Build a Big Shredded Back

Lat Pull-Downs Give You Wings

If you’re a fan of the well-known and extremely popular energy drinks, then you’ve definitely heard the tag line “Red Bull gives you wings”…? Well I’m here to tell you it isn’t true (surprise!!) and in fact if you want to develop wings, you need a great back workout.

In this article I’m going to walk you through a great back and lat workout and by the end you’ll have forgotten about Red Bull giving you wings and you’ll be saying “Lat pull-downs give you wings”

Your Approach

There’s two ways of approaching this workout, and my suggestion is to switch it up every two weeks, creating a two-week training cycle –

Cycle 1 – Go heavy! With each exercise, aim to lift between 6-8 reps with a heavy weight. The last couple of reps should be a struggle but remember to keep you form. This is all about ripping the muscle fibres to promote muscle strength and overall growth.

Cycle 2 – Getting Ripped! In this cycle, the plan is to reduce the weight and increase the number of reps with each exercise. Aim to complete 15 reps per exercise, pushing through fatigue and lactic acid. Again, the last few reps should be a struggle, but this cycle is designed to really pump the muscle to really make them stand out.

The Exercises

  • Lat Pull-Downs
  • Deadlifts
  • Barbell Bent Over Rows
  • Single Arm Bent Over Rows
  • Seated Rows
  • Pull-Ups

Start Your Workout

I can’t stress enough how important it is to warm up. This doesn’t mean you have to jump on the treadmill or stationary bike and “just plod along” for 10 – 15 minutes, but it means you have to do something that gets your heart pumping, makes your physically feel warmer and gets you breathing deeper. Why? Simply because if you start training when you’re body is cold, you’re increasing the risk of injury. Think of starting a car with no oil in the engine – it’ll jerk, jump then just stop in a pool of smoke. Your body is the same, it’ll start quickly but your muscles will be cold and tight and you’ll be at risk of snapping or pulling something…. start as you mean to go on.

As this is a back workout, I recommend starting on a rowing machine and aim to do approx. 2,000 metres as a warm up. Don’t start imagining you’re on a peaceful rowing lake, you should aim to get progressively faster with each 500 metres.

I also like to use the Lat-Pull Downs as part of my warm up, after doing 2,000 metres on the rower, this is what I do –

  • 1 set x 50 reps

Yes…you read that correctly, aim to do 50 reps in one go. I weight 76kg so I set the lat-pull down machine to about 55-60kg then smash 50 reps in one hit. Towards the end, these really start to hurt and I have to dig deep to finish the set, but it’s really worth it. This exercise for so many reps really engages the upper and middle of your back – this is where you start to build and add width to your lats!


In this and the other exercises I’m going to focus my rep counts on ripping the muscles for definition rather than overall, so each of my rep counts will be higher with a lower weight. But you can add more weight and do fewer reps if your focus is to build stronger and bigger muscles – other than that the exercise itself is exactly the same.

  • 1 set x 15 reps
  • 1 set x 12 reps
  • 2 sets x 10 reps

The trick to a good deadlift is not to rush and concentrate on your technique. It’s very easy to rush which will undoubtedly mean you bend your back and put yourself at risk of injury. This is what to do –

  • Stand shoulder width apart with you feet underneath the bar.
  • Bend at the knees and hips and take hold of the bar with both hands.
  • Always keep you back and arms straight.
    • Bending your back with add more pressure to your back and shoulders.
  • Lift up / extend with you knees and hips simultaneously.
    • Drive up with you legs.
    • Keep you back straight and continue to look forward
    • You should feel strain in you lower back as well as your upper leg muscles
  • Once standing completely upright, trying and roll your shoulders to extend them to the max.
  • Lowering the bar is the same process but in reverse.
    • Bend at the hips and knees only.
  • Once the bar is touching the floor, repeat the exercise for you chosen number of reps.

Barbell Bent Over Rows

For me, these are one of the best exercises for adding width to your lats. When done correctly, it’s very specific and targets the muscles in the upper back very well as well as the posterior shoulders and biceps.

This is what you need to –

  • 1 set x 15 reps
  • 1 set x 12 reps
  • 2 sets x 10 reps

You can either use the barbell traditionally by adding weights to either end, or as I like to do, you can secure one end of the barbell into a corner, then add weights to one end only, and stand over the bar with it between your legs. This means you’re now pulling the bar towards you fro a central position. If you’re using this method, I would also suggest that you stand on a platform of some sort to be able to fully extend your back muscles.

  • Stand shoulder width apart.
  • With straight arms and a straight back, grip the bar with both hands.
  • Your legs should be bent at the knees slightly.
  • Make sure your shoulders and rolled forward.
  • Lift your head and look forward at all times – this will help to keep you back straight
  • Pull the bar up towards your chest.
    • The rest of your body should stay in the fixed position.
    • This exercise purely focuses on your back.
  • When the bar reaches your chest, slowly lower back to the floor.
    • You can either place the weight back on the floor or keep tension by not allowing the bar to rest on the floor.
  • Once at the resting position, repeat the exercise for your chosen rep count.

Single Arm Bent Over Rows

Similar to barbell bent over rows, single arms rows work the same muscle but instead focus on one side of the body at a time. Predominantly when perform an exercise that uses both arms, or both legs for example, your strongest side will normally do a little more of the lifting. By separating the exercise, each muscle is given the opportunity to work at the same rate.

This is what you need to –

  • 1 set x 15 reps
  • 1 set x 12 reps
  • 2 sets x 10 reps

You’ll need a bench to perform this exercise and a single dumbbell. I would generally use a 28kg or 30kg dumbbell but, select the weight that’s best for you.

  • Make sure the bench is flat.
  • Place your left hand on the bench at the top.
  • Place your left knee on the bench at the bottom.
  • Your right leg is now acting as support.
  • Like before, keep your back straight parallel to the floor.
  • Raise you head and look forward.
  • Hold the dumbbell in you right hand and raise it towards your right pectoral muscle.
    • Remember to keep you back straight and elbow into your body.
  • Once fully contracted and dumbbell is at your chest or armpit, lower again until your arm is fully extended.
  • You’ve just complete one full repitition – continue for your rep count now.

Seated Rows

Seated rows are exactly as you would imagine – in a seated position and moving as if you were rowing. Many people begin to move their whole bodies when doing this exercise, but like before, the trick is to keep you back straight and not “swing” or use momentum. We want the back muscles, lats and real delts to do all the work!

This is what you need to –

  • 1 set x 15 reps
  • 1 set x 12 reps
  • 2 sets x 10 reps

Most gyms will have a specific seated row machine, but if yours doesn’t you can perform this same exercise sitting in front of a pulley machine.

  • With the seated row machine, raise the seat so when you’re seated, your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Bring the chest plate forward so when you’re rest on it, your back is perfect straight and your shoulders aren’t hunched or rounded.
  • Take hold of the handles and pull them towards you.
    • Keep your chest against the plate all times.
    • Your back should remain straight and head up.
  • You should feel the pull in your lat muscles.
  • When fully contracted, hold for 2 seconds.
  • Lower the weight, allow it to slowly move back to the starting position.
    • You must not allow the weight to be fully rested – always keep tension.
  • Repeat the above steps for the remainder of your reps.


These are the easiest exercise in terms of what to do, but can be for many people, the hardest exercise of them all. Also remember that by this point you have already performed five intense and energy sapping exercises and with pull-ups, the intention is to lift your whole body weight.

This is what you need to –

  • 1 set x 12 reps
  • 1 set x 10 reps
  • 2 sets x 8 reps


You just need to find a space with a high bar and enough room for your to hang – sounds easy enough….. Being able to lift and pull your own body weight is a real demonstration of strength and power, and you’ll be surprised at how many people can’t do pull-ups correctly.

  • Hold the bar with both hands, approx. shoulder width apart.
    • The wider you can hold the bar, the more emphasis you’ll put on the lat muscle.
    • Your palms should be facing away from you.
  • In one clean motion, simple pull yourself up until your head or ideally your chest is in-line with the bar.
  • Hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended.
    • If you’re not lowering to full extension, you’re not working the full range of the muscle.
  • You’ve now completed one full pull-up. Continue for the remaining reps.

Building Your Back

This workout is designed to hit your back hard, and certainly when you first try it, you can expect to ache for at least a day or two after the workout. Don’t let that put you off. Your back is fundamentally one of the most important areas of your body that you need to be strong, as along with your core muscles, it’s your back that keeps you stable and allows you movement.

You should begin to notice, that with a stronger back, your other training will become easier and you’ll be hitting new personal records very soon. For example, with a stronger and more toned back, you squatting will become easier as you’ll be able to support the weight more evenly and securely.

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