When most guys first arrive in the gym, they have one goal in mind: a six-pack. And that’s fine. But take a look at the more experienced men moving the heavy iron, and you’ll notice they’ve all turned their attention to the muscles they can’t normally see in the mirror—their back. Building an powerful, wide back is crucial to your overall aesthetic. Not only is a wide back imposing in and of itself, but it also makes your waist look smaller, increasing the ever important ‘V’ look all bodybuilders seek.
On your next back day, add in these four exercises. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to see your back in the mirror without having to turn around—that’s how big your lats will be.
These were a favorite of Iron Legend Doug Young. Unlike most back exercises, which typically leverage some bicep strength, straight-arm pushdowns almost exclusively isolate the lats—so they really fire up your lat development.
Using the straight bar attachment on the weight stack, bring the bar to eye level. Keeping your arms straight, push the bar down to your thighs while leaning forward at the top (emphasizing stretch). Bring the bar back up slowly, and don’t let it go past eye level. Do 5 sets of 15 reps.
One-Arm Lat Pulldown
These effectively isolate the lats, resulting in a serious increase in back width. Put the single-handle attachment on the lat pulldown stack, and sit so you have enough room to fully extend your arm upwards. Grasp the handle with one hand, feeling a stretch at the farthest extension, and pull down the handle to shoulder level.
One-arm lat pulldowns should also be done with the strictest of form—don’t be afraid to lighten the load if it means getting perfect reps. Do 5 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Wide-grip pullups are absolutely essential to developing an impressively wide back. They are more lat-intensive than their normal grip counterpart.
To perform wide-grip pullups, grasp the pullup bar wider than shoulder width, and make sure to come all the way down on each rep. Pull yourself all the way up so that the pullup bar is at around chest level. Do these with strict form—no swinging or kipping. Go all the way down and all the way up. Once you can do 10 strict wide-grip pullups, start adding weight.
Do 5 sets to failure in this exercise.
These are not as popular as they once were, although they were once a staple in back training. Let’s bring back this oldie but goodie.
Put the V-Grip attachment (sometimes called a V-Bar) over the top of the pullup bar, pull yourself up and touch your chest to the attachment. Concentrate on using your lats and upper back to pull yourself up. Keep these strict—no swinging. Do 5 sets to failure.