T Nation

Upper back development

I’m just curious, how does one go about really getting width on the lats and really accentuating the triangle shape of the back? Wide grip pull ups and chin ups, and what else? Your help is greatly appreciated.

In addition to the lat work that you mentioned, you should focus on training to slim the waistline as much as possible. The V-Taper (or “triangle shape,” as you referred to it), is as much a function of having little body fat in the lower trunk as it is a function of having good lats. Also, improving your delts, especially the medial heads, will help to accentuate your width.

Eric is so right on this - and I’m having a beer in his honor! Well, he did have a steak in mine, he he he. Seriously, he is correct. To add a bit, he’s talking about the “silhouette muscles”: Medial delts, lats, calves, quads (particularly the vastus lateralis - outer sweep).

But really, it's all in the illusion. If you have a naturally narrow shoulder width -you should work on the medial delts and make your waistline smaller (which I'm basically echoing what Eric said). But, until I see you, I can't really be any more specific.

Nail on the head Eric.

Commando pullups. When I started doing these in addition to regular chins, my lower lats blew up. Really accentuates the V-taper. Hope this helps.

Eric nailed it pretty well already. Developing the serratus (I think it’s the external ones, at the sides of your waistline) with strong core work, including deadlifts and ab movements, will enlarge your waist (with muscle) and reduce that visually apparent proportion, compared to the width of your lats and shoulders. It sure happened to me. However, I like the functional strength and stability that core development brought me, so it’s a compromise. Getting leaner and taking the flab off the waistline will emphasize the proportion. As far as developing lats goes, close grip chins with weight and close grip seated rows (palms parallel to each other, elbows low) will really hit the lats. As you fatigue, you can finish with wider grips. For medial delts, I like side lateral raises with dumbbells or low cables, and hang cleans without leg action. The latter is also great for the rest of the upper back, btw.

Heavy dumbell rows have done wonders for my lats…combine them with chins and don’t forget some laterals as your shoulders will add to the overall “V” look.

One-arm dumbell rows do a good job, as do narrow-grip cable rows. The important thing to remember, however, is that in cable rows, you need to pin those shoulders back and down, pinch the shoulder blades together and hold them there. Another good one (for me anyway) is dumbell pull-overs.

I also have a similar problem with my V shape but it’s because my lats respond too easy to all my back excercises especially the lower part, so it looks more like a wide U shape instead of a V. Any suggestions on detraining the lower area of my lats and getting the upper part right under the armpit to grow. By the way I also have narrow clavicles which could be the reason.

Also, don’t forget about posterior delts. You’ll look pretty odd if they aren’t on par with your back development. Furthermore, lat width won’t mean much if you don’t have width, so be sure to include plenty of rows, deadlifts, and cleans, etc.

Cheers, Patricia:)

Are commando pullups when you grip the bar lengthways, one hand stacked in front of the other, and alternate which side of the bar you pull yourself up on? I’ve seen those, but never tired them.

To also help emphasize your lat width, make sure you stretch them out after every set. this will help your lats move farther outwards. Also, every other suggestion here as been hitting it on the nail. A large back is a lot of an illusion with your waist size.


“Move your lats farther outward?” I’ve heard this a million times, and it still doesn’t make a bit of sense. Please explain this one to me.