Have you always wanted a back with wings so wide feel you could fly? Do you strive to obtain a V-tapered backside so thick that it pops out of any shirt you wear? In order to achieve the back of your dreams focus must be placed on compound barbell movements using progressive overload techniques.
While the latissimus dorsi is the largest primary muscle group of the back, there are several other secondary groups crucial for building the complete x-frame. These seven compound movements with a barbell will not only significantly develop your lats but also aide in strengthening your rhomboids, serratus, and all areas of the trapezius muscles.
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Quite possibly the single best muscle builder of all-time, this movement will simultaneously engage all parts of your posterior chain. Every single last muscle fiber from the latissimus dorsi down to the rhomboid minor will be targeted with sets of heavy deadlifts.
The setup of the deadlift is the most crucial key necessary for properly executing the lift. Walk up and position your feet mid-bar while grabbing at about a shoulder width distance. While maintaining a tight core bend your knees downward until the bar just about touches your shins. Engage your lats keeping a straight back, lifting your chest, and most importantly keeping a neutral spine. Pull straight upwards until you reach the standing position for the lockout. In addition to working every last bit of muscle tissue on the back you’ll be improving core stability and activating countless secondary muscles throughout your entire posterior chain.
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Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row
Current 5 time reigning Mr. Olympia stated that reverse grip bent-over rows are the single best exercise for achieving a strong, wide back. The uniqueness of this particular movement lies in the fact that it explicitly targets several back muscles compared to other exercises. When properly performed, this exercise will assist in strengthening and thickening the mid portion of your back. Careful stepping on stage because your Christmas tree back will light up the audience.
Begin by standing upright grabbing the bar with a supinated grip slightly beyond shoulder distance. Bend the knees slightly and bring the torso portion of your body forward while maintaining a neutral spine position. The upper body will maintain a stationary position as you focus on moving the barbell upwards contracting the lats and holding for a split second. Concentrate on pulling through the elbows eliminating arm movement as much as possible. Using wrist straps will allow you to pull more weight and prevent grip strength from being a limitation.
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This exercise was a favorite staple for arguably the greatest bodybuilder of all-time Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. In the classic film Pumping Iron Arnie can be seen repping out several plates on his way to a thick meaty backside. The beauty of this movement lies in its simplistic nature. If you want a thicker back the T-bar row is a movement that must be incorporated into your routine.
Grab a barbell and either place it into a landmine station (if available) or position it firmly into a corner. Begin adding the desired number of plates to the outward facing side of the barbell. Stand over the middle of the bar slightly bending the knees and maintaining a neutral spine (the starting position may be similar to the setup for a deadlift). Preferably grab a seated row attachment and place it underneath the bar against the side with the plates. If one is not available you can simply grab the bar itself. Maintain a tight core, neutral spine, and begin rowing the bar upwards to the middle portion of your abdomen. Make sure to retract the scapula prior to beginning the movement and focus on engaging the lats eliminating bicep activation.
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This row variation was popularized by Coach Glenn Pendlay creating a hybrid movement utilizing techniques from both the deadlift and the bent-over row. The Pendlay style is unique in that the weight comes to a complete stop at the end of the movement. By doing so it forces increased lat activation for every rep and set. The byproduct of this movement is increased explosiveness making it a valuable form of assistance exercise improving other main lifts.
The bar begins on the floor similar to a deadlift. Position yourself over the top of the bar so that your back is in a near horizontal position relative to the ground. Maintain a tight upright chest, neutral spine, and drive the elbows back behind the torso at the peak of the movement. Lower the weight towards the ground and let it come to a complete stop on the ground.
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Although this particular movement is not the most common back exercise it does not detract from its overall effectiveness. The unilateral nature of this barbell movement will allow you to focus on isolating each lat muscle independently. In some circles it’s known as the single best exercise for complete muscle growth. The movement has some resemblances to its sister exercise the dumbbell row as it unilaterally activates each side of the back. However, this is where the similarities end.
How to Perform
Begin by positioning the bar in a corner or landmine attachment. Place your hip closest to the bar in a position higher than the other hip. Maintain a neutral spine and focus on driving your elbows back beyond your torso. Some bars may be slightly thicker at the end therefore wrist straps may come in handy as grip strength is not a limiting factor. When executed in the proper fashion, you will see detailed lat development most amateur bodybuilders could only dream of.
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If you are struggling to feel the back muscle contraction then look no further than the chest supported barbell row. Better known as the Chinese row to some individuals, this movement allows for extreme lat activation as the bench will force the rest of the body to maintain a stationary position. Several other secondary muscles will be stimulated including the brachialis, lateral deltoid, posterior deltoid, and even the teres minor.
How to Perform
Begin by placing a flat bench at a heightened level approximately 2-3 feet off the ground. If your gym has boxes available use these to elevate the bench to the appropriate height. Otherwise use 45 pound plates to lift the bench off the ground. Position the bar directly underneath the middle of the bench adding the desired amount of weight to each side. Lie face down on the bench and firmly grip the bar about shoulder width apart. Concentrate on lifting the weight upwards until touching the bottom of the bench. Maintain constant muscle tension while focusing on pulling through the elbows.
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One-Arm Long Bar Row
Bodybuilders worldwide suffer from a common back disease called “uneven lat syndrome” in which one lat is larger than the other. This is due mainly to the fact that most back movements are bilateral. By incorporating unilateral rowing exercises into your workout you will be able to properly work each side individually to create undeniable symmetry.
Place a barbell into a stationary landmine attachment or firmly against a corner in a wall. Add the desired amount of weight to the bar keeping in mind this is a unilateral movement (therefore the weight will be less). Stand next to the bar and firmly grip the bar near the collar. Transition into a bent-over position and slightly bend the knees. Begin pulling the weight upwards holding for a brief second at the top of the movement. Focus on keeping the upper body stationary and not jerking your body around throughout the movement.