You must do these exercises if want a wide back to complement your V-taper and to dominate at strength training.
These exercises are very simple to do — if you have proper access to equipment at a reasonably well-stocked gym.
Build That Back!
1) Chest-Supported Row
The chest-supported row is, in my opinion, the best upper back movement out there.
Whether it be a seal row, machine row, or even my personal variation of a glute-ham raise and row hybrid; the chest-supported row is a phenomenal upper back developer.
This exercise helped me bench press 3 plates a side for the first time as it’s a potent antagonist to the bench press, thus strengthening the negative portion to the bench press and jacking up the rhomboids for a potent lift off from the chest.
Moreover, it’s easy to progress and recovery from a chest-supported row. And, unlike the barbell row, it is a lot safer and kinder on the joints.
If you suffer from a back injury, the chest supported row is a great way to continue building the upper back if the lower back is out of commission.
Seal rows take the legs out of the equation, making it harder for peak contractions in later reps.
At the moment, I’m currently recovering from a torn SI joint ligament and relying on chest-supported dumbbell rows to retain upper back strength.
2) Barbell Row with Body English
This exercise is not for the fainthearted.
While I wouldn’t recommend this for anybody who hasn’t got at least a few years of lifting experience under their belt; the barbell row with body English — basically a kip from the mid shins to add momentum, similar to either a Romanian deadlift and powerclean turned into a barbell row — this exercise will pack on tons of size in your upper back and posterior chain.
I singlehandedly attribute the addition of this exercise in my program for being able to deadlift 6 plates for the first time.
I had been struggling to break the 6 plate barrier for 18 months, always coming up short.
This variation of the barbell row gave me the strength–and confidence–to make my first ever 6-plate deadlift look like a speed pull.
Apart from assisting with the deadlift, this row will carry over to the bench press in adding stability in the lats and size in the rhomboids to launch the barbell off your chest.
3) Snatch-Grip Rack Pull
I thought the list wouldn’t be complete without at least one isometric exercise.
Well, technically isometric for your upper back. Similar to the snatch-grip deadlift — a movement that requires a ton of mobility to perform safely — the snatch-grip rack pull will enable you to handle supramaximal loads for your upper back.
For example, I was doing 635lb snatch-grip rack pulls for sets of 5 reps when my best conventional deadlift at the time was around 615lb.
Had I taken pre-workout, I may have even attempted 675+.
The amount of quick strength and size that can be had from this exercise is immense.
But, as I always stress with supramaximal lifting, be careful not to over-program them into your workout.
They are taxing on the connective tissue, joints, and central nervous system.
A one month on, two month off basis will suffice in reaping maximum gains from this potent exercise.
4) Weighted Pull Ups
What would a best back exercise list be without weighted pull ups?
There is not much to say that hasn’t already been said about these upper back builders.
Apart from adding tons of size to your back and sharpening your V-taper, weighted pull ups act as an antagonist to overhead and incline pressing movements.
Strong lats translates to great stability for pressing movements. Strong lats are fundamental to heavy squats and deadlifts.
Lastly, weighted pull-ups, when done in a controlled manner, are great for shoulder health.
In my experience, weighted pull-ups are just as beneficially to healthy shoulders as face pulls or band pull aparts.
5) Kroc Rows
The infamous Kroc Row carries over to all of the above exercises.
Unlike the conventional dumbbell row, performed with a knee elevated on a bench, with a stable top to support your non-active arm and planting both feet on the ground with a sideways squat stance; allow the dumbbell to drop as far as you can without touching the floor to stretch your lat before driving your shoulder blade and elbow back.
Exceptionally heavy weights can be used for this exercise.
It will develop a ton of upper back strength–and fast.
You can also progress quickly on this exercise.
Like Kroc, don’t be afraid to use high rep ranges.
One great misconception about strength training revolves around an insistence to keep rep ranges exclusively low.
I have found that whenever I plateau, a good accessory movement at high rep ranges — and I mean high — can help put you back on track. At home, I got up to 92.5kg homemade dumbbells for a set of 15 reps.
Kroc could do 185lb dumbbells for a set of 40.
It’s exceptionally easy to make quick gains that will transfer over to your other main lifts.
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