Go to any gym, and you’ll see plenty of people with puffed up chests and arms; the mirror muscles. Everyone wants to look good when they pass themselves in a mirror. However, any real lifter knows that a big back is what’s truly impressive. If you see someone from far away, yet can tell they have a thick, wide back, you know they are serious. Maybe you can’t tell if they are a prison guard or power-lifter, but everyone knows that a wide back means you’ve done some physical stuff in your life.
When it comes to the gym, proper back training is often overlooked. The lats, erectors, rhomboids, and other muscles of the back make up a large part of the body, and a few sets of lat pulldowns and rows probably won’t do it for you, unless you are very genetically gifted. To build a truly wide, v-shaped back, the sort of back bodybuilders around the world strive for, you need a targeted approach.
The goal should be to hit the back from a wide variety of angles, with a variety of rep ranges. You’ll want a little bit of close-grip heavy pulling, but the majority of your exercises should be performed with a wider grip if you want to build the width of your back.
It’s also worth noting that you should have appropriate levels of leanness. If you carry a lot of excess body fat around your waist, it will be very hard to get that v-shape you are after. By lowering your body fat, you can reduce the size of your waist, and make your whole back look wider in comparison. You want broad shoulders that taper down to a small waist to get the v-look; wide shoulders and back muscles that lead into a wide midsection won’t look like anything. So, as you go through this process, it’s worth trying to drop a few pounds if your midsection resembles a fluffy pillow.
With all that out of the way, here is your complete back workout. Do this once or twice a week, and prepare to grow. Don’t neglect the rest of your body during this time, but the focus will definitely be on your back. I’d suggest doing this twice, having one pushing session where you train chest and shoulder muscles, and one lower body session.
PUTTING IT INTO ACTION
Straight Arm Lat Pulldown - 3 sets of 15
-This is a warm-up/pre-exhaust set. Pushing a lot of blood into the lats and getting them fired up is important before you move onto the heavier lifts.
Deadlifts - 4 sets of 6-8
-Conventional deadlifts with perfect form. It’s a full body movement, but will use all of your back muscles with a very heavy load. Sumo deadlifts are much more hip-dominant, so use conventional deadlifts to fully use your back.
Pendlay Row - 4 sets of 10
-Perform these with a slightly wider than shoulder grip, and keep your body perfectly still, with no swinging or momentum.
Wide-Grip Pull-Ups or Lat Pulldown - 3 sets of 12-15
-Slow and controlled. Really focus on using your lats by initiating the movement through squeezing your elbows back and down, not by flexing your biceps first. Really try to focus on your back.
Seated Cable Row - 3 sets of 12-15
-Any grip or handle will do; a close grip handle will emphasize your biceps and mid-back more, while using a wide handle will help with the width of your back.
Face Pull - 3 sets of 15
-Good for the upper back and rear delts, helps improve shoulder health and makes sure you don’t completely ignore your upper back.
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