Wingspan Workouts - Mind And Muscle

guy doing pushups
Wingspan Workouts
by: James Chan, NSCA-CPT

I’ve always loved flexing my lats. Sure, other muscles are fun to pump up too, but no other pumped-up muscle can make you look instantly bigger than a pumped-up back. Gym rats who don’t know any better constantly focus on the chest and the bench press for upper body size and strength. But a thick, wide, and strong back is the definition of brawn. To help widen your latissimus dorsi, I’ll provide you with four of the best shock techniques that I know to develop back width. These techniques are insanely difficult and painful, but you will reap tremendous size from them.

Now, whether or not you have the guts to employ these techniques, you should always practice flexing your lats in and out of the gym. Most beginning bodybuilders don’t know how to contract their back muscles. If you can’t flex and harden your lats, then your nervous system is not activating enough fibers in your back to induce growth in that area. So practice your bodybuilding contest poses. Now, without further adieu…

Shock Techniques to Widen Your Back

  1. Trisets 
    I’m a huge advocate for incorporating trisets into a hypertrophy program. Here is one triset that I use for back blasting:

    1. Pull-ups (as many reps as you can do) followed immediately by
    2. Dumbbell pullovers (8-10 reps) followed immediately by
    3. Stiff-arm pulldowns (10-12 reps)
    4. Rest 3-4 minutes
    5. Repeat 2 more times

    Make sure you get a good stretch on the pullovers and flex those lats real hard on the stiff-arm pulldowns. If you’re working out at home, and you don’t have a cable machine, then you can substitute barbell rows for the stiff-arm pulldowns. For these barbell rows, however, you should use an underhand grip on an EZ-curl bar. If you’ve never felt your lats fully flexed, then you will definitely feel it after the above triset. Only advanced bodybuilders should perform this technique. DO NOT even think about attempting this triset until you’ve learned how to perform the exercises properly by themselves.

  2. 10 sets of Pull-ups 
    Performing 10 sets of any exercise is going to induce growth. Before you attempt 10 sets of pull-ups, however, first figure out how many overhand pull-ups you can perform to failure. Divide that number by half: this is the number of reps you should perform for each of the ten sets. So if you can complete only 8 pull-ups, then you should attempt 10 sets of 4 reps. Rest one minute between sets.
    Note: you should know the number of pull-ups you can complete to failure before the day of the 10 set pull-up workout. Don’t do a set of pull-ups to failure at the beginning of the workout to find out. As you’re working your way through the ten sets of pull-ups, you’ll be tempted to perform more reps than you should. If you do, then you’ll pay for it with less than spectacular growth. Every so often, however, figure out the number of pull-ups you can complete to failure and adjust your reps accordingly.
  3. Chin-up/Pull-up Giant Set 
    You should notice by now that I recommend a lot of pull-ups for back width. Here’s a giant set of pull-up variations that will blast every fiber in your back:

    Wide-grip pull-ups (overhand grip) to failure. Rest 10 seconds.
    Medium-grip pull-ups to failure. Rest 10 seconds.
    Medium-grip chin-ups (underhand grip) to failure. Rest 10 seconds.
    Narrow-grip chin-ups to failure.
    Rest 3-4 minutes, then repeat the entire process 2 more times.
  4. Negative Pull-ups 
    Here’s a way to perform negatives on pull-ups without the help of a spotter: place an Olympic barbell on a squat rack just high enough for you to perform pull-ups with your knees bent. Perform as many pull-ups as you can. When you cannot complete anymore pull-ups, stand up and position your body back at the top of the pull-up movement. Fold your legs again and perform a negative rep. Try to complete 3 negative reps at the end of every set of pull-ups.
    There you have it, some of the most brutal techniques you can use to spread your wings.

About the Author

James Chan works full-time as a police officer for the University of California Police Department in San Francisco. James is also an NSCA certified personal trainer, specializing in strength training for law enforcement and physique enhancement for the general population. He may be reached at[email protected]. For more of his insights into strength training and bodybuilding, as well as info on his upcoming book “Strength and Physique, Volume One,” visit his blog

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