Back training: width vs thickness.

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

When it comes to back development, there are two different aspects and characteristics you need to keep in mind in order to achieve an aesthetic and well developed back: thickness and width. Each one is worked differently using different exercises, angles and movements.

On today’s post we are going to talk about each of these two characteristics and how to work them in order to build that magazine ready back.


When we talk about thickness we are talking about depth, mass and, literally, thickness. In other words: how muscular your back looks. You can work on this by doing any type of rowing movements. These movements imply rhomboids and trapezius activation and, as these muscles grow, they start creating that deep and thick look in your back.

Some of my favorite exercises for thickness are:

  • V bar row

  • T bar row

  • One arm dumbbell row

  • Deadlift

  • Seated one arm cable row

  • Seated wide grip cable row (both neutral and pronation grip)


When we talk about width we are literally talking about how wide your back is, the famous V taper. Leaving aside the fact that round, full and well-developed shoulders help creating that wide look, if we focus on our back there is one muscle whose growth and development adds width to it: the latissimus dorsi (your lats), the biggest muscle in your back.

This muscle is trained essentially by pulling movements, whether is up or down. However, there are certain rowing movements that do really activate your lats depending on the position of your arms. If you keep your elbows close to your body it implies an extension movement, which activates your lats. But as your elbows separate from your core and they start creating a more vertical/perpendicular angle, the movement stops being an extension and it becomes an abduction movement, which activates primarily rear delts and rhomboids.

Some of my favorite exercises for width are:

  • Lat pull down (every variation: close grip, wide grip, supination, pronation or neutral grip)

  • Pull ups (all variations)

  • Straight arms cable pull downs

  • Lat pull down with V bar kneeling

  • Barbell bent over row (close grip, pronation or supination grip)


When it comes down to how and how much to train for thickness and for width, in my opinion, and as a starting point, you should train them equally. However, it will depend on the current level of development of your back and which your goal is with it. Also, it will depend on how many times you train your back a week. If you train it one day a week a combination of both types of exercises will be the best option. If you train it more however (let’s say 2 times a week), one day you could focus on thickness and the other on width.

That’s it for today!! If you have any doubt, question, suggestion, constructive critic or you are not agree with something you read, please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments section or let me know by using my social media. And if you know anyone that needs to read this please share it with him/her!!

See you in the next one!! :)


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