of the most effective compound movements with carryover benefits for other exercises. Cutler stated that he still does deadlifts frequently. Speaking about the benefits of deadlifts for bodybuilders, Jay Cutler said:
“I think it works the overall body. When you talk about doing bent rows and I’m doing four plates, those deadlifts helped that strength all around. We talk about core strength and I believe that deadlifts help a lot with that.”
“I still think you look at your main lifts. Your bench press, deadlift, squat, shoulder press… Anyone should have a base of that, right?”
Cutler clarified that he was never afraid of the potential downsides of doing deadlifts and lifted up to five plates for 10 to 12 reps at the peak of his career. He revealed the common fear that bodybuilders associate with deadlifts and said:
“They’re concerned about expanding the waist because the body grows to get so strong and remember, rep after rep, how are you not going to grow the (mid-section). Core is a muscle also, right?”
The four-time Mr. Olympia added that his mid-section and waist grew a little wide as a by-product of deadlifts as well. However, his back and shoulders grew proportionately bigger because of the carryover strength imparted by deadlifts. However, Cutler does not insist on doing deadlifts as many modern-era bodybuilders like Phil Heath have built excellent physiques without relying on deadlifts.
Jay Cutler speaks about burn-out after training ‘Fit for 50’ challenge
Jay Cutler did 15 working sets of back exercises in the entire training session with Brian Shaw. Normally, the 50-year-old incorporates at least 30 sets of six back movements. Over the last year, Jay Cutler worked hard with intense training, diet, cardio, and TRT to transform his physique for his 50th birthday. While the result of his transformation was absolutely stunning, the four-time Mr. Olympia was fatigued with the intense routine.
“I just faced a burnout because I did a 12-week transformation. So what I’m trying to do now is scale back a little bit on the volume so I am actually excited to train again. So for a while I’m like I don’t know if I want to train because everyone gets burnt out.”
“It was hard because I hadn’t competed in ten years, right? So to fall back to that six meals a day and training with a goal, right? Adding cardio so I was working out three times a day… It got a little taxing to be honest and at the end, I got a little burnt out.”
At the moment, Jay Cutler is only focusing on being consistent in his training routine and he’s slowly easing his way back into the intense training step-by-step. He said:
“I deadlift every other week still. So I was deadlifting last week. So next week I’ll add deadlifts into a workout. This is the first time I’m getting to use these equipment. But I would still do a row movement, I would do a seated cable row, one arm dumbbell row… I’ll do some sort of a pulldown… Anything that engages. The whole thing is just to getting there consistent… get the work done and get out and feed it, man.”
Watch the full workout video below, courtesy of the ShawStrength YouTube channel: