A wide, sculpted, V-shaped back is something that most lifters strive for. A monstrous back is not just aesthetically pleasing, it also helps prevent injury and is vitally important to overall strength. In the words of the great Bill Kazmaier, “Strong back equals strong man.”
Plus, there are few things that look goofier than well-developed arms connected to a Richard Simmons-esque back.
The latissimus dorsi, or lats, are the biggest and most powerful muscles of the back. And they are the primary muscles responsible for a wide, v-shaped back. The following lat exercises will help take your back game to the next level.
This old school exercise has been used for generations by some of the biggest, baddest men around. Wide grip pull-ups are one of the best back exercises you can do, and they hit the lats especially hard. Grip the pull-up bar with an extra wide grip and hands pronated (palms facing out). As you do your pull-up, keep your elbows flared out, so you minimize bicep involvement and maximize lat activation.
As you get stronger in this movement, try adding weight with a pull-up belt.
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There are so many different rowing exercises out there, but which variation is best?
I personally like to use the Pendlay row. When done properly it activates the lats more thoroughly than any other rowing movement. Technique is key when doing Pendlay rows, a lot of beginners turn this beautiful back exercise into some kind of bastardized bicep workout.
In a bent over position (knees bent, feet shoulder width apart, and back parallel to the ground) grab the bar around the same grip position as your bench press. Pull the bar off the floor to the upper abs. While doing this you want to keep your knees bent and hip angle locked in. There should be no movement of the hips or knees. Return the bar to the floor, pause, and continue. Make sure to consciously think about using your lats to pull the bar up and then squeezing your scapulae together at the top.
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Straight-Arm Lat Pushdown
Grab the straight bar attachment with both hands, palms facing the floor. Push your hands down in a sweeping arc motion, taking care to really emphasize the lats doing the work.
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V-Bar Sternum Pull-Up
This is inspired by the great Vince Gironda, a pioneer in bodybuilding. This is a brutal variation of the classic pull-up. To perform this exercise get the v-bar attachment and put it over the pull-up bar so that one handle is on each side of the pull-up bar. Hold on to the v-bar and let the body hang. Next perform a pull-up, but instead of getting your chin over the bar you are going to pull yourself up so that the v-bar touches your sternum. This will require you to lean back at the top.
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One-Arm Lat Pulldown
Working one side at a time, or unilaterally, is a great way to increase muscle mass and muscular balance. Set yourself up on the lat pulldown machine with the handle grip attached. Grab the handle with one hand and pull it down to your front delt. Hold in the contracted position for a second and then return to the starting position.