If you want a wide back, the main muscles to target are the latissimi dorsi. Commonly known as the lats, these are the large, wide muscles in your back that give you the coveted V shape. While genetics certainly play a role in the shape of your back, certain exercises are best for working your lats. Hand placement, technique and proper form are also crucial in developing your lats to their maximum potential.
The wide-grip lat pulldown is one of the five best exercises you can do to target your lats. Grab the bar of the lat-pulldown machine with your hands wide and your palms facing down. Sit down, keep your back straight and lean back slightly at the hips. Pull the bar down toward your collarbone as your elbows come behind you. Allow the bar to slowly return to starting position with your shoulder blades moving naturally if you have no injuries.
Barbell Bent-Over Row
To do the barbell bent-over row, stand with your feet about shoulder width and grasp a barbell with both hands slightly wider than your knees. Tighten your stomach muscles and bend over at the hip while keeping your spine straight. Pull the barbell into your abdomen at the top of you rib cage. Lower the barbell slowly to the starting position. This is an advanced exercise and should not be done by beginners.
Add Some Pullups
Pullups really target the lats when you do them properly. Get a firm grip on the bar with your palms facing down and your hands out wide. When you perform a pullup, your wrists should be in line with your forearms. Pull your body up to chin level keeping your body straight. Slowly lower to the starting position. Some gyms have pullup machines, or you can use a weight belt with plates attached to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
The inverted row topped the list for activation of the lats in a 2009 study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research." To perform this exercise, lie on your back underneath the bar of a squat rack or smith machine with the bar set within reach of your fully extended arms. Grip the bar with your hands wide and your palms facing down, and wrap your thumbs all the way around the bar. Pull your upper body up toward the bar until it touches your chest and then slowly lower your body.
One-Arm Cable Row
To do this exercise, sit down and place your feet on the foot pad. Grasp the single handle with your palm facing inward. Keeping your back straight and your chin level, bend your elbow to pull the handle in and alongside your rib cage. Keep your arm close to your body and pull the handle as far back as possible without twisting your torso. Slowly return to the starting position.
Tips and Considerations
For all of the exercises, perform at least three sets and vary the reps from five to 10 to 15. Choose a weight for each set that makes the last rep difficult to complete.
Warm up by doing each exercise with lighter weights and 15 to 20 reps. Perform stretches during your workout session rather than before. Also, stretch after your workout as you allow your body to cool down. Always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.