Width and Thickness Emphasis Moves – The Only Two Exercises you Need to do for Your Back


If muscle growth and hypertrophy is your goal, then each training day must have their own goals and specific moves that you need to cover and nothing more so that you don’t end up overdoing things and cycling through ALL exercises for that body part. I very often see this especially in some intermediate lifters in their over enthusiasm to results end up sabotaging their growth by doing more than is required doing redundant moves thus taking up more than 2 hours doing just one body part then he questions GOD oh why has he forsaken them for they are not making any more progress! Sad indeed.

I have mentioned before that for your chest you only need to do at least one compound move and then another isolation lift of your choice (flyes, pec decs, etc) and then if you want you can add just another ONE lift more to ensure the pump – preferably a high rep scheme this time. After that STOP do nothing more; proceed to your next bodypart for the day or GO HOME and recuperate and start the anabolic cycle.

It is no different for your back. Actually you only need to do 2 types of lifts for your back:

1) A Thickness emphasis – type lift

And a

2) Width emphasis – type lift

The only difference is that your back can handle more volume than your chests so you can generally do one more set compared to your chest so if you feel that 3 sets won’t cut it for you, then do 4.

Width emphasis moves are basically the ones responsible for developing your wide V-taper. Basically these are your chins and your pull downs – especially wide grip chins and wide grip pulldowns.

However if you are a powerlifter and you HATE HATE looking like you are always carrying two suitcases because of your wide lats (its typical for strength athletes to think that wide lats look stupid) – then you need to skip on doing those wide grip pulldowns and wide grip chins; that way you will still beef up your lats and strengthen your back but you will not really carve up those bulging wide lats. Just stick to shoulder grip pull-downs and grips which will also service your biceps pretty good.

Thickness-emphasis moves refer to those lifts that are designed to thicken instead of widening your lat area. Typical thickness emphasis moves are your bent-over rows or any of your moves that have the word “row” in it. T-bar rows are perfect even better if you are using the equipment that is supported since your body will be in a straight line lying down therefore minimizing the risk of spinal injuries which are typical to heavy rowing. Drop sets are great for rows especially if you decide to do machine rows with pin-selected weigh stack for your thickness-emphasis for the day.

Branch Warren Doing some T-bar Rows:

Branch Warren Texas style Back tbar row

However for thickness moves the best lift for that if you are talking about CNS involvement (since the more CNS involvement, the MORE growth!) is the Horizontal Pull! Since for CNS the rule is the move which involves moving your OWN body along the plane scores better, then the horizontal pull would garner the most points in the thickness sector. Horizontal pull would be your equivalent to bodyweight chins in the width-emphasis side.

horizontal pullup

Image courtesy of Muscles of Iron

You can ask an assistant to place some plates onto your chest if your bodyweight is not challenging enough for you or ask your buddy to pull you down (by pushing you down from your shoulders) in the negative phase of the move to turn your regular H-pull sets into a hellish high intensity inflitonic massacre! The choice is yours!

After that you can add some heavy deadlifts to finish up your back day and you’re done! Alternatively you can also do your deadlifts at the beginning of your back day – whichever works best for you. Or you can also decide to end your back day with some pull-overs, machine or otherwise.

Total number of sets? Around 12 sets at the most. Time of completion? This workout would take you around 30 minutes to an hour. Amount of pain and growth stimulus generated? HEAVY! Considering that you also applied some high intensity techniques around the last sets of the moves, you will have nothing to worry about – and you only did 3 exercises!! Fair enough!

Let me ask you: how many exercises do you usually do for your back? Let us know below in the comments section! Eat your eggs, people!

A-Lifter- Don't forget to leave your comment/feedback below.  If this article was helpful, I am sure our book Real Talk Muscle will help you even more in your quest for muscle gain. Check it out you can read the first few chapters as well.
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2 thoughts on “Width and Thickness Emphasis Moves – The Only Two Exercises you Need to do for Your Back

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