Bodybuilders’ Notebook — Leon Burk’s Back Routine (1962)

Many recreational lifters focus on areas of the physique that seem the most visible, such as arms and chest. However, only doing exercises for these body parts means missing out on the benefits of training muscular groups such as the legs and the back. Below is a brief article from the May-June 1962 issue of Physical Power, featuring the back training routine of Leon Burks. Burks was a physique competitor in the early 1960s in southern California. Unfortunately, precious little information seems to be available on him today.


Leon Burks displaying his back development in a photo which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (will appear in new window/tab)

Brief further reading, a list of contests that Leon Burks placed in:,+Leon

Magazine Excerpt:

Leon Burks has one of the finest back developments in the world. He was very thin and underdeveloped when he began training so he worked extremely hard. His back was particularly weak and lacked development so he gave this area special attention. Burks formulated a routine after much work and careful evaluation and he credits his tremendous upper back development largely to the follwoing [sic] exercises.

1. FRONT HIGH PULLEY – 4 sets, 8-10 reps. Kneel on floor; take a close grip on the bar; pull it down to the chest, return to starting position slowly for maximum stretch.


An illustration of the front high pulley exercise which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (will appear in new window/tab)

2. BENT OVER ROWING – 4 sets, 7-8 reps. Medium grip; pull the barbell up until it touches just below the chest area; lower slowly.

3. BEHIND NECK PRESS – 5 sets, 7-8 reps. Medium grip; start with the bar on the back of the shoulders, press to arms length overhead, lower and repeat.

4. CHINS BEHIND NECK – 5 sets, 12 reps. Wide grip; use no resistance except your own weight. Pull yourself up until the lower part of the back of the neck touches the bar.


1. This program is for advanced bodybuilders.

2. Use as much weight as possible in STRICT FORM.

3. Rest one and a half minutes between sets.

4. Use this program three times a week.

5. Don’t miss workouts.

Leon Burk won the Best Developed Back division at the recent 1962 Mr. California Contest


– Leon Burks

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