Everyone wants to work out and see immediate results in their body. Contrary to this belief, your back, like any other muscle, needs diligent training and the best back workout.
If you are struggling with your back and fail to see any concrete results despite following a workout plan, chances are you are doing something wrong.
To make the most of your workout sessions, you need to focus on a select few muscles in your back.
These muscles include your traps, lats, and scapular region. Performing exercises focused on these muscles will help you achieve a wider back just like you want. Continue reading to find out the best exercises for your back with specific instructions.
I went through this entire routine with Charles Glass aka “The Godfather of Bodybuilding” who has trained everyone from The Rock to several Mr. Olympia winners and you are in for a real treat!
Best Back Workout For a V-Taper Back
#1 WIDE GRIP HIGH TO LOW PULL-DOWN
This wide grip pulldown exercise is also known as parallel pulldown, where your palms face each other in a wide grip. Here, you activate back muscle groups consisting of lats and latissimus dorsi, the body's largest muscle originating in the lower and mid-back.
As a result, the back workout can do wonders for building muscle mass for a wider back.
Your initial position will be to sit facing away from the machine. Once your position is set, you can begin extending your arms up to grab the handles that you will find on either side. You will notice that the arms will be wider than the shoulder width as you begin to pull.
As you are pulling down, you must make sure to keep the elbows forward. This will help squeeze your lats and initiate muscle growth. You will be pulling behind your head, keeping the arms moving but the torso stationary.
Once the handles reach your shoulders' height, you will hold for just a few seconds to maintain the tension of your lats. Then start extending the handles back up to end this exercise.
#2 HIGH TO LOW MACHINE ROW
The high to low pulldown form is a great back workout for your upper and lower back muscles and biceps due to the pulling movement. It will work your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius and posterior deltoids of the posterior chain muscle group.
To pull the bar handles, you must extend your arms. Slightly extend your upper body forward as well. You simply have to remember one rule for this exercise - stretch and squeeze!
By extending yourself, you can improve your grip strength. Then, squeeze your shoulder blades together and retract your scapula as you pull the bar handles.
#3 CLOSE GRIP LAT PULLDOWN
The close-grip lat pulldown is one of the most efficient back exercises that exercises your upper back muscles like upper lats. The close-grip position allows for a full range of motion, increasing strength for a strong back. To see definitive results from this back exercise, you must do 12 reps.
The starting position for this exercise requires you to be seated slightly away from the lat pulldown machine. You will extend your arms upwards to grab the close-grip or V-bar attachment with the palms facing each other.
As you pull the bar, lean slightly back and brace your core to lock in your position. You must bring your shoulder blades down and back and keep pulling the bar until it reaches your chest.
Once the close-grip bar reaches your chest, pause for a brief moment to work your lats. You can then slowly allow the bar and yourself to go back to the starting position while still maintaining tension throughout your body.
#4 SEATED ROW ALTERNATIVE WITH ROPE
When it comes to cable workouts, the seated cable row is a favorite among those who enjoy back workouts. It works the muscles in the middle of your upper back, like the trapezius that gives your back the thickness and width you want.
Once you are seated, retract your scapula and pull the cable. You pull it to your lower abdomen, driving your elbows towards the hips. As you are doing so, make sure to rotate your grip on the attachment when you reach your abdomen.
When the attachment is at your abdomen, hold the stature to activate lats and engage shoulder blades. You should remember to arch your back at a slight back angle while engaging in this exercise.
#5 WIDE GRIP LAT PULLDOWN
The wide grip lat pulldown is one of the best exercises to help you get upper body strength. Not only does it increase the width of your back, but it also stabilizes your back muscles for improved posture. It primarily works your lats and latissimus dorsi.
Your initial position will require you to sit down facing the exercise machine. The knee pads attached to the seat's sides will allow you to lock in your legs and secure your knee.
After your position is locked in, you start extending your arms upwards to grab the bar, with palms facing away from you. Your hands should be placed wider than shoulder-width apart.
You will lean back slightly and bring some tension to your shoulders by bringing your shoulder blades back and down. Then pull the bar until it touches the top of your rib cage. Once it touches your upper chest, hold this position and squeeze your lats and back muscles for a few seconds.
Before you lower the bar back to its original position, make sure your upper torso remains stationary and only your arms are moving. After completing the first few reps, it will be easier for you to maintain a good form for the exercise.
#6 DUMBBELL ROW FOR MID & LOWER BACK
Dumbbell row exercises target your middle and lower back muscles. It trains your back and shoulder muscles, improving body symmetry and making your back wider. It activates your lats and also increases grip strength as you squeeze onto the dumbbells.
Your initial position will be standing, holding the dumbbells in a supinated grip near your heels. Your back will be bent forward at the waist but try to keep your chest up slightly with your hips back. When you are ready, begin to lift the dumbbells.
One thing you should avoid is lifting the dumbbells all the way up to an upright standing position. As you start lifting, simply lift your chest up and rotate the dumbbells slightly to end the lift in a parallel grip.
You will push your elbows behind your body as you lift the weight of the dumbbells. Arms will be a little wider than shoulder-width apart. The goal with such back workouts is to keep all the tension around your mid-back to work the muscles there.
By The Way, Here’s me going through this entire back workout on Youtube!
More Exercises For A Wider Back
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
As the name suggests, this is the single-arm row version of the dumbbell row exercise. The single-arm dumbbell row exercise is great for muscle building for the upper back and overall strength.
It allows for a long and full range of motion while focusing on each side of the back for even muscle strength. In turn, you get a big strong back!
Sets & Reps
For this single-arm dumbbell row, you need to first create a setup. The first step is to get a flat bench and place a dumbbell weight on the bench's left side. Then, place your right leg on top of the bench while the left leg stays on the ground. You must bend your back forward at the hip until the upper torso is parallel to the floor.
All that is left to do is pull the weight with one hand. As you pull the weight up and down, your shoulders should retract and protract to properly stretch the lats. When you do this back workout on repeat, it will work for muscle groups like latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, lower traps, and erector spinae.
A common mistake to avoid is pulling the weight too high. Instead, you pull the weight from underneath you and then to the side of your chest. This allows for better scapula retraction that will help prevent strain on the upper back.
Chest Supported Row
This chest-supported row exercise is a good dumbbell variation beneficial for both upper and lower back muscles. Chest-supported exercising means you can better target upper muscles and no longer have to put stress on the lower back to stabilize you. The chest-supported row is possible with both heavy or light weight dumbbells.
Sets & Reps
You will lie down on your chest on a bench inclined at a 30-45 degree angle and holding down a dumbbell weight on either side.
All that is left to do is pull the weights up, leading with your elbow and arms forming a 90-degree angle. For a brief moment, keep them to the side of your chest as you squeeze your shoulder blades. You can then lower the weights down. This way, you just achieved a long range of motion!
Back workouts will remain incomplete without the barbell deadlift. The deadlift is the best back workout that targets your entire back from top to bottom. Although deadlift works several different muscles, it is most demanding on your lower back muscles like hamstrings and glutes.
The tremendous weight overload from pulling the bar will help in building muscle. As a result, the deadlift helps you add thickness and width to your back.
Sets & Reps
As you are standing, the loaded barbell should be right above your feet, close to your shin. The feet should be no wider than hip-width with toes slightly out. Then, slightly bend your knees, keep your back flat and chest up. With straightened arms, begin to lift the bar to the hip.
For a successful deadlift, you must remember to keep "pushing" your legs into the floor while keeping your shoulders and chest up and hips back. This will help you lock in your pose. You will unlock your hips and slide the barbell down your legs back to the ground as you are coming down.
Once you become comfortable with the conventional deadlift, you can move up to more challenging workouts like sumo deadlift or hex-bar deadlift.
Barbell Bent Over Row
The bent over row exercise is done with a barbell weight, like in the conventional deadlift. A barbell row exercise will incorporate your lats, traps, rhomboids, rear delts, and even biceps. Again like the deadlift, it is one of the best back exercises for getting a wider frame.
Sets & Reps
Bent over row is a standing exercise but not in a completely upright position. You give your knees a slight bend, bend from the waist and move your upper torso forward. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. You can grab the barbell weight with an overhand grip as hands go slightly wider than shoulder-width.
Then, pull the barbell weight towards your hips. After you bring the bar up, hold your position, keep your back straight and squeeze the back muscles. A few seconds later, slowly lower the bar to the original position. The barbell row is a surefire way of getting the wide back you desire!
Although pull-up movements may seem more simple than other back workouts, they still get you results. Pull-ups will target the top and bottom lats to build muscle and increase width. Apart from that, pull-ups stabilize the bodyweight by also working on the chest, arms, and shoulders.
Sets & Reps
For pull-ups, you require a special pull-up bar. You will extend your arms out to the bar and grab it with an overhand grip, just as you would for a deadlift. Your hands will go slightly wider than your shoulder. You will know you are in the correct form when your body and hand form a "Y" shape.
With your back straightened, you pull your whole body up while bringing your chin towards the bar. Before initiating the pull-ups, squeeze your glutes and shoulder blades to activate lats.
Similar to pull-ups, chin-ups can also make a great addition to your back workouts. The scapula depression and retraction here activate lats, rhomboids, and trapezius. With this, the exercise will give you more strength, muscle, and width.
Sets & Reps
A pull-up bar works fine here as well. The preferred choice of grip is a neutral grip. So, grab the pull-up bar with your palms facing each other. Your knees should have a slight bend, and your lower legs are crossed. With retracted shoulders and a tightened core, begin to pull yourself up.
You keep pulling yourself up until your chin becomes aligned with the bar. Then, stay up for one or two seconds to maximize muscle tension. After that, slowly come down to your original stand.
Tips To Help You Master Your Back Workouts
Now that you know what exercises are best for a wider back, you might want to focus on perfecting them to get the best results. Without proper form, no amount of hours spent in the gym will do you any good. Here are a few tips on how you can reap the maximum benefits from your workout in the gym!
#1 Pulling To Sternum
Specific exercises like the lat pulldown require you to pull the weight down to your sternum. This is especially useful for a wider back because it reduces the pressure on your lats.
You need to engage your upper back if you want to see the best results. So, instead of pulling to your clavicle, you need to focus on doing chin-ups, pullups, and even lat pulldowns to your sternum instead.
Your shoulders and scapula will not be entirely engaged this way. Your lats will experience maximum activation. You will target your back this way and notice a difference in your body in very little time!
#2 Avoid Bringing The Bar To Your Chest
You might think that you need to bring the bar to your chest when you are doing, say, pullups or deadlift. However, it is not necessary. You are wasting your strength, and it will not help you engage your back in any way.
The best point to stop when you are doing a back workout is a little below your chin. This is the perfect height for a good back workout.
When you are doing pullups, try not to engage your chest and pull too high. If you pull to your chest, you might end up rotating your shoulder internally. This could lead to instability and even an inflamed scapula. This could also restrict the lat movement and result in minimum lat activity.
#3 Focus On Your Form
The only way you will benefit from these exercises if you keep your form right. If this is the first time you are trying such a workout, be sure to ask for help and correct your form every chance you get.
When it comes to back exercises, you need to focus on your upper chest and back regions the most. Be sure to keep your shoulders down and pull them back. It would be best if you also stretched your head up, tighten your core and pull your stomach in.
Moreover, ensure that your chest is out in every back exercise you perform. So this form could also apply to pullups, rows, and pulldowns.
#4 Create A Muscle-Mind Connection
Engaging the right muscles is the key to making the best gains. When you perform a back workout, you need to feel the tension in your back and shoulder muscles. This is the only correct way to make them grow.
If you do not create a mental connection with your muscles, you will not use the right muscles to lift weights or perform exercises. Force your mind to use the back muscles on purpose. If you do not make this connection, you will use your arms which will not affect your back.
You want to feel the burn in the right places. So, while doing pull-ups, make sure you engage your back and shoulder muscles. Your arms should not feel the pressure!
#5 Don’t Be In A Rush
It might seem tempting to hurry up and finish your reps. However, this is not going to be of any benefit to your body. Unless you put your mind into it and concentrate on your every rep, there is very little chance of you seeing a difference.
You need to focus on each rep and pause to recuperate. This 2-second pause in the contracted state will do you better than an increased number of reps. You need to pause with every motion and feel the burn in the right parts.
These pauses will help you perform better, and they will enhance the effect of the exercise. Many studies show that taking your time and focusing on these pauses stimulates your muscles readily!
#6 Pick The Right Weights
Challenging yourself is always great when it comes to workouts. However, you don't want to let the weights do all the work. Picking the right weight for yourself is just as crucial as having a suitable form while exercising.
You do not want weights that are too light for you or too heavy for you. You must pick something that allows you to control all your movements in the most effective way. You also need to pay heed to how much you are lifting to increase it with practice gradually.
Even if you can lift a few extra pounds, go with weights that are a little lighter. Focus on your form and try to do a few extra reps each time. Added reps are more beneficial than heavier weights.
What To Do Outside The Gym For Better Gains
As we all know, gains are not just made in the gym. When you devote your life to working out, you need to make a lot of lifestyle changes. From eating right to sleeping enough, there is a lot to focus on if you want the best gains.
Mentioned below are a few things you should implement in your life if you want to make the best gains outside of the gym. These are simple lifestyle tips that you will have no trouble following!
#1 Eat Enough Food
You need to consume ample calories throughout the day to get your gains. Don't equate food with fat. Your body needs the energy and strength to keep it going, and if you don't fulfill your body's requirements, you are highly unlikely to see any progress.
Trust your body's metabolism and eat proper meals every day!
#2 Get rest
After a killer workout, your back needs time to recuperate and get back to its original state. This rest or recovery mode is crucial, and you must give your back enough time for this. Any damages you endure during your workout are mended in this stage.
A good night's sleep will expedite your recovery and prepare your muscles for the next exercise. Additionally, all this rest and sleep will help you maintain the important hormones for your gains!
#3 Portion your servings
Food portioning is a very healthy exercise when it comes to fitness. Your diet needs to include all essential nutrients, and you need to eat all of them in the right quantity.
Your serving size should not be too big either. Portion your plate and get all that good stuff clubbed into one meal. Each one of your meals should include greens, protein, and carbs!
#4 Stretch After Workouts
Warming up is a widespread practice among athletes. It prepares you for what's to come. However, cooling down is just as important! After a strenuous workout, your muscles need to relax so that you do not feel sore the next morning when you wake up.
A good stretch that soothes all your muscles after a workout is a great way to avoid any soreness the following day.
#5 Get That Protein
Your body needs the right foods and the right nutrients after your workout to give you the best results. As soon as you finish your workout, your muscles are in their prime state to synthesize amino acids. They are essential for your muscle gains.
You can supply your body with these by eating a lot of healthy protein. Opting for a protein shake right after your workout is the best approach.
#6 Drink Enough Water
Water is just as important as your food. You need to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day and especially after your workout. You lose a lot of water in the form of sweat once you finish exercising.
Replenish yourself with fluids right away. Your body needs water more than it needs food.
If you are well hydrated, you will not crave junk food as much too. This will not only benefit your gains, but it will also be great for your skin and overall health.
#7 Eat Ginger And Cherries
Ginger is one of the best herbs to consume if you want to eliminate that post-workout inflammation. If your muscles feel sore after you went too hard in the gym, try this natural anti-inflammatory herb. It will trigger a healing process in your body and aid with the pain.
Moreover, if you have a sweet tooth, try eating cherries. They may be high in calories, but cherries' antioxidant properties can help you with additional inflammation.
Your back muscles, just like any other part of your body, need disciplined training and determination. If you throw in all that you have got into it, you are sure to see the results in no time. Ensure you focus on your gains outside the gym as much as you do inside to see maximum progress!