We’ve all seen him before…
The guy with the chiseled chest and ripped arms…but absolutely nothing to show for his back muscle.
Long story short…don’t be that guy.
Your back accounts for literally half of your upper body. There’s nothing aesthetic about having a disproportionate physique.
If you’re one of these meatheads that neglect their back, you’ll probably end up on some Internet meme.
Your back is made up of four subsidiary muscle groups.
- Rhomboid muscle (upper back)
- Trapezius (traps)
- Lower back
If you want to get a V-shaped cobra back, then you need to equally target each area of the muscle.
Today, I’m going to show you a series of workouts that you can do to develop a strong sculpted back.
The most effective way to build the mass of your back requires no weight at all. It’s also the exercise that most people dread the most.
Why do most people hate the thought of doing pull-ups? It’s simple…they are HARD.
If this discourages you, then I implore you to take an honest assessment of your training philosophy.
The most rewarding aspects of life are usually masked in temporary pain. Most people spend their entire lives seeking comfort and security.
They treat their workouts no different than any other endeavor in life…
Show up, go through the motions, and never push themselves past their current comfort zone.
Success will always be on the other side of your comfort zone. Your biggest fear and greatest success are directly correlated.
Now I’ll be brutally honest with you…
Getting outside your comfort zone is hard. But having a “dad bod” and feeling lethargic all day is much harder. The choice will always be yours.
Stop seeking comfort and force yourself to embrace the pain. When you make this paradigm shift there will be no stopping your success.
Getting in shape is just as much mental as it is physical. If you want to have a successful transformation, then you must strive to feel the burn in each rep that you perform.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” -Michael Jordan
Build Massive Lats With Pull-Ups
These 3 pull-up variations will give you massive lats that will widen your back.
Don’t worry about how many pull-ups you can do at first. Having an ego will do nothing but impede you from getting a toned body and six pack abs. If you focus on incorporating proper form, your reps will gradually increase each week.
The secret to getting massive lats is to maximize the full range of motion on each pull-up you perform.
Start each rep with a dead hang in your arms. This will force your lats to support your entire bodyweight.
Pull yourself up until the upper portion of your chest makes contact with the bar. These extra few inches will make all the difference in your back development going forward.
These 3 pull-up exercises will target the upper portion of your back and lats.
Wide Grip Pull-ups
The wider your grip on the pull-up bar, the more of your lats you’ll be targeting. Whether you’re a novice or have been training for years, Wide Grip Pull-Ups is one of the best ways to add mass to your lats.
Begin by gripping the bar with your palms facing outwards with your hands roughly shoulder width apart. Start with your arms fully extended and then pull yourself up until your upper chest makes contact with the bar. Always maintain full control of your bodyweight as you extend your arms to a dead hang position on each rep.
Sets: 3 sets until failure
As your grip becomes narrow, you begin to isolate the rhomboid muscle. This is the upper portion of your back that’s located right below your neck.
Spread your hands 3-4 inches apart and grip the bar with your palms facing you. Fully extend your arms and then explosively pull yourself up until your chest is level with the bar. Slowly descend yourself back down until your arms are completely straightened once again.
Sets: 3 sets until failure
Independent V-Bar Pullups
These are a little bit advanced, but the pain will be well worth the gain. Most pull-up exercises simultaneously target each of your lat muscles. Independent V-Bar Pull-Ups allows you to independently isolate both sides of your lats.
This is a great way to generate muscle confusion and break up the monotony of your workouts. You never want to do the same routine for more than 30 days straight. Your muscles will eventually adapt to the movements of the exercises, which leads to the dreaded “plateau phase.”
Begin each rep by attaching a V-Bar to the top of the pull-up bar. Grip the V-Bar and then extend your arms to a dead hang position. Pull yourself up until your chin is level with the pull-up bar. When you reach this point, turn your head to the right of the bar. Continue pulling yourself up until your left pectoral muscle makes contact with the bar. Slowly come back down until your arms are fully extended and continue alternating sides.
Sets: 2 sets until failure
Rows For A Lean Defined Back
Now that you’ve built the mass of your lats and rhombordious muscles, it’s time to add definition to each region of your back. One of the best ways to do this is by performing rows.
The angle of your row is going to dictate what area of the back you’ll be targeting.
- Low To High Rows – targets the rhomboid and upper portion of the back
- Neutral Rows – targets the lats and middle of the back
- High To Low Rows – targets the lower portion of the back
If you train at the gym, then I suggest using dumbbells when performing rows. This will allow you to independently isolate each side of your back. If for any reason you don’t have access to dumbbells, then you can use a suitcase or water jugs from the comfort of your own home. For maximum results, keep your reps between 15-9 per set.
Low To High Rows
I demonstrate how to do Low To High Rows at 2:16 of this video:
Bent Over Dumbbell Rows
Now it’s time to build mass to the middle portion of your back with an exercise called Bent Over Dumbbell Rows. This is a great workout that you can do from home with a stool and a set of water jugs. Watch as I explain the form in more detail at 2:18 of this video:
High To Low Rows
The last row variation is High To Low Rows, which targets the lower portion of the back and lats. This will require you to have access to a cable machine.
These row exercises will help you add additional strength to the top, middle, and lower portion of the back. But once you finish building the density of your back, you’ll want to perform a series of light weight fly exercises to shape each region of the muscle.
Bent Over Flies
Bent Over Dumbbell Flies is another light weight exercise that you can use to get sculpted definition in your back. When performed correctly, it will also help you tone both the traps and backside of your shoulders.
If you’re training at the gym, then you can perform this exercise on a military bench. Make sure that you’re using light weights, anywhere between 5-20 pounds.
If for any reason you don’t have access to a gym, there’s no need to worry my friend. You can simply sit down on your couch and substitute the water jugs for the light dumbbells.
I go into more detail about this exercise at minute 3:32 of this video:
Up to this point, we’ve targeted the lats, rhomboid, middle, and lower portion of the back.
But on the days that you don’t have time to get to the gym, there are a handful of zero equipment bodyweight exercises that you can do to help strengthen your lower back and core.
The Lower Back
The lower back accounts for half of your core. Contrary to popular belief, your core isn’t just your abdominals…it’s your abdominals and lower back working in conjunction with one another.
Your core is the stabilizer muscle for your entire body. When you have a strong durable lower back, it will help strengthen your entire upper body.
The lower back is also an area that you don’t want to over train. Using heavy excessive weight can lead to a myriad of injuries.
Throwing out your lower back will affect your posture and mobility. If you want to be able to keep up with your kids, then it’s absolutely paramount that you train your lower back smart. In my experience as a trainer, the best way to do this is by performing low-impact bodyweight workouts.
Low-Impact Lower Back Workout
Two of the best bodyweight workouts for building a durable lower back are Hindu Pushups and Bird Dogs. I demonstrate both of these exercises in the first 4 minutes of this video:
It’s important to focus on executing slow controlled movements on each rep. To prevent yourself from potential injury, always refrain from using explosive movements when training your lower back.
Make an effort to capitalize on the full range of motion on each rep and don’t worry about how many overall reps you can do. Performing 5 of these with proper form will give you better results than 50 reps with impartial form.
Getting a V-shaped cobra style back will require you to train hard and smart. Pull-ups will give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to getting massive lats. But you’ll also need to train your rhombordious, middle, and lower back regions to get symmetrical muscle tone in your back.
Proper form is always essential, but it’s critical when training the back muscle. Whether you’re doing a pull-up or a row, you always want to begin each rep with a full extension in your arm. This seems like a subtle movement, but I promise it will be a game changer to your back development going forward.
Never let your ego interfere with your training. Ninety percent of success in any endeavor is simply showing up and doing the work. I promise that transforming your body and getting a V-shaped back is no exception to this rule.
Until next time,