Best Exercise for Width: Wide-Grip Pulldown
Best Exercise for Thickness: Prone Dumbbell Row (as pictured)
The Expert: Jim Smith
A barn-door–sized back is built with two kinds of pulling exercises: horizontal and vertical. The former encompasses all rowing variations, while the latter covers pullups and pulldowns. You must use both kinds of pulling regularly, says Jim Smith, founder of Diesel Strength and Conditioning.
What to do
The dumbbell row focuses on your lats, traps, and rhomboids, increasing the thickness of your back. This should be your staple horizontal pulling movement. For vertical pulling, use the wide-grip pulldown. It recruits the lats and teres major muscles, which, when developed, give the appearance of greater width, says Smith.
Try this strategy from Smith, called the Diesel Mass method: Do a heavy work set (6–8 reps) of wide-grip overhand pulldowns, then 15–20 reps with a lighter load and a different grip, such as a wide-grip underhand pulldown.