Jay Cutler, Frank Columbu, Dorian Yates, and Ronnie Coleman. These are some of the most prominent names in the body building world who have presented some of the most impressive back poses in history. What they have in common is that they all display incredible depth and width when it comes to their backs. Now, not all of us are trying to get on stage any time soon, but having a strong balanced physique is something most of us desire. Some of the most basic exercises can go a long way in helping you develop an impressive back that will not only scratch that aesthetic itch but also provide functional strength. We will be talking about the best exercises that will help you build both depth and width for your back.
When it comes to building depth to your back, I want you to gravitate towards horizonal pulling motions. This mean pulling load towards your chest. Rows are the champions when it comes to adding depth to your back. There are many different variations of a row that can be done with barbells, dumbbells, cables and even resistance bands. I recommend utilizing all forms in order to help both build strength and muscle while also adding volume without overtraining. For example, if you workout out full body routines three days a week in the gym, I would program heavier dumbbell or barbell rows for each of those workouts and then on the days between utilize lighter intensity cable or banded rowing motions to increase frequency and promoting increasing recovery and reducing the risk of overtraining.
All your overhead pulling motions will provide width to you back. If you’re like me and have a wide rib cage, it is hard to get the slim waistline that people desire. What can aide in giving the optical illusion of a smaller waste when have rib flare is building a wider back along with wider shoulders. The two best exercise that will give you that width you seek are pull-ups and lat pull-downs. Both movements are similar in their plane of motion that is worked but are very different in where the load is at peak tension. Thus, both provide tremendous value in establishing strength and building muscles at all ends of the strength curve. Both my clients and I enjoy inserting these exercises into workouts that have deadlift in them. Begin with a deadlift and follow up with a lat pull-down or a pull-up, and you will have a killer combo that hits the entire posterior chain (back of the body). You can apply the same off-day tactics when it comes to these movements as well. So, if your goal is to build bigger width to you back, use lighter intensity loads on the same movements to keep the muscle and strength building signal loud.
One thing that a lot of body builders get wrong with building their backs is that few ever lift heavy. These are the reps that you can only get one to five reps at a given weight and need three to five minutes to rest. Now, I am not downplaying these incredible athletes when it comes to their craft. As a trainer, I must look at the whole picture. While looking good is nice and all, having strength that is applicable to the real world, in my opinion, is most important. So, I recommend that you first learn how to properly deadlift, master the skill, and then get strong as all hell at it. There is one thing to know about heavy strength training and building an impressive physique. Building strength doesn’t necessarily mean bigger muscles, but the increase in central nervous system activation does result in creating an environment that your body must adapt to in order to survive. In most cases, this results in muscle growth because bigger muscles fibers contract harder which yields greater strength. So, once you have mastered these exercises as skills, get strong at them to achieve the greatest muscle gains.