The 12 Best Lat Exercises for Muscle Growth
It’s great that you’re working out and building up muscle. However, balance is essential, and you have to seek it. Most people take off with cardio, pick up dumbbells, and work on their arms, chests, and legs.
The main aim is to grow muscle groups that they can see in the mirror, which leads to neglecting other important and primary muscles.
Rather than maintain focus on your upper arms, abs, and chest, balance things out by working on your posterior side – your back. Developing those broad shoulders and chiseled abs is sweet, but you also need a strong back with developed lats.
So, what are the lats muscles, and why is lat training essential; what are the best lat exercises you can use to improve your strength and shape? Let’s get right into it.
A Brief Overview of the Lats Muscles and What They Do
If you’re going to be putting in the effort to build up your lats, you should know more about them. Latissimus dorsi muscles, shortened to lats muscles, are the triangle-shaped muscles that start from your shoulder and end near your waist.
Lats is arguably one of the biggest muscles in your back, primarily because they cover the width of more than two-thirds of your back. They’re essential in helping you pull and adduct things.
They also aid with breathing, swimming, and other general pulling movements. Even rowing a boat in the traditional method will put your lats muscles to work.
So, what exercises can you use to increase your lats muscles and provide you with a firm, solid back? Let’s read on.
Best Types of Lat Exercises With Dumbbells and Barbells
Gym equipment like dumbbells and barbells are vital for growing your more popular muscles, but you can also use them to work on your latissimus dorsi.
Let’s take a look at several exercises you can use this valuable equipment for:
- Dumbbell Row
- Dumbbell Pullover
- Landmine Barbell Row
- Bent-Over Row
- Pendlay Row
Let’s go in-depth on the steps you can take to perform each exercise correctly.
Benches are great, but not just for the famed bench press. Single-arm rows require a preferably adjustable bench and directly affect your back muscles while working on your upper arm and shoulders.
Here are the steps to starting those reps:
- Stand beside a bench parallel to you.
- If the bench is on your left, lean over and place your left hand and left knee. Don’t move your right foot from the ground.
- Keep a dumbbell near your foot on the ground, reaching with your free right hand.
- Pick the dumbbell, and with your palm facing you, raise the dumbbell to the side of your body.
- You can achieve this by pulling your elbow back and upwards, but it shouldn’t pass your torso.
- Lower the dumbbell till your arm is fully extended to complete one rep.
Don’t forget to keep your back in a straight line throughout the exercise to improve your core strength.
Remember to switch sides on the bench after your reps to work on the other half of your lats. Use lighter dumbbells to test your range of motion.
Dumbbells and a bench are suitable matches for muscles, and lats aren’t excluded. This classic exercise works on your chest muscles and back, giving you a full torso workout.
Here are the steps to getting a great workout with the dumbbell pullover:
- You’ll need a bench and a dumbbell. It’s usually better to start with a lighter dumbbell to get used to the range of motion before switching to your preferred weight.
- Place the dumbbell on the bench, and make sure it’s standing in place rather than rolling.
- Lie down perpendicular to the bench: You should be horizontal across it vertically.
- Place your feet firmly on the floor while your hips are just off the bench. Your torso needs to be on the bench, and your head should be off the bench.
- Carry the upper part of the dumbbell with your hands, above your chest, with your arms almost fully extended.
- To keep the dumbbell stable, keep your palms pressed against the underside of the dumbbell’s upper part.
- Keep your arms straight and lower them slowly until it gets behind your head. The upper part you’re holding should get to the same level as your head.
- Bring the dumbbell back in a return arc to the original position above your chest, straightening your arms. This motion completes one rep.
You need to keep the original position for about a second before starting the next rep, which engages your core.
Landmine Barbell Row
Dumbbells and benches are great, but barbells are just as brilliant for lats muscles. The Landmine barbell row keeps you repeating those pulling motions that require your latissimus dorsi. It also improves your shoulder blades and chest muscles and engages your core.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Set the barbell properly.
- At least one barbell end needs to be fastened into place or kept stable.
- You can push the end of the barbell into the corner of the room where the walls meet.
- Add your preferred weight to the other free end of the barbell.
- Stand over the barbell with your legs on each side, then face the side that has been loaded with weight.
- Bend over and hold the barbell with both hands while bending your knees slightly. Also, remember to keep your back straight.
- Inhale, strengthen your core and pull the barbell towards your chest without moving the rest of your body.
Hold the barbell and weight near your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades tightly. (for 1 second)
Then, lower the barbell back to the initial point, extend your arms, and exhale. This motion completes one rep.
This popular exercise focuses on your lats and shoulders, and it also improves upper body exercises while working on the hamstrings and glutes.
Posture is crucial when performing a bent-over row because an improper stance could put a lot of pressure on your lower back.
Here are the steps to working on your lats with this exercise:
- You’re going to need two dumbbells, one for each hand.
- You can also use a barbell if that’s your preference.
- Keep the loaded barbell or the dumbbells in front of you.
- Stand firmly, keeping your legs straight and feet shoulder-width apart, then lean towards the floor.
- Ensure your back and neck are straight. Note that your face should be facing the floor.
- With your arms slightly apart from the sides of your body, bend your elbow to raise the weight towards your chest.
- Hold the weight near your chest for a second, and keep your core engaged.
- Then, slowly lower the weight back near the ground till your arms are almost fully extended.
These steps make a complete rep.
Ensure you maintain a proper stance throughout the exercise.
This exercise requires a barbell, and it does wonders for your lats. Named after American weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay, the Pendlay Row is one of the best lat exercises, used mainly by athletes. This exercise also improves the upper and lower back muscles.
Here’s how to go about it:
- Keep a barbell on the floor facing you.
- Bend over till your torso is parallel with the floor.
- Keep your knees bent, while the bar should be near your shins.
- Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
- Make sure your back is contracted to raise the barbell effectively.
- Pull the bar up quickly, raising it from your midsection to your chest and stomach.
- Ensure your hip angle is maintained, and keep your core tight when you lift and drop the barbell.
- Control the barbell’s descent to the floor, taking it slowly to the original position.
This is a complete rep. You can start with smaller weights on the barbell to test your range of motion.
Best Types of Lat Exercises With Machines
While dumbbells, benches, and barbells are awesome equipment for lat workouts and improving your back muscles, machines are beneficial too.
Let’s look at some of the best exercises for lat development you can use machines for:
- Lat Pulldown
- Cable Row
- T Bar Row
Let’s go in-depth on the steps you can take to perform each exercise properly:
With pull-ups, you hang on a bar and pull your body upwards. The pulldown technique, however, lets you pull the weight towards you. The motions are somewhat similar, but pulldowns are great for your lats.
Follow these steps to do a lat pulldown:
- Face the machine while sitting comfortably with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Keep your posture and your back straight.
- Extend your arms fully to reach the bar while stretching your arms wide. If you’re too close or too far, adjust your seating position.
- Grip the bar and pull downwards with an overhand grip until it has passed your chin or until your hands are near the height of your shoulders.
- Keep your core engaged and tight, and ensure your elbows come near your sides.
- After a second, let the bar up in a slow, controlled ascent, keeping your core tight.
A rep has been completed when your arms are in their original position.
This pulling exercise works wonders on your lats and upper body strength. Although you may hit other muscles, your latissimus dorsi also gets a vigorous workout share.
To perform seated Cable Row properly, here’s what you need to do:
- Planting your feet firmly, take a seat on the cable row machine.
- Ensure your back is straight, then bend your legs towards you.
- You should be able to stretch your hands forward and reach the handles.
- Your lower back should be extended, and you should engage your lats and core.
- While maintaining your back posture, bend your elbows and pull your hands towards your chest.
- After a second, stretch your arms back to their original position without changing your back posture.
A rep is completed when your arms are back in their original outstretched place.
T Bar Row
This exercise is another excellent way to work on your lats and other back muscles. Apart from the lats, it also improves your rhomboids, trapezius, and posterior chain.
If you’re gunning for a great route to a powerful back, the T Bar Row will get you where you need to go.
Follow these steps to make it happen:
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart, firmly behind the machine, and rest your chest against the pad.
- Extend your arms and hold the T Bar handles.
- Make sure to inhale before you start, and then raise the weight towards you, squeezing your shoulder blades.
- Hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale while you lower the weight to the original position.
- When you have lowered the weight, that’s a complete rep.
Best Bodyweight Lat Exercises
If you’re looking for simple bodyweight exercises to work on your lats muscles, these will help you. Bodyweight exercises essentially use your weight to provide resistance and work your muscles.
Here are some of the best lat exercises in body weight:
- Wide Grip pull-ups
- Negative pull-ups
Let’s go in-depth on the steps you can take to perform each exercise properly:
Wide Grip Pull-ups
Usual pull-ups will have you carry your weight upwards with your hands on a pull-up bar above you. However, the wide-grip pull-ups are slightly different from the neutral grip. Here, rather than holding the bar closer to your body frame, you extend the width.
Widening your grip will give a lot of work to your back muscles, especially your lats. It will also add stress to your shoulders if you do too much, so be careful.
Here’s how to achieve a wide grip pull up:
- Stand under the pull-up bar you’ll be pulling yourself up with.
- Hold the bar, extending your arms nearer each end of the bar.
- Slowly pull yourself up with an underhand grip while engaging your core and keeping your legs together.
- Pull yourself up till your chin is above the bar.
- Lower yourself in a controlled descent, and stop before your legs touch the ground.
This is one completed rep.
When doing a pull-up, it takes a short amount of time to complete a rep. You’ve pulled yourself up within two seconds, back down again.
Negative pull-ups are similar, but there’s a key difference: You jump to the top position rather than pull yourself up. Then instead of dropping in a second, you slow your descent well enough to take about four seconds. The slow, controlled descent does a lot of work on your lats muscles.
Here’s how to do negative pull-ups with a pull-up bar:
- Jump to the top to grab the bar with both hands, and your chin is above the bar.
- You can choose to jump from a bench on the side rather than from the floor.
- When you’re in the top position, keep your legs together and start your descent in a controlled, slow manner.
- The descent should take about four seconds to complete as you work your back muscles against gravity.
A rep is complete when you touch the ground and jump back up.
You’ve done push-ups, whether in the gym, at home, or to show up against friends. They’re great and highly popular with workout enthusiasts and lat training athletes because they can work on many muscles.
This full-body exercise will work on your triceps, shoulder, chest, and back. However, the number of push-ups you can do isn’t essential during lat workouts. What matters is the quality of your push-ups.
Here’s how to get your push-ups right:
- Lying facedown, place your hands directly under your shoulders while keeping your feet slightly wide and legs extended.
- Lift your hips and extend your arms fully while tensing your core muscles to keep your posture straight.
- Slowly lower your chest to the floor while bending your arms, pushing against gravity.
- When you’re close to the floor, extend your arms and raise your hips to the original position to complete the rep.
Remember these few tips: performing slower push-ups, significantly when dropping to the ground in a controlled manner, will work on your back muscles. If your arms are closer together, you’ll work on your triceps. If your arms are farther apart, you’ll work on your chest area.
Like the Pendlay Row, a few row variations would get your back muscles working out beautifully. Listed below are some of the best rowing exercises for your lats.
The key to this particular exercise is the pulling action that puts your lats hard at work. Created by bodybuilder John Meadows, these are the steps you need to take to try this rowing exercise:
- Stand beside a barbell structured similarly to Landmine barbell rows. However, you’ll need to stand at the edge, where the weight is.
- You can use smaller weights and test your range of motion first.
- Face the other direction and keep your outer leg around six inches away from the end of the barbell.
- Bend forward slightly so your upper body is around 45 degrees inclined to the ground, and keep your inner leg just ahead of your hips and in line with the barbell.
- Rest your inner hand on your inner thigh and use your outer hand to raise the weight.
- Tighten your core and ensure you raise the weight enough for your elbow gets to your side.
- Lower your weight slowly until the weight until your arm is outstretched to complete a single rep.
If a shoulder joint hurts, you shouldn’t try renegade rows because this exercise can be strenuous. You’ll need to be facedown like the push-up technique, but all the similarities end because you’ll also need dumbbells.
Here’s how to start a Renegade Row:
- With a single dumbbell in your hands, face the ground while propping your chest and hips up.
- Extend your arms fully while holding the dumbbells on the floor.
- Your toes should also prop up your lower body, and they should be the only parts of your body touching the floor.
- Now, explosively raise either arm with the dumbbell in hand until the dumbbell gets to your side or your elbow is above the rest of your body.
- Control the descent as you drop the dumbbell back to the starting position and extend your arm again.
- Immediately, take your other arm in the same motion, explosively raising the dumbbell and controlling the drop to starting position.
You have completed a rep when you have done this on both arms.
What Are the Most Important Lat Exercises?
It depends on what your goals are with building your lats. You’ll often find an exercise that soothes your style while taking it easy on your shoulders.
Generally, the most crucial lat exercise that directly affects the lats is the lat pulldown. The lat pulldown requires you to pull weights toward yourself rather than pull yourself up, which works wonders for the lats.
If you want to grow a bigger back, the wide grip pull-ups will play a key role in stretching your back muscles. The Bent over rows is also a great exercise to expand your back.
If you want to build muscles in your lats, rowing exercises are the best option for you. Whether it’s the T Bar Row, the Pendlay Row, or even the Meadows Row, they’re your best bet in packing lots of muscle in your back.
Your lats exercises are fundamental, mainly because your back muscles need to help you pull things. Don’t just focus on other prominent muscles: Work on your back.
Remember to keep your torso upright when necessary and bend over when required. Test out different methods; try doing a single-arm dumbbell row and other exercises that allow vertical pulling, horizontal pulling, and other upper body movements.
Horizontal pulling exercises (chin-ups, pull-ups, etc.) and horizontal pulling movements like the single-arm dumbbell row require a great form to hit targeted muscle groups. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent (as specified) while performing these exercises.
Remember to chin up and use a wide overhand grip when doing pull-ups.
What are the best lower lat exercises and upper lat exercises?
Yes, your upper back and lower back may have different muscles, but you cannot target individual regions on your back while exercising.
Instead, work out and build up your entire back, upper and lower lats, rather than improving one area.
Can lat exercises be done at home?
Indeed, many of these exercises do not need a machine. You could purchase dumbbells and a barbell at home, but you don’t need those.
Remember exercises like the negative pull-ups? You only need a solid frame to pull yourself up and a bench to jump from, easily found at home.
What are the best lat exercises with dumbbells?
You can use some row exercises requiring dumbbells, like the Meadows Row, Dumbbell Row, Dumbbell Pullover, etc.
These exercises work on both your upper arm and lats, and as long as you can engage your core and tighten those back muscles.
What are the best lat exercises for women?
Lat exercises are the same for everyone, whether male or female. On average, women may need to carry fewer weights than men, but this doesn’t stop them from getting stronger lats.
Men and women have similar anatomies, especially on their backs, so that similar exercises will work.