Written by Jack Boardman
Building a Broad Back
It is normal for weightlifters, bodybuilders – or any gym goer – to be more conscious of what they can see in the mirror than what’s behind them. As you develop you’ll begin to look at muscles you may have been neglecting. Posture and all over strength are other reasons for looking behind you and considering what you can work on.
This article is for you if you’ve made that step and are looking for back gains. Your back makes up the larger percentage of muscle mass. Arguably, working your back will have a bigger effect upon symmetry than your chest and front.
For building a broader back, you should focus on your traps, shoulders and lats. These muscle groups are key to achieving the V-shape to your torso. When you combine developing your back with ab work and keep your body fat low, the results will be amazing.
The trapezius muscles or ‘traps’ are located on the top half of your back. These are developed by elevating your shoulders with shrugs and upright rows. The middle part can be worked by pulling together your shoulder blades – think reverse fly and cable work.
Work on the following, opting for a higher rate and mid-range reps (8-12):
✓ Dumbbell shrug
✓ Upright cable row
✓ Barbell row
To build bigger shoulders keep it simple- stick to compound movements and heavy lifting. To do this, focus on lifting heavy weights, aiming for at least 80 percent of your one rep max. Barbell and dumbbell pressing is the most effective way to build your shoulders. Although focusing on the anterior head of the deltoid, pressing also involves the other two. This allows you to push heavy weight without risking injury.
Go for fewer reps and a higher weight for the presses. (3-5 reps.) For the cable work, use a moderate weight for 8-12 reps:
✓ Machine Shoulder (Military) Press
✓ Arnold Dumbbell Press
✓ Dumbbell Shoulder Press
✓ Upright Barbell Row
✓ Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
✓ Side Lateral Raise
✓ Standing Front Barbell Raise Over Head
✓ Front Cable Raise
✓ Reverse Machine Fly
The lats – or latissimus dorsi – are the broadest muscles on your back. Their shape sort of resemble folded wings. When your lats are well developed you can see them from the front, bulging out from behind and below your armpits. If you’re a mass muscle builder, working on your lats is essential in crafting a ripped back and V-shape. Lats exercises make for the foundation for a stronger back and core. You will benefit from this in other areas of lifting.
Their job is to adduct (move a body part towards the midline of the body, or towards another body part), extend and internally rotate the arm. The latissimus dorsi supports various different movements of the shoulder. It pulls the humerus towards the torso (adduction) and behind your back (retroversion).
These exercises will crossover with other back workouts. Consider muscle exhaustion and what you have already worked before making your choices. If this is the sole focus of a workout session, work to 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps of the rows at a heavy weight. With a higher number of reps (8-12) at a moderate weight for the cable work.
✓ Seated rows
✓ Bent-over rows
✓ Elevated cable rows
✓ Supinated pulldown
✓ Wide-grip pulldowns behind the neck
✓ One-arm cable row
✓ Inclined cable pushdown