lat exercises

The 10 Best Lat Exercises to Build a Stronger Back

Do you work out to get in shape? Or do you want to have a signature X-shaped body like a bodybuilder? Maybe your goal is something simpler: you want to strengthen your back, or you want a strong back so you can do a lot of things that require your back.

Whatever your goal, remember that you need a stronger back to improve your body’s aesthetics, whether in the gym or at home.

Now you know how important your back muscles are to your balance. Although they are not as visible as your biceps or front muscles, they play an important role in improving your body’s posture and appearance. One of the most important muscles in the back is the latissimus dorsi – and it is also the part you need to focus on in lat exercises to strengthen it.

The latissimus dorsi is an important muscle component of the back, and it is a wide fan-shaped muscle. The reason why the latissimus dorsi is particularly important is that they are the largest muscles in the body and form a “V” shape with the trapezius muscles on the back, which is also what people strive to achieve when they work out to create a V-shaped torso.

More importantly, the latissimus dorsi is essential for some movements in the gym or life: pulling. From dumbbell rows to pull-ups, the lats are involved. So if you want to tone your lats, the key is to find the best lat exercises that keep them engaged. But the lat exercises we know today are all the same. Some exercises are more effective than others, and if you want to tone and build strength in your lats, it’s important to know where to spend your time and energy. Here are 10 of the best lat exercises and back-focused workouts that will have you feeling like you left the gym.

Related:  The Best 10 Dumbbell Lat Exercises You Need To Try Right Now

What Are Your Lats?

The lats, short for latissimus dorsi, are the large muscles on each side of the middle and lower back. They are the widest back muscles and are responsible for several important movements of the upper body. The lats originate from the lower half of the spine (thoracic and lumbar vertebrae), as well as the iliac crest (top part of the pelvis), and are inserted into the upper arm bone (humerus).

Functions of the latissimus dorsi include

Shoulder Extension: This movement involves pulling the upper arm downward and backward, such as during a pull-up or lat pulldown exercise.

Adduction of the Arm: When the arm moves toward the midline of the body, the lats help in this motion.

Medial Rotation of the Arm: The lats also assist in rotating the arm inward toward the body.

Assisting in Respiration: The lats can also play a role in deep breathing by stabilizing the lower ribs during inhalation.

Strengthening the lats is crucial for overall upper body strength and stability, and exercises like pull-ups, lat pulldowns, rows, and various forms of pulling movements help target and develop these muscles effectively.

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The Benefits of Lats Exercises

Exercises that target the latissimus dorsi (lats) offer a wide range of benefits, both functionally and aesthetically.

Functional Benefits

Improved Upper Body Strength: The lats are one of the largest muscles in the upper body. Strengthening them enhances overall upper body strength, which is beneficial for daily activities and sports.

Enhanced Pulling Power: Strong lats are essential for pulling movements like pull-ups, rows, and deadlifts. They contribute significantly to your ability to pull objects towards you or lift heavy weights.

Better Posture: Well-developed lats help in stabilizing and supporting the spine, which can contribute to improved posture. This is particularly important if you spend long hours sitting or working at a desk.

Increased Stability and Injury Prevention: Strong lats provide stability to the shoulders and upper back, reducing the risk of injuries during lifting and other
physical activities.

Improved Athletic Performance: Athletes benefit greatly from strong lats, as they play a crucial role in many sports movements such as swimming, rock climbing, and martial arts.

Aesthetic Benefits

Wider Back Appearance: Developing the lats creates a wider and more V-shaped appearance to the upper body, enhancing overall physique aesthetics.

Defined Back Musculature: Training the lats along with other back muscles (rhomboids, traps) helps in achieving a well-defined and muscular back.

Balanced Upper Body: A balanced physique with developed lats complements chest and shoulder development, creating a symmetrical upper body appearance.

Health Benefits

Metabolic Benefits: Compound exercises that target the lats, such as pull-ups and rows, can increase overall metabolism due to their demand for energy and muscle recruitment.

Improved Breathing Mechanics: Strong lats assist in the mechanics of deep breathing by stabilizing the rib cage and facilitating better lung expansion.

The 10 Best Lat Exercises

Hammer Strength Row

Why: The hammer strength row is a specific type of lat exercises that targets the muscles of the upper back, shoulders, and arms.

How to:

1. Sit upright on the machine’s seat with your chest against the pad and your feet flat on the floor.

2. Grasp the handles with an overhand grip (palms facing down), ensuring your arms are extended straight in front of you. Your torso should be at about a 90-degree angle to your thighs.

3. Pull the handles toward your torso by retracting your shoulder blades and bending your elbows, keeping them close to your body.

4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the peak of the movement to fully engage your upper back muscles.

5. Pause briefly at the fully contracted position, then slowly extend your arms back to the starting position, controlling the weight.

Sets and Reps: Go for 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps here

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Weighted Chin-Up

Why: A weighted chin-up is an advanced lat exercises that primarily targets the muscles of the upper body, particularly the back, biceps, and shoulders.

How to:

1. Grab the pull up bar with an underhand grip (palms facing towards you), about shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower.

2. Hang freely with your arms fully extended.

3. If using a weight belt, attach the desired weight securely.
Pull yourself up towards the bar by bending your elbows and pulling your chin above the bar.

4. Focus on keeping your elbows close to your body and avoid swinging or using momentum.

5. Once your chin is above the bar, pause briefly to maximize muscle contraction in your back and biceps.

6. Lower yourself back down in a controlled manner until your arms are fully extended.

Sets and Reps: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps

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Seal Row

Why: The seal row is an effective lat exercises that primarily targets the muscles of the upper back, including the rhomboids, rear deltoids, and middle traps.

How to:

1. Start with the barbell resting on the floor in front of the bench, aligned with your chest.

2. Grasp the barbell with both hands and pull it towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body.

3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the barbell towards your body, focusing on engaging your upper back muscles.

4. Aim to pull the barbell until it touches your lower chest or upper abdomen, ensuring a full contraction of the back muscles.

5. Lower the barbell back down to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner, maintaining tension in your back muscles throughout the movement.

Sets and Reps: Try 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Barbell Row

Why: The barbell row is a lat exercises primarily targeting the muscles of the back, including the lats, rhomboids, traps, and rear delts. It’s an excellent compound movement for developing overall back strength and thickness.

How to:

1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, with the barbell on the floor in front of you.

2. Bend at the hips and knees to grasp the barbell with an overhand grip (palms facing down) slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

3. Hinge at your hips to lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor, maintaining a natural arch in your lower back.

4. Keeping your core engaged and back flat, pull the barbell towards your lower chest by retracting your shoulder blades and bending your elbows.

5. Aim to pull the barbell until it touches your lower chest or upper abdomen, squeezing your back muscles at the top of the movement.

6. Inhale as you lower the barbell back towards the floor, and exhale as you pull the barbell up towards your chest.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

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Dumbbell Row

Why: The dumbbell row is another effective lat exercises for targeting the muscles of the upper back, similar to the barbell row but with some differences in execution and muscle engagement.

How to:

1. Begin by placing a dumbbell on the floor next to a flat bench.

2. Place one knee and the same-side hand on the bench for support. Your other foot should be flat on the ground slightly wider than hip-width apart.

3. Keep your back straight and parallel to the ground. Your head should be in a neutral position with your gaze towards the floor.

4. Let the dumbbell hang straight down towards the floor, fully extended.

5. Pull the dumbbell towards your hip by retracting your shoulder blade and bending your elbow. Keep your upper arm close to your torso throughout the movement.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps

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Elevated Plank Row

Why: The elevated plank row is a lat exercises that combines elements of a plank with a rowing motion, primarily targeting the muscles of the upper body and core. It’s an effective exercise for building strength in the back, shoulders, arms, and core muscles.

How to:

1. Place the dumbbells on the floor directly beneath your shoulders. Assume a high plank position with your hands gripping the dumbbells and your feet on the floor, body straight from head to heels.

2. Engage your core and glutes to keep your body stable and prevent your hips from rotating.

3. Lift one dumbbell off the floor, pulling it towards your hip while keeping your elbow close to your body. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blade towards your spine as you lift.

4. Lower the dumbbell back to the floor in a slow and controlled manner.

5. Perform the desired number of repetitions with one arm, then switch to the other arm. This alternating movement helps maintain balance and ensures both sides of your body are equally engaged.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps

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Pullups and Chinups

Why: Pull-ups and chin-ups are both excellent lat exercises that primarily target the muscles of the back, shoulders, and arms.

How to:

1. Typically performed with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you).

2. Primarily targets the latissimus dorsi (lats), which are the large muscles of the back. Pull-ups also engage the biceps, forearms, and shoulders to a significant extent.

3. The movement involves pulling your body up until your chin clears the bar.

4 . Variations include wide grip, narrow grip, and neutral grip (palms facing each other).

Sets and Reps: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps

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Reeves Incline Row

Why: The Reeves incline row is a variation of the lat exercises. This exercise primarily targets the upper back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and rear deltoids, while also engaging the biceps and forearms to a lesser extent.

How to:

1. Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing towards you).

2. With your arms fully extended and elbows slightly bent, pull the dumbbells up towards your sides.

3. At the top of the movement, your elbows should be in line with your torso, and your shoulder blades should be fully contracted.

4. Lower the dumbbells back down in a controlled manner until your arms are fully extended again. This completes one repetition.
Breathing: Inhale as you lower the dumbbells down and exhale as you lift them.

Sets and Reps: 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps

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Lat Pulldowns

Why: Lat pulldowns are another effective lat exercises for targeting the muscles of the back and arms, particularly the latissimus dorsi (lats).

How to:

1. Lat pulldowns are typically performed using a cable machine with a wide bar attached to the cable.

2. Sit on the machine, adjust the thigh pads or knee pads to secure yourself in place, and grasp the bar with a wide overhand grip (palms facing away from you).

3. Pull the bar down towards your upper chest by contracting your lat muscles. Keep your torso upright and avoid swinging or using momentum.

Sets and Reps: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

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Landmine Row

Why: Landmine rows are effective lat exercises that primarily targets the muscles of the back, particularly the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, and rear deltoids.

How to:

1. Place one end of a barbell into the landmine attachment or securely into a corner.

2. Load the other end of the barbell with weight plates according to your strength and fitness level.

3. Stand perpendicular to the landmine with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and torso bent forward at the hips.

4. Grasp the end of the barbell with your outside hand (the hand farther from the landmine attachment).

5. Pull the barbell towards your hip by retracting your shoulder blade and bending your elbow.

6. Squeeze your back muscles at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the barbell back down under control.

Sets and Reps: 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps

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