5 Phil Heath Back Workouts (Training Program & Nutrition)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: May 10, 2024
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Phil Heath is renowned for his impressive muscularity and aesthetic physique, making him one of the most influential and greatest bodybuilders of all time.

So as a personal trainer, I decided to delve into his back training program and nutrition.

After hundreds of hours researching his journey, below is all the essential information concerning his tried-and-true back workout techniques, nutrition principles, and supplements that 7x Mr. Olympia Phil Heath uses to maximize his muscle gains.

His Stats

  • Age: 44
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 270 lbs
  • Waist: 29”
  • Chest: 54”

Phil Heath's Back Workout Routine

Phil Heath's Back Workout Routine

Phil Heath focuses on machines rather than free weights for workout control.

Research in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health shows weights lead to more injuries than machines, often due to insufficient coordination or skill [1].

His sets include 60-90-second rest periods for recovery and effectiveness. Phil's regimen, ranging from pull-ups to bent-over rows, comprises five back exercises for comprehensive training.

In my experience as a fitness coach, this multi-angle approach aligns well with clients' diverse needs, enhancing both safety and muscle development.

  1. Pull-ups - 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  2. Rear delt machine - 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  3. Smith machine overhand bent-over row - 4 sets of 8 reps
  4. Single arm seated row - 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  5. Lat pull-down - 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Workout Principles

Phil Heath flexing in the gym

Phil Heath began his athletic career as a Division I basketball player before discovering his passion for bodybuilding.

He began competing in professional bodybuilding in 2005, winning the NPC USA Championships before capturing his first-ever IFBB championship the following year.

Phil Heath continued to compete and win several competitions, including seven consecutive victories (2011–2017) in the most prestigious bodybuilding competition in the world, Olympia. He came in second place the following year.

It is an achievement that only two bodybuilders have surpassed in bodybuilding history, Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, who both have eight Olympia titles. Kai Greene came close but never managed to dethrone him on the Olympia stage.

Contrary to what many may assume, Phil focuses on the pump with moderately heavy weights.

The former Olympia champion prioritizes constant time under tension when exercising his targeted muscle groups.

Studies published by the Journal of Physiology have shown that increasing the Time Under Tension (TUT) for muscles can stimulate muscle fiber synthesis for up to 30 hours after exercise [2].

“As for my back, it was a question of just being smarter and understanding that it’s all about being able to produce enough constant tension to get a great pump. For me, it’s a combination of free weights and machines for the back, and it’s all about the form.”

- Phil Heath, Former Professional Bodybuilder

Phil Heath’s Diet Plan

Close up shot of eggs and meat

Phil squeezes in six to eight meals daily to consume around 5,000 calories.

His meals mostly look like this:

  • Meal #1: 2.5 cups of egg whites and 1 cup of rolled oat (or Ezekiel cereal)
  • Meal #2: 14 ounces of fish, avocado, and yam
  • Meal #3: Steak and 2 cups of white rice
  • Meal #4: Chicken and white rice with almond butter
  • Meal #5: Egg white, a cup of rolled oats, tilapia, and yam

This highlights nutrition's importance in developing back muscles. Phil's protein and complex carbohydrate-rich diet is key for muscle growth and recovery, an aspect critical yet frequently neglected in training programs.

In my fitness coaching, prioritizing such a balanced diet has consistently proven essential for clients' muscle development and recuperation.

Nutrition Principles

While Phill learned to eyeball his food and isn’t weighing every meal, he uses a portion control system to keep him on track with his protein intake.

He also focuses on injury prevention and back health through his diet, understanding that nutrients play a crucial role in muscle recovery and overall spinal health.

With 400 grams of protein daily, he indulges in fish, steak, red meat, egg whites, and protein powders to build and maintain his muscle mass.

“I knew how I wanted to look on stage, and I knew that creating that distraction was not going to allow me to have peak performance. The last thing I wanted to do was to be on stage next to someone who did cross all t’s and dots and have that regret”

- Phil Health, Bodybuilder

Which Supplements Does Phil Heath Take?

Close up shot of supplement pills

Phil Heath takes pre-workouts, intra-workouts, whey protein, fat burners, omega-3 fatty acids, and green powders.

Phil claims that the supplements help him get the most out of his workouts and maintain his impressive physique:

  • Dream Killer pre-workout - 5 g of creatine, 3 g of beta-alanine, and 150 g of caffeine.
  • Intraguard - 4000 mg of Essential Amino Acids (EAA) / Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) complex, 450 mg of pump & recovery complex, and 50 mg of absorption complex.
  • Infernocore - 150 mg of caffeine, 550 mg of l-carnitine, and 300 mg of green tea leaf.

And if you need a bit of help to speed up your muscle growth while burning fat, then pick one of the T-boosters below:


What Are the Best Back Exercises Phil Heath Includes in His Workouts?

The best back exercises Phil Heath includes in his workouts are rear delt flys, bent-over rows, one-arm dumbbell rows, pull-ups, seated rows, machine pull-downs, and T-bar rows.

How Many Times Does Phil Heath Train His Back Per Week?

Phil Heath trains his back one day per week using high-volume workouts comprising 5-6 exercises, mixing up different types of pull-downs and rows to work the targeted muscle group from different angles.

What is the Number 1 Back Exercise Does Phil Health Do?

The number 1 back exercise Phil Health does is the bent-over row. While there's no one exercise that's perfect for everyone, the bent-over rows effectively engage the latissimus dorsi, the middle, and lower traps, along with the rhomboids.


  1. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/21/7848
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3285070/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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