Not only was my back my weakest muscle group for literally 3 years it was lagging behind in terms of size too.
My arms, chest and shoulders were all stacking on size and strength but my back was a different story.
After switching rep ranges, diets and workout regimes I discovered it came down to exercise choice.
My exercise choice of bent over rows and inverted row weren’t cutting it.
After much trial and error I found a handful of exercises that transformed my back!
Having similar issues? Hit the following 4 exercises for back width.
1 – Wide Grip Pull-Ups
Pull-ups are a functional exercise and in my opinion are the best back exercise for upper back mass.
If you can’t perform weighted pull-ups perform bodyweight pull-ups, if you can’t perform body-weight pull-ups perform assisted pull-ups or simply jump up and grab the bar while focusing on the negative portion of each repetition.
The only way to get better at pull-ups is to do them! Don’t skip pull-ups simply because you find them a struggle (I recall repping out sets of weighted dips with a 45lb plate before I could even perform 1 proper form wide grip pull-up, so don’t get discouraged!).
Targets: Back & Biceps
Required: Pull-Up Bar
Optional: Weight Belt
With Arms fully extended and slightly wider than shoulder-width grasp your pull-up bar and assume a dead hang position.
Tilt your head to look slightly upward and maintain a small arch in your back, this will create the slight angle you’ll maintain in your torso for the duration of the set.
Drive your arms down and back, pulling through your lats until your chin clears the bar.
Slowly lower yourself back down to the dead hang starting position.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions with this full range of motion.
2 – Lat Pulldown
The go-to piece of exercise equipment for hotel and home gyms alike, the lat pulldown is a worthy isolation exercise for the back, however I cannot stress that the lat pulldown should not be prioritized or used instead of the pull-up.
Required: Lat Pulldown Machine
Assume a grip on the lat pulldown bar slightly wider than shoulder width with your palms facing away from your torso.
Tilt your torso 30 degrees, this will be the angle your torso maintains for the duration of your set.
Pull your arms down and back, contracting your shoulder blades while maintaining the 30 degree torso tilt, when performed correctly you should feel the stretch coming through your lats as opposed to your arms.
Once the bar reaches your upper chest hold and contract this position for 1 second.
Slowly extend your arms to return the bar to the starting position with arms fully extended.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
3 – Straight Arm Pulldown
The straight arm pulldown is an isolation exercise targeting the lats, not to be confused with various versions of the triceps pushdown.
In order to feel and perform the straight arm pulldown correctly you must start light and learn to pull through the lats as opposed to the arms, watch the video below to see correct form.
Required: Cable Machine + Straight Bar Attachment
With your straight bar attached to the top pulley of your cable machine grip the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip.
Take 3 steps back before bending your torso forward 30 degrees and fully extending your arms (while maintaining a slight bend in the elbow).
Squeeze your lats together while maintaining straight arms to pull the bar down until your arms are next to your upper legs.
Slowly return the bar to the top pulley starting position with straight arms.
4 – One Arm Dumbbell Row
The one arm dumbbell row is a great isolation exercise for the back, and often used as a ‘finisher’, the last exercise performed on your back workout to burn out the muscle (the one arm dumbbell row is often the exercise of choice for this as it’s quick and easy to superset or dropset unlike heavy barbell based exercises).
Required: Dumbbell, Flat Bench
Optional: Wrist Straps
Place one leg on top of your flat bench before bending your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor.
Place the matching arm on the bench for additional support.
With the opposite arm while maintaining a straight back, parallel to the ground pick up your dumbbell with your palm facing toward your torso.
Pull the dumbbell up toward your chest while keeping your arm tucked in tightly against your side. Your shoulder should not jerk around at all nor should your torso change position – only the arm is involved in this pulling movement,
Slowly lower the dumbbell back down until your arm is fully extended, repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching arms.