Back of a Beast | Active with Aaptiv


Sultan Malik is known for his “beastly” workouts, and Back of a Beast was no exception. Coming from Conbody, a prison-style boot camp studio on the Lower East Side, Sultan knows how to kick his students into gear. In only around 20 minutes, Back of a Beast left me sore — but not sorry.

Back of a Beast – The Breakdown

Back of a Beast is a 20 minute workout that consists of five exercises, performed three times each. This workout is not a circuit. Each movement is performed for 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest before returning to it for three rounds. If you’re using sufficiently heavy weights, this will feel difficult — 45 seconds can be a long time.

The movements

  1. Deadlifts. The workout began with deadlifts. Although Sultan advised using dumbbells, I used a 70 lb barbell. That was not smart. If you’re familiar with Sultan’s strength workouts, you know that he asks students to go “up and down” at a pretty fast pace — something that is not possible with a heavy barbell. Ultimately, I wasn’t able to get a ton of reps in during the 45 seconds, which was entirely my fault. I did not see that barbell again after this round.
  2. Three point rows on the left and right — three rounds on each side. If you’re not familiar with this move, you need a bench. You put the hand you’re not using on the bench and row with the other, ensuring that your elbow goes higher than your back and that your back is flat. I used 20 lb weights for this one and definitely felt a challenge because of the number of reps.
  3. Bent over rows with palms facing back. But don’t you always do bent over rows with palms facing back, you may ask? The answer to that is no — and you’ll see why soon. I used 15 lb weights for these and felt adequately challenged. It’s important to be mindful of form during bent over rows, because it’s really easy to hurt your back here. Your back should be parallel to the floor, and your knees should bend as much as possible in order to make sure that this happens. If you don’t know the proper form, I recommend watching this video.
  4. Bent over rows with palms facing forward. See? There are multiple ways to do a bent over row! This one works out different muscles, although I’m not going to pretend I know the science of it. All I can confirm is that it feels different. Also used 15 lb weights here with no problem.
  5. Pull overs. You get to go on your back here, but don’t mistake this movement for rest. With your knees on the floor, you will hold a single dumbbell over your chest with your arms totally straight and move it back until your arms are parallel to the floor. I used a 20 lb dumbbell for this and was fine. I could have gone heavier, but I was scared to drop it after wearing out my back.

Back of a Beast: The Verdict

This workout was labeled as Advanced, and it definitely is. As with all workouts, but particularly with back workouts, form is important. Listen to Sultan’s tips throughout — they will help you. Since I have a goal of doing a real, unassisted pull-up this year, back workouts will become increasingly important for me. I’ll likely revisit this one.

Back of a Beast: Tips

  • Don’t use super heavy weights. You can fit a lot of reps into 45 seconds. Obviously focus on quality over quantity, but you should also try to keep pace with Sultan’s instructions.
  • If you don’t know how to perform any of the movements, watch a YouTube video for guidance. But read the comments first! As we all know, there’s no barrier to entry for putting up a YouTube video, and some of them will display incorrect form.

Back of a Beast: Personal Stats

  • Max Heart Rate: 119
  • Total Time in Fat Burning Zone: 17 minutes, with no time spent in higher heart rate zones
  • Calories Burned: 67 cal. (Keep in mind that I’m only five feet tall and at a pretty average weight)

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