Hardgainers Guide to Wide, Thick Latts

Overcome Genetics to Build a wide back.

For many hardgainers, the back is a notoriously difficult muscle group to develop. Often the difficulty in training it is the fact that we can’t actually see it and this can further lead to neglected latts and rhomboids, with the inevitable result of the whole upper body lacking the width, taper and thickness to truly impress. Here’s a well rounded program that will allow you to break through your plateaus and build a back to be proud of.

The V Taper

The key to a truly impressive back is undoubtedly the ‘v’ taper. Effectively working the latissimus dorsi is to concentrate not just on moving weight but on contracting the working muscle group. Because we can’t see our latts, we don’t put in the same amount of conscious effort that we would put into muscles like the chest or biceps. We may be pulling hard, but there is more of a natural tendency to focus more on the weight than the muscle. To activate the latts though, we need to squeeze and contract them through a full range of motion. How do you do it?

Here are four essential tips:

  1. Use a wide grip on pull ups and latt pulldowns. This gives you a much better angle of pull for the latts. The back is a huge muscle group, running from the shoulder all the way down to the hip. A wide grip allows you to move it through a full range of motion. A wide grip will put your arms in a ‘v’ position. A ‘v’ position for a ‘v’ taper. It’s a no brainer.
  2. When you ‘’pull down’’ during a latt pulldown, or ‘’pull up’’ during a pull up, do it in such a way that the elbows come in close to the body.
  3. Perform latt pulldowns with cables rather than a straight bar. This gives you a handle in each hand. And this will allow you to supinate your hand (turn it out) as you pull down. This will cause internal rotation in the shoulder joint. The latts are involved in that process. So, having your hands out will more fully involve the latts.
  4. Lower the weight on your pull-downs to allow you to slow the movement down and really concentrate on squeezing and contracting the muscle. Try performing one and a half reps, where you pull down, contract, then come up half way before pulling down again for another full contraction.

Back Thickness

To develop back thickness, you need to concentrate on heavy compound movements, and a neutral grip position. This will allow you to focus on the rhomboids of the mid back.

Arnold Schwarzenegger often stated that bent over rows are the number one move for developing thickness in the mid back. And if it’s good enough for Arnie, it’s good enough for us. The key to success with this move, though, is proper form.

Here are the key tips to maximizing performance:

  • Keep your spine in a neutral position
  • Engage your core
  • Let the bar hang as low as possible to really feel it in the latts
  • As you pull the bar toward the body, squeeze your shoulder blades together
  • Try a pyramid rep scheme where you add 10% of the weight for 3 sets
  • On the 4th set, perform a drop set for 4 drops of 5 reps
  • As you tire, avoid the tendency to become more upright – keep your upper body at a 45 degree angle, spine neutral and core engaged

An old school exercise which is another fantastic mass builder is single arm rows. Single arm rows simulate the action of pulling a lawnmower cord. You place a dumbbell on the floor alongside a bench. Place one knee on the bench, keeping your back flat and leaning down to grab the weight. Feel that deep stretch in the latts. Maintain a fluid motion through the full range, ensuring to contract your latts and squeeze the shoulder blade at the top.


As a hardgainer you need to focus on what gives you the best bang for your buck. The four moves below are the cream of the crop for back mass and thickness. Focus on perfect form and muscle contraction and don’t worry too much about the weight that you are lifting. That will help you to develop the mind muscle connection – and that is your key to a huge back.

The Workout

Focus on back width and thickness with just 4 exercises, once per week:

Exercise Sets & Reps
Pull Ups (Wide Grip) 4 sets to failure
Latt Pull Downs (cables) 4 x 8-10 reps
Barbell Bent Over Rows 3 x 10/8/6 then a drop set of 5/5/5/5
Dumbbell Single Arm Rows 3 x 10-12

*Rest a minimum of 2 minutes between sets*


Author: Steve Theunissen
Author Bio: Steve Theunissen is the Nutrition Souq Bodybuilding and Workouts Editor. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer. Steve is the author of 5 hard copy books and dozens of e-books on the subject of fitness, bodybuilding and weight loss.