Ashley Kaltwasser’s Top 8 Back Exercises for Bikini Competitors

The three-time Bikini Olympia champ knows that a solid V-taper can make all the difference on stage.

Three-time Bikini Olympia champ Ashley Kaltwasser has been an elite contender in the division for a decade. She collected three Olympia titles from 2013 to 2015, and since then, she’s become one of the most prolific competitors in the sport. Part of what makes her consistently show-ready is her methodical training routine. And that includes a well-thought-out plan for her back workouts.

To show viewers how she hits all the main back muscles during training, Kaltwasser recently uploaded a workout video to her YouTube channel. Check it out below:

[Related: 9 of the Most Controversial Moments in Olympia History]

Ashley Kaltwasser’s Back Workout

Here’s a breakdown of the back exercises Kaltwasser recommends for Bikini athletes:

Since Kaltwasser’s hair covers much of her upper- and mid-back muscles (like the rhomboids) on stage, her coach says she isn’t as concerned with performing a lot of rows. Instead, they target the lats and rear deltoids to help add shape to front and rear poses and build a proper V-taper.

Straight-Arm Lat Pulldowns

Any back routine focused on getting a V-taper should include some version of the lat pulldown — and here, Kaltwasser goes with a take on the straight-arm lat pulldown on a cable machine with a rope attachment.

And to get the maximum range of motion on this exercise, Kaltwasser bends slightly forward before pulling the rope cable attachment, then stretches upright as she pulls the load.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ashley Kaltwasser (@ashleykfit)

[Related: The Best Bodybuilding Back Workout, Customized to Your Experience Level]

Single-Arm Kneeling High Cable Lat Pulldown

This is a great isolation exercise to help correct muscular imbalances and strengthen the mind-muscle connection, which is useful for competitors looking to get their lats to open up during posing. According to her coach, this is one of the best exercises out there since the movement follows the positioning of the muscle fibers in the lats.

Plate-Loaded Pullover

While Kaltwasser uses a plate for her pullovers, you can also opt for dumbbells or a barbell. A lighter load is recommended for this movement since going too heavy stresses the shoulder joints. Instead, it’s best to focus on feeling the muscle perform the movements.

“I find that with a lot of high-level people, that weight is not as big of a factor,” Kaltwasser’s coach says. “They’re really just feeling the muscle do the work. And so they have really strong mind-muscle connections.”

Kaltwasser stops her range of motion shy of crossing her chest to keep the tension on her lats through the entire rep.

Modified Single-Arm Lat Pulldown and Underhand Machine Lat Pulldown

This modified lat pull or row is a unilateral exercise that relies on extension and a spinal rotation for flexion to get a full extension of the latissimus dorsi.

The underhand lat pulldown is a bilateral machine movement with a supinated grip (overhand) to target the lats. The supinated grip engages the biceps more and stretches the lats more. The key, according to her coach, is to get full extension on each rep; your arms should almost be completely vertical at the top of the rep. 

Narrow-Grip Lat Pulldown

The narrow grip using the MAG grip attachment involves the biceps more and rotates the humerus enough for more lat contraction. Her coach says a bit of movement when pulling the cable load is okay because it helps get a full extension and flexion of the lat muscles.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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[Related: The Lat Pulldown vs. the Pull-Up — Which Is Better for Back Gains?]

He notes that if the traps start rolling forward during the pulling motion, that’s a sign that the muscles are fatiguing, and it’s preventing a full extension of the lats. In that case, feel free to lower the weight a little. As with a lot of these exercises, the squeeze and mind-muscle connection are more important than heavy lifting.

Wide-Grip High Row and Low-Grip Machine Row

The wide-grip high row is a finisher movement to add volume to Katlwasser’s back. It targets the upper back, including the rhomboids and rear delts, with the traps factoring in as a secondary muscle. This exercise focuses on back depth instead of width. 

That’s followed up by the low-grip machine row to conclude the three-time Bikini Olympia champ’s day. This one again emphasizes the rear delts and rhomboids for that depth, and Kaltwasser aims for three sets of 10 to 12.

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Featured Image: @arnoldsports and @ashleykfit on Instagram