A well-defined, wide back isn’t just a strength symbol. It also demonstrates confidence and authority. If you are striving for a commanding presence or are willing to conquer new fitness heights, a broader back is your ticket to success.
Picture yourself walking into a room with an air of undeniable charisma, turning heads effortlessly as your sculpted back commands attention from all angles. It is a transformation that will reshape your physique and your entire presence.
Whether you are an aspiring bodybuilder or a fitness enthusiast seeking a well-defined upper body, building a wide back requires a proper plan encompassing diet, discipline, and wide-back exercises. If you want to learn how to get a wide back quickly, we have you covered!
What Muscle Gives Back Width?
Before learning how to get a wide back, it is important to understand the anatomy of the back. Our back is composed of many muscles, owing to its large surface area. When talking about enlarging one’s back, one particular muscle group requires ultimate attention. That is the lats or latissimus dorsi. Lats are a large fan-shaped muscle that spans from the lower back, wraps around the side of the torso, and attaches to the upper arm (4).
They are also called wings in the fitness world since they resemble wingsuits. In addition to lats, side delts are equally important in building a powerful back. You should also recognize that a small waist can help enhance t that V-shaped figure.
Besides lats, our back also comprises:
- Intrinsic Muscles: Muscles responsible for movements of the spine such as flexion as well as maintaining posture. These are also involved when you bend sideways or rotate.
- Superficial Muscles: The primary muscles responsible for large movements of the back, as well as shoulder and neck movement.
These muscle groups have several muscles that must be engaged to build a wide back.
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Can You Make Your Back Wider?
Your struggle to get the wide back ends here. Below, we have listed all the tips you need to get that impressive v-shaped expanse. Dive in!
Exercise your Lats
Your lats are one of your most important back muscles as they help improve posture, extend shoulders, and give your back a defined look. Many gym goers do not get a wide back because they fail to exercise their lats properly.
There is also the issue of not feeling the lats during workouts. Doing exercises like the straight arm pulldown to engage your lats is often advised. An effective method to help feel your lats more is to squeeze and contract your lats at the end of every rep.
You can also consult with your fitness trainer, who could guide you to perform the upper lat workout correctly.
Use a Medium Grip
Many bodybuilders lift with a wide grip, thinking it would drastically increase their muscle mass. However, a medium-width grip has shown a small mechanical advantage, which will allow you to lift heavier loads and, in turn, increase muscle mass and enhance lat growth (6).
Proper form, gradual progression, and listening to your body are crucial to prevent injuries. The optimal grip width may vary from person to person. Work with a fitness professional or trainer to determine the best grip width for your goals and physical condition.
Follow Progressive Overload
Our muscles get used to weights fast. That said, it may be helpful to increase the weights to build back muscles gradually.
Try to Burn Belly Fat
You may want to lose belly fat to get a well-defined upper body. This means saying hello to a sleeker waistline that steals the show. While spot reduction may be a myth, the journey to a trimmer midsection is about embracing the consistency of the cardio hustle, an adequate nutrition intake, and an appropriate strength training program.
Pull-ups are often stated as the most effective lat activation exercise than rows or pull-downs (11). Try to do more pull-ups to build a bigger back effectively.
Do Pronated Grips
Doing pronated grips or gripping the bar with your palms away from you during pull-ups may activate lats much more effectively than supinated grips or palms towards the bar (10).
Now that you have learned the basics, learning about the best exercises for a wide back is important to help you reach your goal of a wider back (4).
Straight Arm Pulldown
Straight arm pulldown is the most common wide back workout. It primarily targets the lats and may help build upper body strength (7). To perform straight arm pulldown:
- Attach a straight bar to the high pulley of the cable machine.
- Stand with your face towards the machine. Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart while doing a pronated grip.
- Keep your feet at a shoulder-width distance, then bend your knees slightly to maintain stability. Your back should bend at a 45-degree angle.
- While holding the bar, extend your arms fully in front of you. Your arms should be straight but not locked out at the elbows.
- Start the movement by engaging your lats and pulling the bar toward your thighs.
- Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together and feel the tension in your lats as you pull the bar down.
- Continue pulling the bar down until your hands are near your thighs and your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Pause and contract your lats at the bottom of the movement for a brief moment to maximize muscle engagement.
- Slowly release the tension and allow the bar to rise to the starting position.
- Perform the exercise for 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps.
To make the most of this exercise, maintain a slight bend in your elbows to prevent locking them out and putting excessive stress on your joints. It would help if you used your lats to initiate and control the movement rather than relying on momentum.
Pull-ups are considered an ideal exercise for a wider back. To perform pull-ups, you have to:
- Stand under a pull-up bar. Reach up and grab the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Extend your hands fully and wrap your thumb around the bar.
- Hang from the bar with your arms extended and your feet off the ground. Engage your core muscles by pulling your shoulder blades down and back.
- Initiate the pull by engaging your back muscles.
- Pull your body upward by driving your elbows down and back. Focus on bringing your chest toward the bar.
- Continue pulling until your chin is above the bar. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower your body back down to the starting position with control.
- Perform the exercise for 1-2 sets of 5-10 reps.
The pulldown exercise is done at a special place where you can make it harder or easier, usually using weight plates. It helps make your back muscles stronger. Follow these steps to perform a lat pulldown:
- Hold the bar with your hands wide apart and your palms facing up. Start with this grip.
- Pull the bar down until it is around the level of your chin. Breathe out as you pull down. Try to keep your upper body still, but it is okay to lean back a little.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground and tighten your stomach muscles while you pull. When your elbows can’t go down any further without moving back, stop there. Don’t go lower than that point.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together while keeping your shoulders straight.
- When the bar is close to your chin, slowly lift it back up to where you started. Control the movement and don’t let the bar drop.
- Do this motion 8 to 12 times a row, then take a break. You can do a few sets of these.
As an alternative, use a neutral grip pulldown. To perform this, you have to:
- Sit on the lat pulldown machine. Attach a neutral grip handle to the pulldown cable.
- Reach up and grip the handle with both hands using a neutral grip.
- Sit straight, keep your feet flat on the floor, and place your knees under the thigh pad.
- Take a deep breath and engage your lats. Pull the handle toward your upper chest, driving your elbows down and back.
- Try to squeeze your back muscles and bring your shoulder blades together as you pull. Your upper arms should be close to parallel with the ground at the bottom of the movement.
- Slowly extend your arms to return the handle to the starting position while stretching your back muscles.
Kroc row was initially introduced by powerlifter Matt Kroczaleski (Kroc). If you are tired of the typical pull-downs, you could integrate Kroc row in your 3-Day Dumbbell Workout. It is a complicated and intense version of the traditional bent-over rows.
To perform the kroc row, you should:
- Hold a weight in one hand and lean forward, resting your other arm on something sturdy. Your feet should be apart, and you can stand with one foot in front of the other. You could also do this exercise with one knee and hand on a bench.
- Tighten your stomach muscles, keep your back straight, and your shoulders down. Look forward.
- Start the exercise by using your hips a little to help lift the weight. Pull the weight up toward your hip while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly lower the weight, straightening your arm and letting your shoulders relax.
- Do this movement several times according to your stamina.
How Can I Make My Back Thick and Wide?
A wide back and a thick back are both desirable for muscular development, but they refer to slightly different aspects of anatomy and muscle growth. Knowing all about wide back vs thick back can help you to curate a fruitful workout regime.
Here are some of the best back exercises to help you burn fat, not muscles:
Seated Cable Row
To perform seated cable row, you should (2):
- Put the right amount of weight on the machine and attach a short bar or V-shaped bar to it. Hold onto the bar with your palms facing each other.
- Your legs should bend a little, and your back should be straight. Lift the weight a bit off the stack while sitting up straight with your shoulders pulled back. This is how you start.
- Without moving your body, pull the bar towards your stomach. Move your shoulder blades back, squeeze them, stop for a moment, and then slowly put the weight back down where you started. Do this again for the number of times you want.
- You can also perform bent-over row as it targets your sides and back muscles. To perform this:
- Hold a weight in front of you. Bend over slightly with your back straight.
- Pull the weight towards your hip while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Lower the weight back down and repeat.
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Why is My Back Not Getting Wider?
Several factors could contribute to your back not getting wider despite your efforts. It is important to analyze various aspects of your training, nutrition, and overall approach to determine potential reasons for your lack of progress. If back width exercises for bodybuilding is your focus, you may be making the following mistakes:
The biggest obstacle in performing any exercise is your body form. You may be doing more harm than good if you are not performing exercises with adequate technique (1).
Considering that you are mostly pulling in back exercises, it becomes difficult to maintain your form by the end of the exercise. You may overcome this issue by reducing weight and concentrating on your body movements.
Imbalance or Weakness
Sometimes, if your shoulders or chest muscles are not strong enough or are uneven compared to your back muscles, it can make your back look different. To make your back look its best, working on all your muscles evenly is important.
Not Using Straps
If you are a beginner or are new to back workouts, you could consider using straps when performing bent-over rows, shrugs, or deadlifts. Since straps can provide support for your forearms, you will find it much easier to perform heavy reps by the end of your deadlifts. If you skip out on straps, your wrist and forearm might fatigue easlier out and prevent you from fully exercising your back.
The Bottom Line
Building a wide back is the goal of most fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders.
This article has emphasized the importance of a comprehensive approach and sheds some light on targeted exercises. It begins by highlighting the significance of compound exercises such as pull-ups, rows, and lat pulldowns. These movements engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, contributing to overall back width and strength.
This article also recommends varying grips and angles to target different areas of the back effectively. It is essential to start slow and study your back’s anatomy before beginning any exercise. Always consult your physician before starting any heavy-duty exercise, especially if you suffer from any medical condition or injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you get a wide V-shaped back?
Back exercises like straight arm pulldowns or rowing can help you build a wide V-shaped back. It is also crucial to lose belly fat to get a small toned chest that accentuates the overall look of the back.
Is it hard to get a big back?
While getting a massive back is the dream of many gym-goers, building a wide back can be difficult since it comprises several muscle groups. With that said, getting a large back will be a challenge but it’s not an impossible feat. Doing adequate back workouts consistently can eventually help you to get a V-shaped back.
What is the hardest muscle to grow?
The hardest muscles to grow are those in calves. These muscles are in the lower leg and are responsible for ankle flexion and stability.
Several factors can contribute to the difficulty in building the calf muscles. These include genetics, limited motion range, fiber composition, and lack of variety. You should learn about these factors to develop and grow these muscles to help you to curate an effective workout routine.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Barriers to Physical Activity (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- 5 Best Exercises for Wider Back (2023, totalshape.com)
- 6 Reasons Your Back Won’t Grow (2023, bonvecstrength.com)
- 6 Secrets To Get A Wide Back (Exercises & Workout) (2022, liftbigeatbig.com)
- Differential effects of attentional focus strategies during long-term resistance training (2018, tandfonline.com)
- Effects of Grip Width on Muscle Strength and Activation in the Lat Pull-Down (n.d., journals.lww.com)
- Everything You Need to Know About Lats on the Body (n.d., naomedical.com)
- Latissimus Dorsi Muscle (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- The Big Reasons Your Back Isn’t Growing (2021, bodybuilding.com)
- The Effect of Grip Width and Hand Orientation on Muscle Activity During Pull-ups and the Lat Pull-down (n.d., journals.lww.com)
- What Is the Best Back Exercise? (2018, acefitness.org)