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Bigger and Badder
Grip it and Rip it
I cringe a bit when people say they have a width day and a thickness day for back. I get what they mean. It’s common to hear, but it’s not really that simple. You can’t separate the back muscles like that. The lats, traps, etc. all work together and share the load in almost every back exercise.
To grow huge lats, traps, and overall back development, you need to do several things regarding grips and planes of motion.
Train the lats through the deep stretch. This would be done with a neutral or underhand grip, shoulder width or less. That would let you hit the true stretch of the lat and engage it out of that position for the longest range of motion possible. My favourites are the Hammer Strength reverse grip pull-down machine, done with one or two arms at a time, and lat pull-downs done with a neutral-grip bar around 12 to 15 inches long or a triangle bar. Reverse grip pull-downs are fantastic too if they don’t hurt your wrist. Great stretch. For these movements, you should sit up fairly straight and reach into the stretch. Let the back open up, and only lean back enough to get the bar down to your lower chest, really driving the elbows down and back. Get that handle down and feel the lats bite.
Free bent-over movements. These movements are key to overloading the back muscles with pure load. Bent barbell rows, one-arm dumbbell rows, T-bar rows, cable rows—you get the idea. The grip can vary on the barbell/cable rows, but is usually best at shoulder width … again, to get a better stretch through the upper back and lats at the bottom of the rep. You don’t get a true stretch of the lats on most of these, but you can get a great stretch of the inner back on every rep. The thing with these exercises is that they will thicken up all the supporting muscle underneath what we see. All the muscles around the spine and ribs, will all thicken up through supporting us on these exercises. That will push our lats, traps, etc. out more and add depth to the back. That’s why you’ve got to do these hard exercises. Obviously, deadlifts and rack pulls count in this category too, but they require a whole other article to cover.
Elbows out shoulder-width. The best exercise for this is the lying T-bar, or they can be done on the seated cable row. I pull the handle high to chest level, with my elbows out and back. Even though my entire back contracts heavily, I feel it most specifically in my inner and upper back.
Pull to the hip. Even though you should row to the hip in most cases anyways, there are certain exercises that I find especially good for really feeling a crazy contraction in my lower lats. That’s a very important thing for most bodybuilders and something we can never have enough of. I like one-arm cable rows, one-arm pull-downs, and Hammer Strength DY Rows. Not only can you get a great feeling by concentrating on only one side at a time, but you can also “lean into” each rep, like you’re crunching down on the lat when it is fully contracted.
Try a workout where you make sure you work on all these factors. See how much blood you can force into the back by focusing on what is most important.
For more tips and tricks on getting huge and lean from Mutant athlete Ron Partlow, click here!