Admit this... People dodge pull-ups and go with the easier cable pulldowns. People dodge bent barbell rows for cable rows and say something like, "whaaa they hurt my lower back", and run like hunted gazelles from the almighty deadlift which would let them easily handle very heavy bent rows. You know who you are. Want a wide back? Then give up your easy movements. Cable pulldowns WILL NOT get your back half as wide as heavily weighted pull-ups(I prefer them with a narrow, parallel grip and they are called chin-ups that way) Cable rows WILL NOT build your back up half as thick as barbell rows. You WILL NOT build a champion back without deadlifts. Argue all you want but face the truth. Now that the morals of back training are hopefully established, lets go over some specific moves and tactics for back width and thickness.
Both Pull-Ups And Chin-Ups Are Best For Width.
I do the chins (close grip) first almost always in my back workout since I do prioritize width over thickness and you get more power and a better stretch in this position. Ask Dorian Yates, the ultimate lat freak. I usually do the wide grip pull-ups later. Start by doing your bodyweight if that is all you can do. These will be very difficult at first if you normally don't do them. Work your way up with weights tied around your waist until you are using at least a 45 pound plate and getting 6-8 reps out of it. I have been busting my ass on these for 6 years now and am using 80 pounds for my heaviest sets.
Expect to have a limit set on your width if you dont use steroids! Oh my, that wasn't politically correct, I'm so freakin' sorry! As I have progressed from a 10 plate to 80 pounds around my waist, my lat width has progressed along with me. I don't believe I could have done it without the use of drop sets, rest pause, negatives, and static stretching while weighted.
Ok drop sets... Do your set of weighted chins or pull-ups and drop the weights off and immediately bang more reps out with just your bodyweight and after that feel free to do some cable pulldowns immediately since you own bodyweight will be too much. Rest pause... refer to my previous article on that subject. Negatives... Weigh yourself down with so many pounds you cant even pull yourself up there for one rep. Have a buddy help you up to the top and lock (contract) your lats up hard as possible and lower very slowly until you can do no more. This is a big help!
Static stretching while weighted?? You'll like this one! Weigh yourself down even heavier than you will for the negatives. I mean so heavy it feels like just hanging there with your feet off the ground will rip your arms straight off your torso. Do exactly that- Just grab the bar and hang there with that extreme load for as long as you possibly can. This will also help your grip and forearms immensely if using the chin-up position and stretch the lats out mercilessly. Its a hell of a wakeup call for your back! Also try reverse grip pull-ups with your hands about a foot apart for variety. Remember, max stretch and contraction with every rep.
Pre-Exhaustion Supersets For The Lats
Excellent width builder. Refer to my previous article on preexhaustion. My fave supersets? Machine pullovers directly into chin-ups, dumbbell pullovers directly into pull-ups, and cable pullovers directly into the Yates row (close, reverse grip using cambered bar). Also use higher reps for this occasionally. End your workout with nonstop sets of machine pullovers into wide grip pulldowns for an ultimate lat burn that will help with width. Lets not forget to vary exercises sometimes. If your gym has a hammer strength pulldown machine, do this with it. Load it up real heavy and use an underhand grip on the inside with only one of the arms. Use your other arm as assistance for pushing yourself through some negatives with only one arm. Using one arm doubles the neural signal to the muscle(which is what tells it to contract) because it would normally be split to both and instead it is concentrated in one which allows you to push that lat harder that ever. This trick has helped me with some extra lat width.
I didn't do deads for the longest time myself. When I started doing them, within a month or two I was honestly amazed at how well they add width and thickness to your back. They even improved my forearms and traps a lot too. They simply work. I have added almost 100 pounds to my bent row since I started deadlifting. They also make your back look thick from the side like you are always wearing a backpack full of muscle. I noticed immediate gains in overall upper body size and width. The pull you get over your back, traps, shoulders, spinal erectors, and arms is immense and heavy and cant help but add more width to your upper body. Do them or miss out on awesome gains.
Reverse grip barbell rows done with a cambered bar. Focus on the ultra tight contraction on this exercise more than the raw poundage. Seems to help width if you contract your lats properly.
Try to begin your back workout with a pullover movement often.
I like to alternate a power day and a pre exhaust day. The pullovers isolate the lats and stretch the fibers out so they can be recruited easier in the following exercises. Also experiment with different rep ranges.
One rep chins.
Weigh your self down to the max and VERY slowly pull yourself up to the contracted position of the exercise. Hold as high as possible for as long as possible. Resist on the negative descent as hard as you can and make it last forever. This one rep should take at least 30 seconds to complete and you will feel it molesting your lats.
Try this split in a once a week schedule
You'll need recuperation time. MON - delts and chins only. Begin this workout with your pressing movement of choice for delts supersetted with your chins for a few good sets. Do not do any further work for back. TUES - begin this workout supersetting your bent barbell rows with your chest pressing exercises and finish with the rest of your chest and back movements supersetted. I read in an article by Arnold who talked about good lat gains from supersetting pull-ups and rows with pressing movements. I can say it worked for me. This split will also work your back 2 days in a row so don't do it for more than a month straight and you will notice gains from this method.
TRAIN HARDER THAN YOU EVER HAVE!