A perfectly sculpted back can make you look THAT much more impressive from just about any angle. Wide, thick, separated. Would you like to view what a Legendary back looks like? Take a look a Franco Columbu’s. His was one of the most impressive backs in bodybuilding in my eyes, especially for his time. Thick, Wide, clear separation between Lats, traps, infraspinatus, teres Major (i believe its the major…), with a bulging lower back accentuated by his tiny waist.
What are the judges looking for when they view the back? 1. Thickness and muscularity of the UPPER back; 2. The sweep and width of the lats; and 3. the definition and development of the lower back and lats.
So looking at the upper back to begin with; Well, if you are like i was not too long ago, then you dont realize the importance of the upper back. You think Lats are lats, and thats that. Well, that’s not quite that. One major thing i see daily is the negligence of one’s traps. Guess what, the traps bring it all together- Large, protruding muscles from the back of your skull that extend outwards and down, reaching damn near the middle of the back. Hearing that, does that make you think that 3 relatively easy sets of some DB shrugs where you are INGENIOUSLY Grinding your shoulders in their socket are going to be enough (Yes i had to be mean about the shoulder grind. Its Dumb, i hate it, i hate you for doing it). Now some of the exercises that are going to help with your overall Trap development are going to be some of the very same exercises you use for the rest of your upper back thickness, so we can save some of those for a bit later on; however, i will say You probably need to take traps a bit more seriously. I personally like to always throw in a round of Barbell shrugs where i essentially end on a 500lb 12-15 rep shrug. WHy? Because, traps are stubborn, they are stupid, and they need to be beaten for not doing my dishes. Hit them hard! Throw in straps if you have to, do the shrugs in a Squat rack so you can pause after a couple reps or so, but the main point is you need to PUSH them. Give them a reason to grow.
The rest of the upper back- As i said earlier, early on in my training, there was Lat pulldowns, some Cable rows basically to the waist, and maybe a BB row if i felt like it. Well, you guessed it, that isnt enough, especially since i wasnt really targeting upper back very well. Yes, my back got wide, but as a consequence of my earlier days, my upper back is now playing catchup. This problem can be rectified through an adjustment of angle by even a few degrees. Do the BB rows, DO the Cable rows, but if you put a bit more focus on bringing the bar to your mid-high chest, you will get a LOT more Upper work, helping your traps and rear delts develop that thickness, and getting muscles you probably didnt know you had to start pulling their own weight. Now, like i said i am playing catchup with my upper back, so my back routines focus more on the upper these days, with higher BB rows (parallel row), high cable rows, and others, but this may not necessarily be the case for YOU.
For lats, well, you can do what was mentioned above, just change the angle. If you want to really hit your lat width, do BB rows not so parallel to the floor while pulling the weight more to your waist. Another MOvement i feel is dying out these days is Pullups. These are seriously underrated, but if i honestly had to make a list of top 3 best Back movements, Pullups would be in there. “BUT AKUMA, im SO FUCKING STRONG, Pullups with my 180lb body are too easy and i can do like 10 reps!” Inc my Foot into your ass. 1. You dont weigh a lot, eat more, 2. 10 reps isnt a ridiculous amount and is perfectly acceptable even in moderate to high weight training, 3. BUY A DIP BELT. I use mine for pullups, Chest dips, and tricep dips. You think you’re badass now, but when you slap on a 45, and then try to do your pullups, it knocks you down a peg. Seriously, i do 350lb pullups/dips. That puts hair ON the hair on your chest. 1 Arm Dumbbells are also great for lat development. The reason i normally exclude these in my training is probably why a lot of bigger guys dont do them, weight caps. Unfortunately, my Dbs cop out at 140, and i know many others dont even get that, so i feel i outgrew the Db rows in my particular gym. Now, that isnt to say that i wont do them, i have actually experimented with Supersetting Lat Pulldowns (another easily outgrowable movement) with Db rows, and lemme tell you…Pain.
One of my absolute FAVORITE back exercises however, has to be a HS isolateral Row machine. You get a Fantastic ROM and a great stretch in the lat. I generally dont get too heavy, depending on how i feel i stop bumping around 4 or 5 plates per side, but my main goal is Pinching, I am sure i include a lot of Dorian into this movement. The Bars come all the way back and i fiercely pinch my lats, feeling everything from my traps to the bottom of my back flare, then at an agonizingly slow speed i release the pinch and return to the beginning of the movement. This literally shreds my back and is an overall fantastic movement, achievable by any level of back. Id also like to comment on 1 handed cable rows. Now, yea i laughed when i tried these too ( i mainly jumped on them because of machine availability and i just wanted to finish and leave). Let me tell you, if you look up ‘Fantastic Stretch in the Lats’ in the dictionary, youll see a picture of me doing these while giving you a thumbs up. Bend your knees, bend at your waist, tilt your body slightly to the side to ensure full stretch, and come out a little away from the machine to ensure your weight doesnt hit the stack of weight even when you are at 110% (Shut up, its possible) stretch.
Lower back- Do i really need to do this one? Deadlift or Rack pulls. Moving on…
SO, you want to develop a fine tuned back with width, density, thickness, and separation? Attack it right. Hit your upper back, hit your lats, hit your lower back. Hit them from different angels, use variations. Feel it out, bring a journal (You should be doing this already). Make an effort to comment on where what hits you more depending on what you do. Figure out YOUR body.
So, to recap, because i feel i probably hopped around a bit- Pullups, Hs isolateral rows, BB rows done to the angle you see fit. These are Probably 3 of my favorite back movements, and id take a bet that most dont do 2 out of those 3.
BODYBUILDING is the art form of the gods; you are an artist, you are sculpting.