When it comes to training back and chest, the latter is trained significantly more by the average meathead.
The standard mindset for most men is to only train what they see in the mirror. The chest. The biceps. The abs.
These muscles receive all the attention when it comes to the average male in the gym. This is how that same man begins his transformation into a pure meathead.
That mindset is also what limits what a trainee can do as far physique and performance improvement.
While pecs, biceps, and abs are important, they are vastly overtrained at the expense of training the back!
When you train in a fashion that does not promote balance or symmetry, you can only build an incomplete physique. And if you think hard about it, you probably know a few trainees who have this look that I’m describing.
You’ve seen the classic meathead who looks as if he’s never missed a chest or biceps workout. But it’s also painfully obvious he hasn’t trained his back since Nas dropped the forever-classic Illmatic 22 years ago!
This is very common among the average, commercial gym trainees but the games have to stop fellas. You’re more than just a set of pecs and biceps. If you want the complete physique you cannot avoid training your back.
Training and building your back is very hard work, but nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. Success requires struggle.
It’s the development of your back that will allow you to have a superhero-like upper body. When you train your back it’s typically broken up into two parts: training for thickness or training for width.
GET A WIDE Back
We are focusing on width today. In order to increase the width of your back, you must put a focus on training your lats. The lats are a hallmark muscle for a man. When you combine big lats and a tight midsection, you'll have an upper body with a great V-Taper.
You may even be mistaken for a cobra or a kite at some point during the day. There are 2 key movements that you must focus on when building the lats. They are:
This should be a no-brainer but I still witnessed many empty pull-up bars when I trained at commercial gyms. If pull-ups are not part of your training program, then you're not truly training. Early in my training career I didn't prioritize pull-ups. It showed as I possessed a back that had zero width.
I used to perform pull-ups as an add-on at the end of a training session vs. being the priority movement. The result was obvious when I showed up at my first bodybuilding show with AIR LATS.
There are 2 other main variations of the pull-up, the chin-up and the neutral grip pull-up. Chin-ups use a supinated grip (underhand). The neutral grip uses a palms-facing each other grip. All 3 variations used consistently and progressively will make you grow.
Pull-up hit the lats hard when done correctly with proper form. You pull yourself up until your chin crosses over the bar. You then lower yourself down until your arms are fully stretched out before you attempt your next rep. That full stretch really gets the lats involved. Alligator arm pull-ups don't count.
Your goal should be to get stronger by eventually performing weighted pull-ups and also performing them through a variety of rep ranges and training programs. The bottom line is that you need to toil away on that pull-up bar.
The man who spends his time at the pull-up bar will see drastically better results than the man who does a couple machines and leaves the gym after taking his "beastmode" selfies. You cannot fake hard work and pull-ups are hard.
If you want a stronger and more developed back then the pull-up is now your new best friend.
Pullovers are a forgotten movement from the good old days of bodybuilding. Pullovers were used in the Golden Era because of their effectiveness in building the lats. You didn't see many bodybuilders from that era without big lats. As time went on, a pullover machine was created. If you look around at most commercial gyms, it is mainly used as a coat hanger.
While the machine pullover is OK, it has nothing on the dumbbell or EZ Curl bar version of the move when building a wider back. With the dumbbell pullover, you are laying across a bench with a dumbbell in your hands. You will use both hands to elevate that dumbbell over your face and into the air. Don't drop it because when iron meets bone, iron always wins!
You then stretch that dumbbell back until it kisses the floor. After that return the bell back to the top before going back into the stretch for another rep. Your main goal is to feel the stretch in the lats by using a controlled rep speed. You also want to keep constant tension on your lats by performing smooth reps.
When you bring the dumbbell back to the top, you want to initiate that pull with your lats. Don't let your arms do all the work. If you haven't performed pullovers since baggy jeans were hot, you can expect to feel some soreness in your triceps due to the nature of the move.
The EZ curl bar version is very similar except you're laying flat on the bench as if you were going to perform a dumbbell bench press. While holding the bar close to you, you tuck your elbows in as much as you can before stretching back as far as you can into that deep stretch. Return the bar to the chest and then repeat.
To get the most out the EZ curl bar version, contract the lats at the top of the movement. You can get more details about pull-ups and pullovers by checking out my video below:
RP-21 for a Wider Back
Here is an example 6-week mesocycle using my RP-21 Training System that puts an emphasis on back width. You will superset your RP-21 sets, your 6x5 sets, and your 4x8 sets. In the original RP-21 protocol, we did not use supersets for the 7x3 or the 6x5. Today we will.
You will rest 45 seconds between the 7x3 supersets and 30-90 seconds between the 6x5 supersets. You can deload either at the end of the first 3 weeks before starting the second 3 weeks or at the end of the 6 weeks.
Day 1: Dips & Chins
|3a. EZ Curl Bar Pullover||4||8|
|3b. Weighted Pushup||4||8|
Day 2: Lower Body
|1a. Sumo Deadlift||7||3|
|1b. Glute Ham Raise||7||3|
|2a. Hip Thrusts||6||5|
|2b. Barbell Reverse Lunge||6||5 each leg|
|3a. Standing Calf Raise||4||8|
|3b. Seated Calf Raise||4||8|
Day 3: Upper Body
|1a. Pause Pullups||7||3|
|1b. Overhead Press||7||3|
|2a. Dumbbell Pullover||6||5|
|2b. 1 Arm Row||6||5 each arm|
|3a. Lateral Raises||4||8|
|3b. Wide Grip Upright Row||4||8|
Day 4: Lower Body
|1a. Heels Elevated Barbell Squat||7||3|
|1b. Barbell Hack Squat||7||3|
|2a. Sissy Squat||6||5|
|2b. Walking Dumbbell Lunges||6||5 each leg|
|3a. Seated Calf Raises||4||8|
|3b. Standing Calf Raises||4||8|
Day 5: Upper Body
|1a. Incline Bench Press||7||3|
|1b. Rack Pull||7||3|
|2a. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press||6||5|
|2b. Neutral Grip Pullup||6||5|
|3a. Decline Tight Dumbbell Press||4||8|
|3b. Barbell Bent-Over Rows||4||8|
Barbell or Dumbbell Complexes
Pull Up Ladder
No program is complete without conditioning. I'm not talking about wasting time in the "cardio" section. I'm talking about doing some real work that makes your reconsider why you're even training in the first place. When you realize after 1 set that your conditioning for the day is a bad idea, then you are in the right place.
Remember, the appearance of your physique is an illusion. While this program will allow you build a wider back, you can make your back appear even wider if you have a smaller and tighter waist. That is where a great nutrition plan and tough conditioning come into play.
Having a Peter Griffin waistline will not allow your back width to be at maximum potential. Do not skimp on your nutrition or conditioning.
This 6 weeks is just the start of you building a stronger and wider. You have to give consistent, quality effort over time in order to attain your goal. You probably have noticed that there is no traditional direct biceps or triceps work like curls or skullcrushers. This doesn't mean that you will have arms like Olive Oil when these 6 weeks is over.
Your arms will definitely still get great work from all of the chin-ups, dips, and push-ups. You may even experience some growth on the arms. But I'm not concerned with direct arm work in this phase as the priority is building a wider back!
By implementing pull-ups and pullovers into your training routine you will be able to build wide and impressive back. Remember success requires struggle and through your struggles you will reach your goal. Don’t give up when it gets difficult. Keep grinding!