How to build big back muscles like Daniel Craig and Chris Pratt (responsibly)

Andara Puchino

The deadlift was the exercise Chris Evans found toughest, says Waterson, and that was also the most important for his metamorphosis into a super-swoldier. Recruiting as it does so many muscles and lighting up your central nervous system, leading to faster adaptation and strength or growth, the deadlift is demanding but rewarding. It’s also, says Waterson, satisfyingly easy to see your progression: the amount of weight you’re lifting can go up quickly.

Lifting increasingly heavy weight from the floor does, however, come with risks, says Waterson, especially if you’re taller and therefore have to travel more distance. So make sure you’re correctly set up, he says, with a neutral (flat) back and neck in line (so neither looking up or down). And if you’re not powerlifting or criticising other people’s workouts on the internet, do you even need to run that risk? For Guardians of the Galaxy, Waterson had 6’2” Chris Pratt deadlift off blocks, which enabled the actor to go heavier more safely.

Training by myself, I tended to deadlift with the trap or hex bar, which puts you in a more advantageous position than a barbell out in front of your body and, if you use the high handles, reduces the distance to the floor. Although, at 5’10”, I had less of an excuse. These days, Callum makes me use a barbell (responsibly).

Daniel Craig. 

©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

And the award for best supporting back exercises goes to…

Waterson likes to work on back “unilaterally”, which is to say one side at a time, thereby evening out strength and muscular imbalances between left and right. So single-arm dumbbell rows are “a go-to”. Maybe some reverse cable retractions (as Daniel Craig did for No Time To Die while standing on a BOSU) for posture. And seated cable rows, which enable you to mix up your tempo (lifting lighter for longer can be just as good for muscular gains as going hot and heavy, so to speak, and better for longevity), plus max out your reps. Finally, Waterson often uses lat pull-downs in place of pull-ups as a finisher, with a light weight, maybe alternating on each rep between bringing the handle to your chest and back of your neck – as long as the latter doesn’t put you in a compromising position, he says, and the weight is light.

Don’t go back to back on back

Waterson would train back twice a week: once on a dedicated back day, perhaps with biceps (which are incorporated in pulling exercises), in the similar way to doing chest and triceps (which are involved in pushing). Then the second time in the week, he’d hit chest and back together in a push-and-pull sesh for variety and also fun. “It’s a really strong day,” he says. 

His suggested protocol for back is similar to what he proposes for chest: four sets of eight to ten reps for each exercise, one to failure for the finisher, a little bit of failure and forced reps on the others. Then after, say, four weeks, up your reps to, say, 15 to 20 to work your endurance muscle fibres and cover your bases. And your back.


How to build big chest muscles like Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans (responsibly)

Padel is set to be the biggest fitness trend of the summer

Natalie Portman’s bulked-up Thor look knocks out the internet

Next Post

The All-Inclusive Guide to EMOM Workouts

When you’re already short on time, nothing is more irksome than trying a workout advertised to take just 20 minutes but, by the time you’re finished, has become a half-hour ordeal, thanks to rest breaks and convoluted equipment set-up. One solution? Try an EMOM workout, which has fixed work and […]