Three Exercises for a Wider Back
For me the back has always been an interesting body part to train. I hate certain exercises or movements while I love others. Like most people, it can be easy for me to brush off at times because you can’t see it in a typical mirror but at other times I get such a great pump in my upper back and lats that I want to train it multiple times a week. Lately, I have been focusing on what I consider a weak part of mine, my lat width. I have done this by utilizing some of the tactics that I wrote about in my article “Weak Point Training”. (here) Also, any exercise that emphasizes the lat muscle will stimulate it to grow bigger and wider. However, I have recently been including a few exercises that I feel have really helped me add width to my back.
Yes, the tried and true pull-up. I know, nothing ground-breaking but it is simply the best. I’ve talked a good bit about the pull-up on this site and have written articles on the correct way to do a pull-up and also how to progress them. The only downside to a pull-up is that it is difficult to do so be sure to check out my “Pull-Up Progression” article. (here) However, if you can execute a correct pull-up it better be a staple in your program. I get asked quite frequently on what grip is best when doing pull-ups. If you are using a rack or a bar that has multiple grips try all of them. They all target your back just at different angles. So, if you want a bigger, wider back or just a stronger and bigger upper body altogether start with pull-ups and if they aren’t part of your program you are leaving out a major piece of the puzzle.
Single Arm Lat Pulldown
The single arm lat pulldown has probably been my favorite lat exercise for the past six months or so. There are probably a million different versions of pulldown machines out there where you can try this exercise. I always try to include a unilateral, meaning a single arm or single leg exercise in all my routines. A unilateral exercise not only helps ensure that both sides are working evenly and keeps everything relatively symmetrical, it also allows you to focus all your energy on one side at a time. I have found that I get a greater pump when I can focus on one side at time and ensuring that my technique is perfect and the contraction at the end of the movement is harder. Try this exercise with whatever version of the pulldown machine that you have available.
Can’t play video? Click here: Single Arm Lat Pulldown
Be sure to allow the arm to fully extend on the way up to feel a maximum stretch in the lat. Pull down by thinking of pulling with your elbow instead of using momentum or your arm, specifically your bicep.
Single Arm Rope Pulldown
Sometimes I’m not too sure what an exercise is called or if it even has a legit name so I call this one the single arm rope pulldown. I know I’m very creative. This is another exercise that can be done using a variety of tools. It is common to see a standing pulldown variation using a straight bar. Using the rope with two hands is also a common variation. I sometimes do both of those variations but for the same reasons I stated above my favorite is the unilateral, or single arm variation. This exercise can be tricky at first because learning how to flare or contract your lat muscle can be a tough thing to learn. As you pull the rope down it helps to think about pinching or locking down your arm pit. As the arm travels down it is important not to extend your elbow fully. This will turn it into a type of triceps extension and take the tension away from your lat. It helps me to get a slight forward lean to my upper body and as your arm travels back to the top be sure to keep this same upper body angle and feel a big stretch in your lat.
Can’t play video? Click here: Single Arm Rope Pulldown
This exercise is best done with lighter weight and high reps (Around 15-25 reps)
Help Cure I.L.S.
There is an epidemic that can be seen in gyms all around the world. It’s called Imaginary Lat Syndrome or I.L.S and it needs to be stopped. We have all seen the guys that walk around the gym looking like they are carrying two of the largest suitcases ever made. Chest up, arms spread out wide because their supposedly huge lat muscles make it impossible to put their arms to their side. Ironically, these same guys usually have the muscle mass of a small kitten. This is not a good look and we must do our part to end it. So, add these three exercises to your routine, build a wide back, and have a legit reason your arms can’t quite rest against your side.
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