No well-developed physique would be complete without a proper V-taper. A wide upper back and broad shoulders that taper down to a narrow waist is the very definition of aesthetics. I've worked hard to achieve this look, and have found the best strength and hypertrophy gains by working back and shoulders twice per week.
My Wide-Back, Boulder-Shoulder Workout is usually the second back-and-shoulder workout in my split. The primary goal for this workout is to build strength, but of course I throw in a little hypertrophy work, too! I like to hit my back first, and then move into the shoulder exercises after a short break. This is a fast-paced workout though, so don't worry about being in the gym too long.
The workout starts off light to pump some blood into the muscles and get them warmed up. As we move along, we'll work up to heavier weights and more strenuous movements. By the time we're though, you're back and shoulders will be screaming for mercy.
Ready to get to work? Let's do it!
Superset: Pull-up/dumbbell pull-over
The first thing we'll do today is a superset. Perform 5 pull-ups, then immediately move to a set of dumbbell pull-overs with no rest between movements. Do the first set of pull-ups with a wide grip, switch to a closer, neutral grip for the second set, and finish with an underhand grip for the final set.
While performing the dumbbell pull-over, slow down. I want you to feel the weight and know you're really doing the work rather than blowing through the reps as quickly as possible. This means you'll need to grab a dumbbell you can move in a slow, controlled manner.
Because you're contracting your lats on every rep of this superset, they're going to be pumped by the time you're done. I promise you'll feel it tomorrow when you wake up!
Single-arm bent-over dumbbell row
Begin with a lighter weight for your first set of dumbbell rows, and get heavier as the reps go down. Get a good grip on the dumbbell and focus on squeezing your elbow back to your hip—don't let it swing wide. Squeeze at the top and lower the weight back down slowly.
Seated underhand pull-down
As with the dumbbell row, you'll use lighter weight to start, and move the pin down with each set. You'll also change your grip slightly as you go along: Use a wide grip on the first set, bring your hands in a bit for the second set, and finish with a narrow grip.
With back movements, I've found the negative portion (eccentric) is more important than the concentric (lifting). Think about it: If you want a muscle to grow, you have to stretch it out. On back movements, the stretch occurs when you're lowering the weight. So, take your time through the eccentric part of the lifts.
Seated close-grip cable row
Using a close grip on this exercise enables you to get a good, strong contraction on each rep. These sets should be fairly heavy. Choose a weight that's heavy enough so you fail at about 8 reps. If you still have a few more reps in the tank, you're not going heavy enough.
By now you should be feeling pretty tired. Power through the last 2 sets and then take a quick break before you move on to shoulders.
Take a drink, walk around for a minute, and get ready to transition into your shoulder workout.
Superset: standing lateral raise/single-arm upright row
Once again, we'll start with a superset to pump blood into the muscles. You've already warmed up your shoulders quite a bit during the back workout, so it won't take much. Be sure to do lateral raises with control. Don't swing or heave the weights up using momentum. Your shoulders should be doing all the work.
I like to do single-arm rows so I can focus on contracting the muscles one arm at a time. It's a great way to help muscles develop evenly. The motion is meant to emulate using a Smith machine, so keep the weight close to your body and glide the dumbbell up. Complete the prescribed number of reps for each arm before returning to the lateral raise.
Alternating dumbbell front raise
I like to change up my grip each set: neutral grip for the first set, overhand on the second set, and underhand for the last set. The underhand raises will come slightly across your body, bringing in a bit of your upper back as well.
Standing Arnold press
I'm typically pretty tired by the end of this workout, so I like to do a bilateral exercise that lets me train both arms at once and get in one last good squeeze. Try to increase the weight each set.