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When it comes to training to build a wide back vs. a big chest, the latter is trained significantly more by the average male lifter.
The standard mindset for most men is to only train what they see in the mirror which equates to chest, biceps, and abs.
That mindset is all fake hustle because this is how that same man begins his transformation into a pure meathead.
That limiting mindset is also what puts the brakes on what a trainee can do as far as physique and performance improvement are concerned.
While pecs, biceps, and abs are important, they are vastly overtrained at the expense of training the back and the lower body.
When you train in a fashion that does not promote balance or symmetry, you can only build an incomplete physique.
You’ve seen the classic commercial gym lifter bro who looks as if he’s never missed a chest or biceps workout.
But it’s also painfully obvious he hasn’t trained his back since Nas dropped the forever-classic Illmatic 22 years ago.
This is very common amongst the run of the mill lifters of the world but the games have to stop fellas. There is more to the physique game than just pecs and biceps.
If you want to build a complete physique you cannot avoid training your back.
Training and building your back is very hard work, but nothing worthwhile in life comes easy as success requires struggle.
It’s the development of your back that will allow you to have a superhero-like upper body.
When training your back we break it up into two parts: training for thickness or training for width.
When it comes to knowing how to build a wide back, you must put a focus on training your lats.
The lats are a hallmark muscle for a man. When you combine big lats and a tight midsection, you’ll have an upper body with a great V-Taper.
You may even be mistaken for a cobra or a kite at some point during the day.
To build a wide back there are two key movements you have to begin to focus on in your training. They are:
This should be a no-brainer but I still witnessed many empty pull-up bars when I trained at commercial gyms.
If pull-ups are not a part of your training program, then you’re not truly training.
Early in my training career I didn’t prioritize pull-ups and it showed as I possessed a back that had zero width.
I used to perform pull-ups as an inconsistent add-on at the end of a training session vs. prioritizing pull-ups as the main movement.
The result was obvious when I showed up at my first bodybuilding show with the infamous air lats.
There are two other main variations of the pull-up which are the chin-up and the neutral grip pull-up.
Chin-ups use a supinated grip (underhand) and the neutral grip pull-ups uses a palms-facing each other grip.
All 3 variations used consistently and progressively will allow you to build a wide back.
Pull-ups hit the lats hard when done correctly with proper form. To execute a proper rep you will:
• Grab the pull-up bar and tense your arms, back, and abdominals.
• As you begin to pull yourself up, tuck your elbows into your body to maximize your lat involvement.
• You must clear the bar with your chin for the rep to count as weak half reps have no value.
• Lower yourself down until your arms are fully stretched out, but not hyper-extended before you attempt your next rep.
That full stretch at the bottom really gets the lats involved. Those alligator arm reps you see in an ordinary commercial gym do not count.
Your goal should be to get stronger by eventually performing weighted pull-ups and also performing them through a variety of rep ranges and training programs.
The bottom line is that you need to toil away on that pull-up bar.
The man who spends his time at the pull-up bar will see drastically better results than the man who does a couple pulldown machines and leaves the gym after taking his “beastmode” selfies.
You cannot fake hard work and pull-ups are hard.
If you want to build a wide back then pull-ups must become your new best friend.
Pullovers are a forgotten movement from the good old days of bodybuilding.
They were frequently used in the Golden Era because of their effectiveness in building the lats and for some lifters the chest.
You didn’t see many bodybuilders from that era without big lats.
As time went on, the Nautilus pullover machine was created and popularized by Arthur Jones.
If you look around at most commercial gyms, it is mainly used as a coat hanger or a knockoff abdominal machine.
The machine pullover is good because it locks you into a lat building position.
I have used both the machine pullover and the EZ bar/dumbbell versions at different points in my lifting career. The results from the bars and the dumbbells were superior.
With the dumbbell pullover, you are laying horizontally across a bench with a dumbbell in your hands.
You will use both hands to elevate that dumbbell over your face and into the air. Don’t drop it because when iron meets face, iron always wins.
From the top you then stretch that dumbbell back towards the floor as far as you can go. Lifters with longer arms may be able to kiss the floor with the dumbbell.
As the dumbbell is descending towards the floor you should also sink your hips a bit.
I learned about the hip sink from the great Robby Robinson and the stretch you get in the lats is intensified to the max.
When you bring the dumbbell back up you will raise your hips back up and initiate the pull with your elbows.
By drawing the dumbbell back to the top by pulling with your elbows, you will ensure that your lats are taking the brunt of the movement.
I like to bring the dumbbell up to the top of my forehead before instantly going back down. This allows me to keep constant tension on my lats.
Don’t let your arms do all the work or you will minimize the involvement of your lats.
If you haven’t performed pullovers since brothers were saying “solid”, you can expect to feel some soreness in your triceps due to the nature of the move.
The EZ curl bar version is very similar except you have the option of laying flat on the bench as if you were going to perform a dumbbell bench press.
While holding the bar close to you, you tuck your elbows in as much as you can before stretching back as far as you can into that deep stretch. Return the bar to the chest and then repeat.
To get the most out of the EZ curl bar version, you will want to contract the lats hard at the top of the movement.
How To Build A Wide Back Training Program
Below there will be an example 6-week training program you can use to start the process of building a wide back.
You are going to use my RP-21 Training System to add that width to your back.
You are going to use supersets for your RP-21 sets, your 6×5 sets, and your 4×8 sets.
In the original RP-21 protocol, we did not use supersets for the 7×3 or the 6×5.
You will rest 45 seconds between the 7×3 supersets and 30-90 seconds between the 6×5 supersets.
You can add a deload week at the end of the first 3 weeks before starting the second 3 weeks.
Weekly Training Split Recommendation
Day 1: Dips & Chins
Dips SS Chin-Ups 7 x 3
Dips SS Chin-Ups 6 x 5
EZ Bar Pullovers SS Weighted Push-Ups 4 x 8
Day 2: Lower Body
Deadlift SS GHR 4 x 3
Barbell Hip Thrusts SS Barbell Reverse Lunges 3 x 5 (10 total lunges)
Standing Calf Raises SS Seated Calf Raises 4 x 8
Day 3: Upper Body
Pull-Ups SS Overhead Press 7 x 3
Dumbbell Rows SS Seated Dumbbell Press 6 x 5
Dumbbell Pullovers SS Lateral Raises 4 x 8
Day 4: Lower Body
Heels Elevated Barbell Squat SS GHR 4 x 3
Walking Dumbbell Lunges SS Sissy Squats 3 x 10
Seated Calf Raises SS Standing Calf Raises 4 x 8
Day 5: Upper Body
Incline Barbell Bench Press SS T-Bar Rows 5 x 10
Decline Dumbbell Tight Press SS Neutral Grip Pull-Ups 3 x 8
Seated Lateral Raises SS Seated Rear Delt Flyes 3 x 10
No program is complete without proper conditioning.
We are not talking about wasting time in the “cardio” section. I’m not talking about high volume running and definitely not jogging for a few lame laps.
I’m talking about doing some real work that could be over in less than 10 minutes in some cases.
This is the type of work that will sometimes make you reconsider why you are working out but this a good thing.
When you realize after 1 set that your conditioning for the day is a bad idea, then you are in the right place.
Real conditioning does not take long as you do not need to be doing conditioning for hours.
Aim to hit it and quit it in less than 10-15 minutes. True conditioning will never be an all-night affair.
Your best option is sprinting, but pushing the Prowler or even The Punisher Workout will work as well.
Remember, the appearance of your physique is an illusion.
While this program will allow you to build a wide back, you can make your back appear even wider if you have a smaller and tighter waist.
That is where a great nutrition plan and the tough conditioning workouts come into play.
Having a Peter Griffin waistline will not allow your back width to be at maximum potential so you cannot skimp on your nutrition or conditioning.
This 6 weeks is just the start of you building a wide back as you have to give consistent, quality effort over time in order to attain your goal.
You probably have noticed that there is no traditional direct biceps or triceps work like curls or skullcrushers.
Direct arm work is great, but in this program our goal is building a wide back.
With the amount of pulling and pressing in this program you will be able to sustain or even improve your arm size.
You will not have arms like Olive Oil when these 6 weeks is over just because there are no curls and skullcrushers.
I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer