Because we don’t usually see it in the mirror, the back receives short shrift in many training programs. Of course you want full-blown pecs, popping delts and guns that could slay an army. There are several compelling reasons, however, to start giving your lats equal gym time.
Just as many people see you from the back. We’re all preoccupied with how we look from the front but rarely wonder how we look from behind. Just as those who have well-developed upper bodies and wimpy legs look silly, so do those who look like mammoths from the front and Milquetoasts from behind. Massive lats and traps scream power from a distance. A poorly developed back also communicates something’lazy, half-ass poseur! Avoid the Mighty Joe Young look. If you’ve ever seen a big guy with the slumped-forward posture of a simian, you can bet that he’s been pushing hard for years on the bench press and overhead press and not doing much pulling. Over time, the strength imbalance actually pulls the shoulders forward and down, making him look like our great ape cousins. Unless you want your knuckles to drag on the ground someday, start pulling just as much as you push and maintain good posture.
Get an attention-grabbing V-taper. Few of us were gifted with tiny, narrow waists and hips. As a result, you can only obtain a meaningful V-taper through total development of the side deltoids and lats. Shoulders alone won’t do it. Only a wide wingspan to go along with them can give you the coveted torso shape. V-taper is so critical that much smaller physiques with better tapers are often more impressive and admired than bigger bodies that are built more like engine blocks.
Achieve bragging rights with big numbers. The bench press has always been and probably always will be the mark by which many gauge a lifter’s strength. Unfortunately, not everyone has the right leverages and structure to get a noteworthy amount of weight up. Long-armed trainees especially have a tough time moving any big numbers in the bench. Back training, specifically the deadlift, is a perfect alternative. Here, long arms are actually an advantage, as there’s less distance to clear from the floor. In the bench press long arms force you to move the bar over a longer distance than the average person has to cover. So, while a taller trainee might not be able to bench 400, he may be able to deadlift 500 or more. That’s impressive by any standard.
There are certainly more reasons than these to blast your back as intensely as any other muscle group, but they should be enough to convince you. Even though it may be behind you, there’s no reason to leave your back behind in training. IM