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.
This exercise activates more back muscles than any other exercise, making it ideal for developing a wide back.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Comparison of Different Rowing Exercises: Trunk Muscle Activation and Lumbar Spine Motion, Load, and Stiffness
- Strength and Conditioning Research: Latissimus Dorsi
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Surface electromyographic activation patterns and elbow joint motion during a pull-up, chin-up, or perfect-pullup™ rotational exercise.