Best Exercises For The Lats
If you really want that perfect body of a hero, you have to build a thick and carved back. Specifically, you have to hit your lats, the broad, fan-shaped muscles that loom large along your back. The perfect physique does not really come together without a muscular back that extends wide from the shoulders to the waist. And that v-taper is a real product of lat development. There are plenty of exercises that can get the job done. Here are 10 best exercises for the lats to build big wide lats. Be sure to do two or three of these exercises at least once a week to round out your physique.
Anatomy of the lats
Lats are the largest muscle in the human body and are relatively thin and cover most of the back muscles of the posterior torso, except the trapezius muscles. Lats range from the scapula and spinous processes of the thoracic vertebrae (T7) to the lumbar spine (L5) forming the lower lats or thoracolumbar fascia. They include a humerus (upper arm bone) that performs many shoulder and arm movements. The joints connect to five different areas including the spine, pelvis, ribs, scapula, and humerus.
As one of the largest muscles in the upper body, your lats are involved in many body movements. This movements includes
- Straight vertical exercises – chin-ups, pull-ups, and lat pulldown.
- Horizontal pulling exercises – rows.
- Shoulder extension exercises – pullovers and straight arm pulldowns.
These exercises all include shoulder adduction, shoulder extension, and internal shoulder rotations, which the lats all play a major role
Weak and stretched lats results in rounded shoulders from excessive sitting or over-developing chest muscles. Balancing your training with pulling exercise will build strong lats, which helps you pull your shoulders down and back into good posture.
Benefits of Training Your Lats
The V-shaped torso and broad shoulders are desired by almost all the lifters. And in order to look good, you need to train hard and heavy along with good nutrition for a smaller waistline. The lats muscle also helps to support your spine during compound movements.
As you squat, the lats get involved (by pulling the barbell down into your upper back) and keep you in an upright posture.
For deadlifts, strong lats keep you in a neutral spine position while you are in the hinge position and keep the bar close to you as you pull. The further the bar is away from you during the pull the more prone to rounding your spine.
During bench press, engaged lats provide a stable base to press from which to assist in an efficient pressing path. Also, lats play a role in transferring force from your leg drive to your chest.
The 10 best exercises for the lats
Lats are a large muscle and require blood flow and activation before any physical training. Foam rolling the upper and lower back drives blood flow to the area to reduce soreness, stiffness, and aids in mobility.
Now let’s get into the best lat exercises out there.
The classic barbell deadlift is often thought of as a hamstring and glute builder and ranks 1st on our list of the best exercises for lats. Think of it this way: Whether you are lifting or lowering the barbell with a heavy weight, it hangs from your hands, and your back muscles have to pull. Don’t underrate this movement as the basis for a strong back.
How to do it:
- Load a heavy barbell on the ground and stand next to it, so it almost touches your shins.
- Grasp it with a shoulder width grip. The feet shoulder width apart and arms just outside the legs, push the hips as far back as possible and bend the knee enough to reach the bar.
- From the bottom position with a straight back, pull the bar from the ground in a standing position and pull the hips back to standing position.
- In all movements, it is important to maintain a strong posture. Descend down to control the bar back to the ground.
2. Barbell Row
Next on our list of the best exercises for lats is the barbell row. Fixed movement with both arms can increase the amount of weight that you can use. This exercise is the basis of many bodybuilders, athletes, and perhaps your routine by this point and this exercise can be used as an accessory or main exercise and deserves to be on our list of the best exercises for lats .
How to do it:
- Stand next to a loaded barbell set on the ground.
- Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward so your torso is slightly higher than parallel to the ground, then hold the barbell using an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
- Look down, not forward. Brace your core.
- Hinge up, raise your chest at an angle of 45 degrees with the ground and lift the barbell. This is the starting position.
- To keep your core tight and your shoulder blades squeezed, bend your elbows and pull the barrel to your lower chest.
- Aim to keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle in line with your chest as you do this, and then try to touch the bar to your ribcage. Then lower back to start in a slow and controlled manner.
3. Dumbbell Row
Next on our list of the best exercises for lats, this is one of the first variations of the row exercise novice lifters learn. Simply hinge forward, place one arm on a bench for balance, and grasp the dumbbell on the other side.
Keep your torso steady as you bend your elbow and use your back muscles to pull the dumbbell up close to your ribcage. Dumbbell rows involve a lot of back muscles, but if you want to focus on your lats here, aim to get a good stretch at the bottom of the motion.
How to do it:
- Start standing, holding a single dumbbell in your right hand.
- Now, hinge forward until your torso is almost parallel to the ground.
- Brace your core and keep your feet shoulder width apart.
- Place your left hand on the box or bench for balance. This is the start.
- Pull the dumbbell back just above your belly button, then push it back slightly to the start.
4. Pullups and Chin-ups
The pull-up and chin up is a well-known movement, and the basis for lat development. Both movements are easy: You hang from a bar, with an overhand grip (pull-ups) or an underhand grip (chin-ups), and then pull your chest to the bar. To really target the chest, avoid swinging your hips to create momentum that drives the chest to the bar.
How to do It:
- Hang from pull up bar using an overhand (pull up) or underhand grip (chin-ups), hands separated by shoulder width.
- Be sure to tighten your core, bend your elbows and shoulders and pull your chest to the bar.
- Pause, then descend with control.
5. Lat Pulldowns
Lat pulldown is a cousin of pullups and chin-ups and one of the best exercises to do for the lats. But we give it its place here because it allows you to focus on your lats and finish all the reps with a good squeeze.
How to do it:
- Sit at the lat pulldown station and grab the bar above with a grip wider than shoulder width.
- Brace your core.
- Pull the bar down to your chest, bend your elbow and squeeze your shoulders blades together.
- Then return back to initial position in a slow and controlled manner.
6. Landmine row
The landmine row has many similarities with the barbell row, except that the angle of your pull is different.
How to do it:
- Set a barbell in a landmine and place the weight on the other side of the barbell.
- Grasp the handles of the v-bar.
- Hinge forward so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the ground; this is the beginning.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades and and row the weighted end of the barbell toward your chest; pause, then return to the beginning.
7. Dumbbell Pullover
Dumbbell pullover is considered a chest exercise for some, and it will hit your abs a lot. But as you pull the weight back above your torso, your upper arms mimic a series of movements. And the best part comes before that: your lats wind up getting great stretching as you lower the weight.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back on the bench, holding a dumbbell over you with both hands, gripping the weight instead of the bar.
- Keep your arms straight as you lower weight in an arc behind your head. When you feel a stretch in your chest, relax, and pull it back to the starting position.
- As you pull it back, your lats comes to play.
8. Meadows Row
How to do it:
- Stand next to a landmine, facing away, your outer leg should be about six inches from the end of the barbells and your hind leg in a staggered stance behind you.
- Move forward so that your chest is 45 degrees down, and rest your outer hand on your outer leg.
- Grip the bar with an overhand grip.
- Tighten your core. This is the beginning. Now row the bar to the bottom of your chest.
- Press and lower with control.
9. Renegade Row
This CrossFit staple allows you to train your lats while building shoulder stability at the same time. And it will challenge your core also. You will find yourself using lighter weights than you would in other movements, too, which means you will have a better chance of finishing each rep by squeezing your lats.
How to do it:
- Begin in a pushup position, with your hands on a pair of dumbbells in a neutral position, and your feet shoulder width apart.
- Do a push up. As you lift your torso, lift one dumbbell off the ground and row with it; you will need to support your weight with the other shoulder.
- Return back to the starting position and row the other dumbbell.
- Alternate first dumbbell you row with every push up rep.
10. Inverted Bodyweight Row
This row has you lying underneath the bar, tightening your entire torso, and then rowing your chest toward the bar. It will challenge your abs and glutes, but expect it to be harder. Make it easy raising the bar higher and taking a position close to the stand or make it easier by getting on your knees and planting your heels into the floor.
How to do it:
- Lie beneath a barbell and grab the bar using an under grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Keep your feet and chest in position so that you are at a 45-degree angle to the ground.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades; this is the starting position.
- Now, pull your torso and body up, aiming to touch the bar between the belly button and the chest.
- Lower back to the start. That is 1 rep.
11. Deadstop row
The deadstop row is like a barbell row, with the exception of each rep, lowering the bar until it reaches the ground, bringing it to a dead stop. Result: Move more weight, but without sacrificing form or risking injury.
How to do it:
- Setting up for this is very similar to a barbell row. Once again, stand next to a loaded barbell placed on the floor.
- Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward so that your chest is slightly higher than parallel to the ground, then hold the barbell using an overhand, shoulder-wide grip.
- Look down, not forward. This is the startup position.
- Keep your core tight and your shoulder blades squeezed, bend your elbows and pull the barbell to your lower chest.
- Aim to keep your elbow at a 45-degree angle in line with your chest as you do this, and then try to touch the bar to your ribcage.
- Lower the barbell all the way to the ground, then allow it to rest (dead stop) on the ground, and begin the next rep.
12. T-Bar row
The T-bar row is similar to the barbell row, but puts less weight on your spinal erector and allows you to focus more on your arms and upper back.
This makes it even better over time in your back workout, after your lower back has been pushed from big movements such as a deadlift lift and a barbell row. You can do it with a barbell and a v-bar attachment.
How to do the t bar row:
If your gym does not have a landmine unit, follow the instructions below:
- Place the end of an empty barbell in the corner of the room.
- Rest a heavy dumbbell or other weight plates in it to hold it.
- Load the ends of the bar with plates and straddle it.
- Bend over at the hips until your torso is about 45 degrees down and your hands are extended.
- Hold the V-grip handle (the type you see in the cable station) under the bar and hold it with both hands.
- To keep your back below its natural arch, squeeze the blades of your shoulders and pull the bar until the plates touch your chest.
13. Seated Cable Row
This row variation simply replaces the close-grip handle bar with a D-handle, so you’re working each side individually. This change helps to provide a range of motion and additional grip options: neutral (palm-in), overhand, underhand, or perhaps best of all, alternating the palm of your hand as you pull, giving a completely new feeling.
How to do it:
- Set up yourself in a cable row position, knees and back slightly arched, sitting high.
- Grasp the handle with one hand, pulling your elbow back as far back as possible without twisting your body to the side.
- Retract your shoulder, and give the mid-back musculature a momentary squeeze for a while before letting the weight hang from your arm back to its original position.
14. Kneeling Isolateral Cable Pull-Down
Instead of using a lat pull-down station, here you will change the pull angle by placing yourself on your knees between the two upper pulleys. You will not use a lot of weight, because there is no way to anchor yourself down, but it is a great pumping movement for the end of your workout.
How to do this:
- Set the cables to the top position, then remove the handles.
- Go to each side and hold the right cable in your right hand and the left cable in your left, holding the ball between your thumb and index finger.
- Center yourself, then kneel, keeping your back straight and your chest out.
- Rotate your hands so that your grip is under hand. Drive your elbows to your sides, squeezing your lats in the peak-contracted position.
Training key tip: Make sure it is positioned centrally and aligned with the cables; if one side feels heavier than the other or the movement patterns feel asymmetrical, you are probably off-center.
15. Underhanded Bent Over Row
Next on our list of the best exercises for the lats. Most pulling exercise trains the lats to a certain degree. To better identify lower lats, you need a little tweak to this process here or there to focus on it. For example, switching to a hand position to the underhand helps train lower lats. Also, it focuses more on the biceps as well.
Benefits of Underhanded Bent Over Row
- Add strength and size to your upper back, lower extremities, biceps and erector spinae
- Good carryover to your deadlift
- It helps to improve your posture.
How to do it:
- Hinge at your hips and grab a loaded barbell with hands wider than shoulder width.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and row the barbell until it touches your abdomen. You want your elbows to be at an angle at 45 degrees throughout the movement.
- Hold the upper position of the row for a minute and then slowly lower the weight down.
16. Straight arm Lat Pulldown
And last on our list of the best exercises for lats is the straight arm lat pulldown. This exercise can be done with a cable machine or with a resistance band, but the premise is the same. You will grab or use your arms straight (as the name implies), and flex your lats to pull your arms to your sides. The straight arm lat pulldown is a good workout if you have trouble feeling your lats during any pulling movement and it’s a great deadlift accessory exercise too.
Benefits of Straight Arm Lat Pulldown
- If you have trouble feeling your lats, this will cure this problem.
- Place the constant tension on the lats with minimal involvement with the biceps.
- It is joint friendly.
How to do it;
- Choose your equipment (belts or cable machine) and optional attachments, be it straight bar, handles, or rope.
- Grip the handle, tighten your core, bend your hips back and lean your torso forward slightly, keeping your hand above shoulder height.
- Step back from the cable, then pull, keep your arms straight up until you reach your hips and then pause for a second.
- Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.