Broadening the Back by Jim Haislop!

“The broadness of a man’s back has always been a noticeable feature of the male physique. Even people who do not body-build or weight train at all, admire the V-shaped physique.

To obtain this kind of development one must employ many types of latissimus dorsi exercises along with hard work.

To begin with everyone must understand that you cannot change your basic bone structure. If your clavicle bones are short you cannot increase their length and if your hips (pelvis bones) are wide you cannot make them narrow. You can increase your width if you will devote a little extra effort to the latissimus dorsi muscles.

So many bodybuilders lack impressiveness because they neglect the latissimus muscle group. Their physique would be much more outstanding if they were not completely vertical but had some degree of taper to their torso. While it is good to see a natural taper that comes from proper back development, it is in very bad taste to see a bodybuilder going around with a perpetual lat spread. This usually occurs in the tight T-shirt wearer who has only been training a short time. The advanced trainee does not generally do this and usually wears a rather loosely-fitted shirt. At this time I would like to point out that walking around with your lats expanded in public is one thing that gives bodybuilding a bad name.

I think this is one reason why so many people claim bodybuilding makes you muscle bound. They see a beginner spread his lats like an eagle and they say “Look, he can’t even put his arms down to his side.” Remember that a truly great physique star doesn’t have to expand in public if he really has anything to show. If he is of sufficient caliber he will display it on a stage where he should pose, and not on the street.

Lat development varies in each individual. This is quite often caused by heredity, but in most cases outstanding lat development results from the type of exercise employed by the trainee. People who have any lat development at all, usually have high lats. This is because bodybuilders usually perform one or may two exercises. The two most common are the chin either behind or in front of the neck, and the lat machine pull-down. Both of these primarily work the upper lat region.

To obtain a full and even taper to the back, some lower lat work also must be combined with your chinning and pulldown motions.

Thickness
The thickness of the lats is also a key factor to an evenly and fully-developed back. I have found that lat density and thickness can be increased by various types of rowing motions. This can be done with either a straight bar, a rowing machine or by one-arm dumbbell rowing.

From my own experience I have found that lats were easy for me to develop. I have always included at least three different types of lat exercises in my routine and as high as five before a contest or exhibition. Each exercise includes five sets of ten repetitions. Two of these exercises would be for upper lats, one for thickness, and the remaining two for the lower area.

Complete Movements
As I have stressed the importance of complete movements in other body parts, the lats are no exception. You should never do less than a complete movement on any repetition.

I realize that you can do more repetitions in your lat work if you only do a partial movement. For example, I have seen many bodybuilders do a partial chinning movement or an incorrect pulldown and still get their allotted number of reps. More benefit could be obtained from going all the way up on the upward movement and all the way down at the bottom or hanging position with eight repetitions instead of performing ten or twelve incorrect repetitions.

I feel that no less than eight reps should ever be performed in lat training. In some exercise you won’t be able to do eight reps at first but if you give it your all for a while, you will be able to do even more. This reminds me of the first time I ever tried to do a set of chins. I only did three reps and they were a hard-fought three.

Added Weight
When you have progressed to where you can do over 10 reps in any lat exercise, may I suggest that you add weight. In the chinning movement you will have to add weight by putting it on a chain and attaching it to a lifting belt around your waist.

When to Work
I prefer to work the lats on my leg and bicep day, but if you train all your body parts in one day I’d suggest that you do lats third on your training program. First would be legs, then chest, followed by lats. These are the three largest muscle groups and therefore they require a lot of heavy training, as compared to the smaller body parts. If you work your arms first you often times won’t have enough strength left to get a sufficient lat workout.

1. Chinning (front and back) Upper Lats

jim haislop bodybuilding workout

The chinning movement is the basic lat exercise and I have always favored it in my program. Chins can be done in back or in front of the neck. The front chins work the upper pectorals as well as the lats, while the chins behind the neck are a stricter type of lat movement and less arching is likely to occur.

Chinning is performed by standing on a box or chair and grasping the bar with a fairly wide grip. You then pull yourself all the way up until the back of the neck or the top of your chest is touching the bar (depending on back or front chinning): You then lower yourself to a position with your elbows completely straight. Continue this action until you have completed ten repetitions.

At the end of ten repetitions swing from side to side while still hanging in the down position. This gives you an added stretch to the full length of the lets. Five swings to each side will be sufficient.

2. Pull-Down on Lat Machine (front and back upper lats)

jim haislop bodybuilding workout lat pulldown

Pull downs are somewhat the same as chins but are done seated with the legs at a ninety degree angle to the body. The weight is pulled down rather than the body weight pulled up. The grip is the same as in the chinning movement. You will need to have some one hold your shoulders down as you increase the weight. Pull-downs can either be done in front or back of the neck for variation. Is suggest that you hold a six inch square sponge in each hand while you chin or perform pull-downs. This will lessen the wear and tear on your hands due to the knurled surface of the bar.

3. Rowing Machine

jim haislop bodybuilding workout rowing

Bent over rowing on a rowing machine is quite effective if you will keep your back parallel to the floor. Pull the weight up with your lats and not your back, or you will soon have back problems. In your bent over position with your hand grasped firmly on the handles provided; pull the bar slowly up to your chest, then lower it to arm’s length. Continue this until you have completed a set. Remember to do it slowly and strictly with no jerking up of the weight. Don’t let the weight touch the floor on the downward stroke.

4. Bent Over Rowing with Bar

jim haislop bodybuilding workout bent rowing

This is done exactly as on the rowing machine except the hands are spaced in a much wider position. Barbell rowing can be done in home training where you may not have access to a rowing machine.

5- One Arm Rowing with Dumbbell
Place one arm on a box about two and a half feet high, then hold a dumbbell in the other hand. Bend over parallel to the floor and begin a rowing motion, the same as in barbell or machine rowing.

6. Towel Rowing

jim haislop bodybuilding workout towel rowing

This is my second favorite exercise in lat training. I have used it in my routine for the last 5 years. It is extremely effective in lower-lat development. To perform towel rowing you will need a floor pully. Place a towel around a bar attached to the floor pulley and take a few steps backward while raising the weight. Here again your upper body will be parallel to the floor. While in this position, pull the weight toward your waist and return it to arms length. As you return the weight to the starting position, turn your hands toward the outside as this will give added stretch to the lower lats. This exercise can also be performed with a training partner and a single towel. With your partner on one end of the towel, begin rowing. As one rows the other resists. Rowing motions can also be performed while in a seated position. Many types of handles are used in cable towing, but I find the towel the best because you have a free hand movement. With a bar your hands are in a fixed position.

7. Stretching
Stretching the lats by leaning backwards while holding on to a vertical bar will add a finishing touch to your lats as well as being a good warm up prior to your lat work. I have found these exercises to be the best for me, although there are many more lat exercises. Always do at least a minimum of four sets per lat exercise that you choose. These should be beneficial to you if you will only give them a chance, as I have.”

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