Every serious trainer aspires to build an aesthetically-tapered physique, to create the illusion of sculpted shoulders and wide lats descending into a tight waist.
The truth is, that v-taper is largely based on genetics. So, if you aren’t blessed with those traits, you must focus on musculature characteristics that can visually enhance the hourglass effect. Creating a narrow waist, to the extent determined by your body composition will rely heavily on overall fat loss methodologies, ultimately driven by diet and training programs consistent with these goals.
We can attack this aesthetic goal from a variety of angles. Placing particular emphasis on developing wide lats will visually enhance the perceived disparity. The Latissimus Dorsi represents the broadest muscle of your back, with a wing like structure spanning from humerus (upper arm) down to your posterior iliac crest (hip). Developing this behemoth creates a productive cycle of growing lats and a shrinking waist, as each continue to perpetuate the other in opposing directions.
Although we often seek training advice from those who already embody the physical traits we seek, it’s wise to listen to the advice of someone who has developed a relatively impressive physique in spite of genetic limitations. For years my lats were nonexistent. Although muscular, my proportions resembled more of a bookshelf than an action figure. But determined to make a change, I spent years working to create the lateral width I’d always aspired to obtain.
Here are four exercises that I do on every back day without fail. Keep in mind, I’ve trained back at least three days a week for the past two years. As always, you want to start with the minimum required volume to still achieve adaptation benchmarks.
EXERCISE 1: Triple Pull-Up Superset
Work Sequence: Wide Grip x 10 reps, Neutral Grip x 10 reps, Supinated/Reverse Grip x 10 reps. You should be approaching failure on each grip, as you’ll naturally be stronger with each subsequent variation.
Tip Use a free standing pull up apparatus or if needed, an assisted pull-up machine. The assisted pull-up machine will help you continue to perform full repetitions if you start to fail. Still select assistance appropriate for maximum work capacity.
EXERCISE 2: Seat Elevated Neutral Grip Cable Row
Work Sequence: 4 x 8/15 dropset. In most cases, when load modification simply requires the movement of a pin, we will incorporate some intensity technique (ie. dropsets) in an effort to capture stimulation across fiber types and metabolic demand.
Tip: Utilize a close-grip row attachment (V-handle), place a stepper (or any flat stationary apparatus) approximately 6 – 10 inches in height on top of the bench. This will be your modified seat height, creating a natural plane of movement leading with your elbows below your rib cage, finishing with hands touching each oblique.
EXERCISE 3: Angle Elevated Neutral Grip Cable Row
Work Sequence: 4 x 15 reps
Tip: Use a single arm cable with mobile dock locked at the top of the cable column. Go down on one knee (same side as action arm, this will lock hip in place to prevent over rotative compensation). Initiate movement with your elbow on a trajectory with your hip (not ribs), emphasizing shoulder and scapular depression. De-emphasize biceps engagement.
EXERCISE 4: Straight Arm Lat Pull Down/Over
Work Sequence: 4 x 20 reps
Tip: Vary attachment and equipment with each subsequent workout: cable straight bar, cable rope, cable v-bar and dumbbell. For each variation, you should maintain elbow angle (soft elbow, nearly straight) throughout the movement, isolating contraction of the lats through the concentric and eccentric phases of each repetition.
If you simply incorporate these exercises and the correlating work sequence into your existing back routine, I can assure you results will ensue. These four exercise take a number of critical factors into play: stimulating lats from a variety of angles, managing limiting factors, incorporating compound and isolated movements while achieving volume across different load intensities.
Here are some videos that incorporate the movements outlined in the recommendations above, in addition to some bonus footage that will provide some useful insight in your efforts to develop the ideal physique.