There are a lot of reasons why people get into bodybuilding and weightlifting. Some are looking to improve their overall health. Some want to be competitive powerlifters or bodybuilders, and leverage that success into a further career (like Arnold). But we all would be lying if we didn’t admit to ourselves that one of the most common reasons for hitting the weights (at least initially), is to impress the opposite sex.
For women, that usually involves lots of squats and deadlifts to grow their posterior chain to get the classic small waist/big hips look.
Men, on the other hand, tend to go for the opposite. When thinking of the ideal male physique, it’s often easier to consider an inverted triangle: small on the bottom and wide up top.
Men tend to prioritize a small waist and defined legs as well, but almost universally desire to have broad shoulders and a wide back.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best, most effective exercises for building a stronger, wider and more powerful back to help you get that classic V-Taper.
The Back: An Introduction
While a lot of us, especially newbies, look at the back as a single group of muscles, it’s actually one of the most intricate muscle groups that we have. Let’s take a more detailed look at a few of the more important muscles in the back that will help you build that V-taper.
The Latissimus Dorsi, commonly called ‘lats’, is the largest muscle in your upper body. The lats help in most pulling movements, and attach the spine to the upper arm bone. To find your lat, reach under your armpit and feel the large muscle almost directly opposite of your pectoral muscle. This is the most important muscle to develop in order to have a wider body shape.
We can already hear the objections: “The deltoid is part of the shoulder muscles, and is primarily used for pushing motions!” Yes, this is true, but the deltoid actually has three muscle heads, and the rear deltoid is used in conjunction with the back muscles to help in pulling motions. The side deltoid also helps to give your body a wider look, so it shouldn’t be neglected.
While the trapezius is commonly thought of as part of the neck, it’s still essential for developing a strong, broad back. The trapezius is a large muscle attaches from the base of your skull down to about the middle of your spine.
Best Exercises for a Wide Back
Because the back is composed of so many different muscles, the best way to build a wider back is going to be with a combination of both compound and isolation exercises. We’ve compiled a brief list of some of the best exercises below:
Wide Grip Pullups
By far, the single most effective exercise that you can do to build a wider back is Wide Grip Pullups. This is a compound exercise that will work your rear deltoids, biceps, and rhomboids, but most importantly your lats.
When performing these, make sure to have your grip wider than your shoulders, with your palms facing away from you. This will put maximum stress onto your lats and teres major muscles, helping to build some width in your back.
Wide grip pull-ups can even be performed with weight. If you have a weight belt, you can attach a plate with a chain and get an even better workout.
In order to perform a chin up, you’re looking to do the opposite of a wide grip pull-ups: keep your grip narrow, with your palms either facing each other (depending on the pull-up bar) or facing towards you.
Chin ups work the inner lats and rhomboids. By building these muscles, your back will be stronger but these muscles will also push out against your lats, giving you a wider look.
Barbell rows are exactly what they sound like: rows performed with a barbell. While just about any rowing motion will be good for your back, using a barbell has a lot of advantages.
The barbell is capable of holding more weight, and the wide grip allows you to hit the lats as well as the rear deltoids.
This is a great exercise for isolating the lats, since most lat work is performed via compound movements.
Straight-Arm Pulldowns are performed on the cable machine, and can be done either one-handed or with both hands.
If performed with one hand at a time, you can do them either facing the weight or sideways, with your arm straight out to the side and palm down.
If you do this exercise with a single arm and sideways, you can use your free hand to feel your lat while it’s being worked. This will help you calibrate how to best move your arm for the greatest workout.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s simply meant to be a primer on how to build a wider back. If your back isn’t as wide as you’d like it to be, add a few of these exercises into your workout and you should notice some growth within a few weeks.
When working out any muscle group, it’s important to stay safe. You can improve your safety by using proper form, not loading too much weight on the bar, and by using the right equipment.
For most of these exercises, the best equipment to help keep you safe is a weight belt and gloves. The weight belt will help protect your lower back and improve your form, while weight lifting gloves or straps will ensure a proper grip.
If you’re in the market for a weight belt, be sure to check out our line up of Custom Weight Belts here.
If you need some gloves or straps, consider a pair of our Power Grips, which can replace wrist wraps, gloves and straps.