Most of us who slave away in the gym 4-6 days per week desire to create the most impressive physique we possible can. This means building adequate muscle size, near perfect symmetry/proportion, and a maxed out “V-taper.” What a cool feeling it is to take off your shirt at the beach or pool and display thick, cannonball delts; lats that look like wings; and a tight waistline with no fat in sight! While diet and cardio must be on point to manifest those six-pack abs and wasp-like waist, one must make sure to utilize the proper resistance exercises to make the V-taper a reality. Here are 7 excellent movements for getting wide on the sides!
–Stiff Arm Pull-down: This under-used exercise does a great job isolating the upper lats/teres major right under the armpit, which is vital for achieving maximum width in the back.
Tips: I like to use a short straight bar and lean slightly forward at the waist when performing these. This movement is a great way to pre-exhaust the back at the beginning of a workout or as a finisher for that final lat-stretching pump!
–DB Pullover: This exercise is similar to the Stiff Arm Pulldown in action and muscle targeting, but offers a far greater stretch at the midpoint of the movement. An added benefit is that the DB Pullover also activates the chest musculature as well.
Tips: Perform this movement slowly and strictly for between 8 and 15 reps per set. Keep only a slight bend in the elbows and reach both down and back on the negative portion of the rep. This will create a strong stretch and put more tension on the lats/teres than the pecs.
–WG Pull-up: This classic bodybuilding exercise has greatly fallen out of favor; especially since most lifters these days prefer sitting and doing Pull-downs instead. However, while the Pull-down is a great exercise, it cannot match the benefits of simply lifting your own bodyweight through space (which powerfully activates the central nervous system and muscle fiber firing). The wide grip is terrific for forcefully spreading the scapulae, which helps one better “pull out” those lats nice and wide.
Tips: Wait until you can perform ten perfect reps with your own bodyweight before strapping on any extra. Experiment with the width of your grip and also the angle at which you pull yourself up. You will get an entirely different feel in the back when pulling to the clavicles vs. pulling to the lower pecs.
–Underhand Grip Seated Cable Row: This is a great movement for really hitting the belly of the lats and pushing them to expand and grow. The underhand grip forces the elbows to stay tight to the body during the contraction, which brings about a direct hit on the outer back.
Tips: Make sure to get a full stretch on every rep, and pull the bar into the lower stomach to best activate the lats. Do not lean back at the contraction point, but rather make sure you remain upright with the chest poked out and a slight arch in the lower back.
–One Arm DB Row: This is my favorite back exercise because it builds width and thickness into the length of the lats better than any other movement (in my opinion). Working one side at a time allows for superior muscle fiber firing and the strong stretch component manifests a powerful anabolic signal in the body.
Tips: You will get far more out of One Arm Rows if you performing them strictly, without swinging or momentum. Make sure to get a full stretch at the bottom and tight contraction at the top of every rep. Keep the torso flat to the floor and row the DB back toward the hip.
–Side Lateral Raise: The lats are not the only muscle that contributes to the “V-taper” look! You must also display wide, round, melon-like delts if you want to drop some jaws in the gym and on the beach. The Side Lateral raise, in all of its forms (seated, standing, cable, machine), is perhaps the best builder of the medial deltoid head, which is what creates the width on the side of the shoulders. I use Side Laterals every time I train delts.
Tips: Very few people do this exercise correctly, mostly because they use too much weight and lift via momentum and not muscular action. Perform laterals strictly, with no torso swing, if you want to truly isolate the side delts. Keep the hands flat to the floor at the top of the movement and maintain a slight bend in the elbows at all times.
–Shoulder Width Grip Upright Row: When people ask me if there are any other exercises they can do aside from Side Laterals to widen the delts, it is the Shoulder Width Grip Upright Row that I point them to. This is a great movement as an adjunct to Side Laterals and allows for the use of reasonably heavy resistance. I love to superset Laterals and Rows for an outstanding muscle pump.
Tips: Make sure your grip is at least shoulder width, or even an inch or two wider. Focus on lifting with the shoulders and not the traps. The bar should only reach about nipple level at peak contraction. In addition, I recommend using a “false grip” on the bar to help avoid some biceps activation.
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