post 5 Best Exercises for Wider Back (Chiseled V-Shaped Muscles)

5 Best Exercises for Wider Back (Chiseled V-Shaped Muscles)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 23, 2024
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A wide back doesn’t only make your upper body look good, but it has many benefits for your posture and overall fitness.

However, you need to be quite familiar with the right exercises that target back width, which is why I decided to write this article for my fitness clients and readers.

I’ve trained many natural bodybuilders over the last decade, and based on much trial and error, I’ve listed down the best back training that’ll have your back look wide and strong.

Let’s jump in.

Quick Summary

  • The best exercises for a wider back are those that target your latissimus dorsi (lats), teres major, and teres minor muscles.
  • You can make your back appear wider by focusing on lat hypertrophy and losing fat around the belly.
  • According to research by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, a good night's rest is crucial for proper muscle building and recovery, leading to increased strength.
  • In my professional opinion, the key to a wider back lies in the regular practice of exercises like wide-grip pull-ups, seated cable rows, and straight-arm pulldowns

What Are the Best Exercises for a Wider Back?

A man with a muscular and wider back

The best exercises for a wider back are compound movements (multi-joint exercises) that primarily target your lats.

These include vertical pulling movements exercises like pull-ups and deadlifts and rowing movements like barbell reverse grip width rows.

Compound movements lead to more muscle activation by engaging various muscle groups, which is why they’re more effective in building muscle than isolation movements.

5 Exercises for a Wider and Stronger Back

A man working out for his back

Here are the top five exercises for a wider and stronger back.

1. Wide-Grip Pull-Ups

The wide-grip pull-up is one of the best exercises for your lats and biceps.

In my experience training clients, I've seen significant improvements in back width when incorporating this exercise regularly.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Grip a sturdy pull-up bar with an overhand grip and get into a dead hang (meaning, your arms should be fully extended as you hang off the bar).
  2. Engaging your shoulder blades and core, begin to pull yourself up towards the bar without kipping the legs.
  3. When your chin goes just above the bar, hold the position for a second, and come back down to a dead hang.
  4. Repeat for reps.

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2. Straight-Arm Pulldown

The straight-arm lat pulldown is an excellent exercise for strengthening and building broad shoulders.

Here’s how you do them in perfect form:

  1. Sit under a lat pulldown machine and grab the bar with a wide grip.
  2. Pull the bar towards your chest (it’s okay to lean back a little bit to get the bar down).
  3. When the bar hits your chest, pause for a second, and get back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for reps.

Note: If you find yourself leaning back too much, you’re using too much weight. Lower the weight so you can perform them with better form.

3. Seated Cable Row

Reverse barbell grip rows

The seated cable row is one of the best cable exercises for strengthening your muscle strength and an effective back and biceps workout.

Here’s how you do it with good form:

  1. Sit down on the cable row machine with your feet firm on the footrests.
  2. Bend your knees slightly, keep your back straight, and the handles with an overhand grip at a shoulder-width length.
  3. Pull the handle towards you, keeping your elbows together (don't lean).
  4. Pause, and return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for reps.

Related Article: Best Seated Cable Row Alternatives

4. Deadlifts

While deadlifts work the erector spinae, glutes, and hamstring, it’s also a lat activation exercise.

To achieve this, you need to perform them with an overhand grip and pack the lats before lifting the barbell.

Here’s how to do them for maximum lat development:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a loaded barbell right above the middle of your feet.
  2. Bend your knees and lightly hinge at the hips and grab the bar with a double overhand grip.
  3. Keep your chest up and back straight, and engage your glutes and core.
  4. Before lifting, flex your lats and then pull the barbell up till your legs are straight.
  5. Slowly lower the barbell back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for reps.

Pro tip: Begin with lighter weight until you get down the lat activation to a tee.

5. Barbell Reverse Grip Rows

A buff male doing a seated cable rows

The barbell row is a great exercise for your lats and rhomboids.

Here’s how to do them with perfect form:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold a barbell with a double reverse grip (palms facing away) and hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down, core engaged, and back straight.
  4. Lift the barbell towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body and squeezing your shoulder together.
  5. When you get the barbell to your chest, pause for a moment and then slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for reps.

“The back muscles are the foundation of the body. You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation.”

- Louie Simmons, American Powerlifter

A Guide To a Wider Back

Here are a few friendly tips that will help you get a wider back faster.

1. Work the Right Muscles

The lats, teres major, and teres minor muscles make your back look wide. This is because they make the area under your arms pop out, giving the impression of a larger back.

From my years of coaching, I've found that focusing on these muscles can dramatically change one's upper body silhouette. Some of my clients have transformed their back appearance, enhancing not just their physique but also their confidence and posture.

When you work the lats, you synergistically work the other two muscles as well. Focus on working these muscles in the 8–12 rep range for maximum hypertrophy.

2. Burn Belly Fat

When you burn the fat around your obliques (also called love handles), it reduces the size of your waist. This, in turn, makes your shoulders and lats appear wider than they area, giving the impression of a wider back.

Unfortunately, there’s no natural way to spot-reduce belly fat. Daily cardio and going on a caloric deficit are the only way to achieve this.

3. Pack Your Lats

When doing exercises like deadlifts, barbell rows, or anything that works the mid back, try to engage your lats through the movement. This ensures your lats put in the necessary work, break down and grow during your recovery.

Additionally, focusing on the psychological aspects of training, such as maintaining motivation and overcoming mental barriers, can significantly enhance your back training regimen, leading to better results and a more satisfying workout experience.

Also Read: 11 Best Upper Back Exercises

Safety Precautions

A topless man working out in the gym

Here are some safety precautions to consider before getting into a serious back workout:

  1. Use good form: Using proper form will ensure you’re targeting the right muscles for growth (your lats in this case) and can help prevent injury.
  2. Hydrate: Back cramps can be quite painful. Research published in Science Daily recommends consuming enough water before your lifts to avoid cramping in the middle of heavy lifts [1].
  3. Sleep: Lat workouts are highly demanding and taxing. A good night’s rest can help you to build muscle properly and recover so that you become stronger, as Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise research shows [2].
  4. Recovery supplements: Drinking a high-quality whey protein supplement is an easy and convenient way to replenish your lats after a grueling workout.

I always emphasize these four safety precautions with my clients, and I've noticed that those who pay attention to form not only avoid injuries but also achieve their muscle growth goals faster.

FAQs

How Do You Get a V-Shaped Back?

You get a v-shaped back by increasing the size of your shoulder and lat muscles while losing fat around the obliques. The former is achieved by shoulder and lat-focused hypertrophy; the latter can be achieved through fat loss.

What Makes the Back Thicker?

Working on your traps and rhomboids makes the backer thicker. These muscles run horizontally across your back, and targeting them will increase their size and make your back look thicker.

Does a Wider Back Make You Look Bigger?

Yes, a wider back makes you look bigger. Additionally, wider shoulders also make your back look bigger. Add deltoid exercises like shrugs, lateral raises, and overhead presses to make your shoulders wider.

Do Rows Make Your Back Wider or Thicker?

Rows can make your back both wider and thicker depending on how you perform them. Doing rows with a close grip works your lats, which targets back width. Doing rows with flared elbows targets the muscles in your upper back, which gives you a thicker back.

Get an Eye-Catching V-Taper With a Wider Back

Building a wide back is one of the best ways to create an aesthetic physique because it creates an illusion of a skinny waist, giving you that coveted v-taper. Apart from weight loss, the most effective way to achieve this is through building your lats.

Lat workouts can be extremely taxing, which is why we recommend speeding up your recovery with a high-quality protein powder.

We tested each of them and found that they helped clients with muscle recovery, so check out our list and find one that best suits your fitness goals.


References:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210318101536.htm
  2. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2020/02000/effects_of_sleep_deprivation_on_acute_skeletal.28.aspx
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