Five Best Exercises for a Wide Back

Young teenage man doing weighnt lifting with barbell. View from back.
You need to pick the correct exercises to build a wide back. (Image: Ozimician/iStock/Getty Images)

Use a little bit of anatomy knowledge to pick the best exercises to build a wide back. Gaining muscle isn't going to be easy and you'll have to make the workouts challenging by using intense exercises. The best exercises involve using heavier weights to stimulate your muscles to grow so you get the bigger back girth you're after.

Most Important Back Muscles

The biggest muscles of your back, and therefore the best muscles to train for a wide back, are the latissimus dorsi. These massive muscles are the largest in your upper body. They span from your lower back all the way up into your shoulders. Grow these muscles to make your back appear significantly wider. Other muscles that make your back appear wider are your trapezius and rear deltoid.

Types of Exercises

If you focus on increasing the size of these three key muscles by using various weightlifting exercises you'll grow a much more muscular and wider back. The latissimus dorsi are the most activated when you do an overhead pulling motion, like a pull-up or lat pulldown. The trapezius and rear deltoid are activated more in rowing exercises, but the latissimus dorsi is still used.

Barbell Rows

This exercise activates more back muscles than any other exercise, making it ideal for developing a wide back.

Muscular man showing a barbell row exercise, rear view. Full length studio shot isolated on white.
Barbell rows activate more back muscles than other back exercises. (Image: loco75/iStock/Getty Images)

How To: Hold a barbell with both hands while standing tall. Stick your butt back and lean over, keeping your spine flat, until the barbell is at knee-level. Pull the weight into the top of your stomach using your arms and back. Then, lower the weight back down to your knees.

Pull-Ups

This well-known exercise targets your lats, as well as a few other back muscles. You can also wear a weighted vest or use a weight belt to increase the difficulty of the exercise.

Fit woman athlete performing pull ups in a bar. Winter street outdoor training workout
Pull-ups target the latissimus dorsi, one of the wide-back muscles. (Image: undrey/iStock/Getty Images)

How To: Grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you. Hang with your elbows straight and feet off of the ground. Then, pull yourself up until your chin goes above the bar. Lower yourself back down until your elbows are straight again.

Lat Pulldowns

If you're struggling with pull-ups or chin-ups, this exercise is a more manageable replacement.

How To: Sit down on a lat pulldown machine. Grab the bar attachment with your palms facing towards you. Lean back slightly and pull the bar down to your chest, then let it back up until your elbows are straight.

Lawnmower Row

You'll be able to work each side of your back individually with this exercise.

How To: Place a dumbbell on the floor. Step forward with your right leg and back with your left leg. Lean your right elbow on your right leg. Pick up the dumbbell with your left hand. Pull it into your shoulder and lower it back to the ground. Complete the desired amount of repetitions, then switch sides.

Dumbbell Pullover

Work your lats from a different angle with this large range-of-motion exercise.

How To: Lie down on a bench. Use two hands to grasp the a dumbbell by the weighted head, not the handle. The dumbbell should be above your chest with your elbows straight. Reach the dumbbell back behind your head until your arms are parallel to your torso. Then, raise the dumbbell back up.

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