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Written By Carmen Grange MINDANDMUSCLE.COM



     There are a ton of workouts for a wide back and most of those workouts have variations to help you better target the specific muscle you are trying to work.  Before you begin working out your back, though, you should know which muscles are worked by which exercises.  Really, you just have to know the basics.  Some exercises better work your inner back muscles (erector spinae group), while others target the larger, outer muscle (latissimus dorsi).

     Building a wide back is accomplished by working the latissimus dorsi (aka lats).  Your lats are naturally the widest part of your back, therefore, making your back wider is accomplished by working this muscle.  Here are some tips to making your back wide:


  1. USE A WIDE GRIP: When utilizing a cable, plate or any standard gym machine there are typically various ways to manipulate the equipment.  With cables, you can connect different types of handles to help you better target the desired muscle.  The same is true for other types of gym equipment.  Often times, low row and high row machines will have different hand grips to give you the option of which part of the back you want to work.  Likewise, when using barbells you have the option to grip the bar with your hand’s closer together or further apart.  In all of these instances, using a wide grip tool or simply placing your hands further apart will make your back wider as you continue to workout.
  2. PROPER FORM: There is no shame in doing some research on how you are supposed to accurately execute a lift.  While not worrying about form helps you lift heavier weight, and subsequently may help you increase muscular size if done on a regular basis, maintaining the proper forms will be more beneficial as it (a) reduces your risk of injury, and (b) allows you to work the specified muscle without the assistance of some other muscle group, which will ultimately work that muscle instead.
  3. SWITCH IT UP: Include lighter workloads with an isometric pause at the end of the concentric loading phase allows you to build the muscle being worked without moving.  The benefit in isometric exercises lies in their ability to stress the muscle without the deload phase of the movement.  While the eccentric phase of a muscular contraction is arguably the most beneficial phase (in comparison to the concentric phase), as it is where the weight is being restored to its normal position and if done correctly, you will not allow the weight to simply fall and pull you but you will continue to control the weight back to its starting position, it is often not treated in the manner intended, rather it is taken a bit for granted.  Using the isometric pause forces you to maintain control of the weight for longer than the concentric phase of the movement and is also used as a bridge to control the weight through the eccentric phase of the workout.  
  4. SUPERSETS/COMPOUND SETS: Incorporate supersets and compound sets in your workouts.  Supersets (often confused with compound sets) are sets that incorporate two different exercises back to back with no rest in between.  One of the exercises is a “push” exercise, while the other is a “pull” exercise.  A good example of a superset would be first executing a bicep curl immediately followed by a tricep push down.  Compound sets are similar to supersets in that they incorporate two different exercise back to back with no rest in between, however, the exercises are either both “pull” or both “push” exercises.  A good example of a compound set for wide lats would be wide grip lat pull down immediately followed by wide grip seated row.  Both of these exercises are “pull” in nature and they work the same muscle.  
  5. BURNOUT SETS: Burnout sets emphasize training both aerobically and anaerobically which will ultimately enhance muscular growth.  Too often, those attempting to gain muscle only focus on the anaerobic aspect of training: that is, they lift heavy weight for low to moderate reps.  While this style of training is where muscle hypertrophy gains originate, it does have its limits.  Incorporating burnout sets into your workout not only works off of the anaerobic training but more importantly, it targets those aerobic muscle fibers that most lifters only target while they do cardio.  Training aerobically ultimately provides more oxygen to your muscles, allowing you to do more work for longer periods of time.  Basically, you’re using a lighter weight for more reps.  When you incorporate burnout sets into your workout your intention is to completely destroy a muscle that is already fatigued from that day’s workouts.  There are a few ways to accomplish burnout sets: (1) following a few heavy working sets of an exercise at 85-90% of your 1RM, drop the weight to about 60% of your 1RM and rep that weight for 15-20 reps or until failure, (2) end with a drop set: similar to the first technique described, drop sets will end in failure.  The difference is that instead of lowering the weight to 60% of 1RM, gradually lower the weight and continuously rep out the exercise until failure, and (3) alternate working limbs for many sets, with moderate reps without any rest period (e.g. if your last exercise is dumbbell rows, try rowing one arm at a time for 10-12 reps, with 5-7 sets without any rest).

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