How can you build a broader back? The back routines are some of the most strenuous there are. Our lats are large muscles, so we often get exhausted when we train them. After many years of successful training and nutrition, here’s what I have learned:
The back is a large muscle group which requires significant effort to mobilize and work out its muscles. The secret to achieving a broad and defined back is combining ultra-intensive training with sufficient recovery time and a high-protein diet.
I used to use a three-day workout system with rest on the fourth day. Now, I have found four days of training and resting on the fifth is most effective.
Before a competition, I train twice a day and include half an hour of exercise biking. I do two to four exercises for the smaller muscles, and four to five for the large ones, with three to four sets per exercise.
In the past, I would do up to 40 sets per muscle group; but I get better results with more intensity and fewer sets.
How did I build broad back muscles?
After warming up, I do forced repetitions, descending sets, or training until I reach muscular failure—or close to 50 percent.
My rest periods between sets vary. Sometimes, I don’t rest because I’m working with descending sets. Other times, I do heavy lifts and have to rest longer than one minute.
I change my routine frequently, and also my repetitions. Sometimes I do only five reps, other times as many as 25. In general, I stay between 10 and 12.
A positive attitude is essential for successful training. I imagine that I am an unstoppable machine with unlimited strength and energy reserves.
Apart from method and mentality, I will now share my secrets to developing a broad and muscular back.
How do you get super-wide lats?
The back is the largest muscle group and, if you ignore working the dorsals, trapeziums, and spinal erectors, you will lose a great deal of muscle mass. In addition to working the entire dorsal area equally, you must take care of your diet and rest your muscles.
Look for an effective routine.
Laziness is what prevents many from maintaining an effective back routine. Lazy people only perform a few pulls and rows on pulley machines, because they don’t understand this muscle group’s complexity or what’s necessary for these muscles to grow.
The most massive muscles in the back are the dorsal muscles. If you want to train them properly, your lats must make both vertical and horizontal traction movements. These exercises also train the upper back’s small muscles, the shoulder blades, and the rhomboids.
By vertical movements, I mean those carrying weight from above the head to the waist.
An example would be pullups on a high pulley with methodical and controlled movements. They should be done with different grips to apply another stimulus to the muscle.
Horizontal movements consist of moving the weight from the front of the body to the navel. Some examples are:
- Sitting rows
- Low pulley rows
- Machine rows with a straight torso
- T-bar rows
- Inclined dumbbell rows
It all depends on the position of the upper body. In this type of exercise, you have to make frequent yet controlled movements.
The deadlift is an difficult movement that squeezes and attacks the legs, hips, and lower back. In one week, it is too much to ask the body to do dead weights on top of the exercises listed above.
Full back sessions are as long and demanding as leg sessions, so some people prefer to leave their trapeziums and lower back for another day. If you exercise your back well, you won’t have time or energy for anything else. So keep this in mind when organizing your weight training routine.
Plan your training
Back training is challenging work, so the week’s routine should allow this area to recover well. Training your biceps a day before or after the back would be a mistake. If the back is your main objective, you need its muscles for traction movements.
The posterior deltoids and trapeziums also need to be exercised on a different day from the back. These last ones participate, for example, in the military press.
Back training is a bit exhausting for the nervous system and the body’s energy, so there should be only one dedicated back workout per week. The exception is that you overtrain by following a specialized routine with two strenuous back sessions.
Look for the mind-muscle connection.
The connection between mind and muscle is fundamental. Some muscle groups grow if you notice them working, and others do not.
For example, there is no need to squeeze and concentrate on the quadriceps by doing squats with a heavy load, because there is no doubt that they are working hard. That also happens with dead weight.
On the other hand, when rowing, doing dominoes, and pullups, it is easy for the biceps and posterior deltoids to get too involved.
One of the most common mistakes is cheating. I’ve seen many men and women take up momentum when trying to move huge weights . By doing so, their backs don’t get the attention they need, and they never get to grow.
You have to put your shoulder blades together and contract your dorsal muscles for a second. Slow movement makes a more developed back. If you can’t notice the dorsal muscles working, you are not training them well.
The solution is usually to reduce the resistance, execute the exercise correctly, and then increase the weight progressively.
To encourage the connection between mind and muscle, you should do back stretching after all the exercises in your back routine. An easy way is to take some printed bars with your hands above your head, stretch the dorsal muscles to one side, and then to the other.
Give priority to free weights.
Free weights, machines, or pulleys? The most effective movements for stimulating back hypertrophy are free weights, with basic exercises like:
- Bar or dumbbells rows
- The “good mornings”
You can also change some movements on pulley or machine to work the back from different angles.
Gym equipment designers create most back exercise machines to pull from specific angles. Some are midway between the vertical and horizontal planes. The machines are more supportive of the torso, and lower back injuries can result from heavy exercises.
Some movements, such as pulling, are easier on the machines than with free weights. The best back training sessions include movements on various interfaces. It would be best to train both free weights and machines to stimulate your back muscles. This way, the muscles will perform movements from different angles.
If you want to widen your back, you should never forget to eat. Proper food is essential to gain muscle mass, because it gives us the necessary nutrients—proteins that the muscles need to grow, and carbohydrates that provide the body energy to train. I recommend you eat five or six times a day in adequate portions with the macros you need.
An example meal plan:
- Mid-morning snack
- Afternoon snack
Never skip your three main meals of the day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
You can also have a homemade protein shake before or after weight training. That will help give your body more nutrients to build muscle mass. You also have to be well hydrated, so it is important to drink two liters of water a day.
- First of all, you must sleep eight hours a day, because proper sleep is required for the muscle to regenerate and grow.
- You must also train each muscle properly: distribute a day of weight training in two muscles. You should not train those muscles until you leave them the necessary days of rest from the past workout. That will give the muscle time to recover and grow, and you will increase your muscle mass.
- Finally, avoid making unnecessary efforts with your body when you are not training. You should reserve your energy for your weight training routine.
Train for symmetry
To develop equal muscle mass in the back and have a more aesthetically pleasing appearance, you must train symmetrically. You should equally train muscles like the shoulders, trapeziums, dorsal, and your lower back.
These muscles are also part of the back, and give it the V-shape and the muscular consistency we want.
Look for back width
In back routines, if we want amplitude, we should choose exercises such as dominoes and pullups, and exercises more oriented to density, like rowing. These exercises are essential for the amplitude of our backbones. We also strongly recommend that you vary the grips for greater effectiveness.
Lat training frequency
For a more effective workout and to build a V-shaped back, I recommend training the back once a week with a full width and density workout.
In the same back routine, you can combine both types of exercises; or, you can work the back twice a week doing width one day and density the other day.
Back muscles congestion
It is crucial for effective lat training:
- First of all, you must respect the technique.
- Try to contract the muscles during the concentric part of the exercise.
- Finally, use a weight that allows you to do 8 to 12 correct repetitions.
- The back is one of the most challenging muscle groups for beginners to congest, because you must perform a full range of motion to correctly stretch and contract the muscle.
Also, by congesting the back muscles, you’ll burn more calories. That will make it easier to have a defined body.
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V-shaped back training principles
I do a light series and then a warm-up sock. Then, I use my maximum mileage and take-off weight in each series until I reach complete muscle failure.
Double Division Routine
I divide the training day into two hard sessions in the morning and afternoon, with a large group working on each session.
My partner usually helps me complete two or three extra reps at the end of many series.
I choose exercises that work specific areas of each muscle group. I do them in a strict and concentrated way, which contributes to my muscle separation.
I regularly change my exercise and repetition schedules. Thus, I break the barriers to progress.
I usually alternate two exercises that work different areas of the same muscle, without resting between sets.
Rowing is ideal for creating density through the development of the mid-back, rhomboid muscles and the mid-trapezius.
Nutrition for a V-shaped back
I need a lot of protein (hint: you do too) and complex carbohydrates. I once tried a high-protein, low-carb diet—useful for many bodybuilders with slow metabolisms—but I lost size and definition. My current diet consists of about 2 grams of carbohydrates for every one gram of protein.
I tend to eat the same during my volume period as I do when I define myself for the summer. You should never be overweight.
I start restricting my diet when I am 10-12 weeks away from summer (or if I am competing for a show), dropping up to 2000 calories a day.
Also, I make four protein and carbohydrate meals and two carbohydrate-only meals. In total, that’s 210 grams of protein, 400 grams of carbohydrates, and 15 grams of fat per day.
Finally, I try to lose everything I have left two weeks before the either the competition or the summer.
Exercises to have a V-shaped back
What exercises did I have to do to get a broad back? My back structure has always been small. I had to work very hard to get the width. Now, I train the upper back in the mornings and the lower back in the afternoons, including the trapeziums in my shoulder routine.
The two main types of wide-back exercises are pulling or dominating (virtually the same movements), and rowing. Pullups and pulldowns primarily develop the back by focusing on the broad back muscles’ outer areas.
If you don’t have time, you can do the entire back routine in one session. Here are the best exercises for a broad, dense back routine.
Wide grip lack lat pulldowns
With a wide grip, I pull the bar until it touches the base of my head. It enlarges the outer part of the lats.
Close-grip lat pulldowns
Sometimes, I do these in a superset with the previous exercise.
- I use a narrow grip, bring my elbows down and back, and I lean back slightly.
- I pull the handles until they touch the bottom of the ribcage.
- This exercise works the teres muscles, providing more amplitude.
Seated cable rows
- In the rowing machine, I keep my chest leaning against the support.
- I pull my elbows back.
- This exercise adds density to the back in the side views.
Prone bench row
- You have to do this exercise upside down on a high bench.
- I pull the dumbbells that I have on the sides.
- Then, I lower them slowly.
- I usually do it with my palms facing me, and my elbows close to my body.
Sometimes, I do it in supersets with a lat exercise, which works to relieve the upper back.
- I use a medium-wide grip.
- I keep my body parallel to the ground (without using inertia).
- Finally, I carry my arms slightly bent backward until the bar touches my body.
Sometimes I work my posterior deltoid together with the back.
- Lie down on an inclined bench.
- Carry my arms up and back.
- They must be kept slightly bent.
One-arm pulley rows
- Bending the body forward, I grab the pulley handle with my left hand.
- I let that arm stretch out, and then pull until it touches the body with the handle.
- You have to bring your elbow as far back as possible.
- Change hands and do the same.
- With a bar behind my shoulders, I bend at waist level while keeping my knees stiff.
- When I am parallel with the floor, I return to the initial position.
- You always have to use moderate weights, and work on back erector muscles, buttocks, and femoral biceps.
Stiff legs deadlift
- Standing on a bench or platform.
- Keep your knees rigid and use a medium grip.
- Get up, feeling the buttocks and femur stretch.
- Instead of reaching up, I stop the bar just above the knees to maintain continuous tension.
Workout routine for a wide back
I have to remind you of what I said regarding training frequency. I always advise you to train your back once a week, if you do a challenging, comprehensive workout like this.
|Wide grip lat pulldowns||3×10-12 reps.|
|Closed grip lat pulldowns||3×10-12 reps.|
|Seated rows||3×10 reps.|
|Barbell rows||3×8-10 reps.|
|Stiff legs deadlifts.||3×10 reps.|
|Reverse flies||3×15 reps.|
If you want to train more frequently, never work out the back like this less than three days after the last training.
Remember that it is necessary to give your back muscles the nutrients needed to develop and reach full potential, but rest is also ESSENTIAL to grow.
If you want to have a wide, V-shaped back, the exercises should vary in priority–the dominated ones and the pulls or oars–depending on your goals and weak points.
If your main goal is a wider back, start with push-ups and pull-ups with a wide grip, if your priority is volume, do the paddles first.