Many people pay little attention to their lat workouts. The lats are the largest muscle in the back. While it’s aesthetically appealing to become well-built and physically strong, it’s also essential to strengthen and grow the muscles in your body for mobility, flexibility and posture.
Training your lats, like all muscles in the body, helps to promote good health and to build the strength you need to lift, perform and carry your body with confidence.
In this article, you will discover the best lat exercises, dumbbell lat exercises and the best lat workout program to train effectively.
We will also cover the terminology around the lats, to provide for you a perfect understanding of how this muscle influences your physique and overall health.
What are the lats?
Do you know what muscle in your body is predominantly responsible for opening your car door, pulling your heavy suitcase off the top of your wardrobe or dragging a heavy box? The answer is – your lats.
In fact, most daily activities are linked to the lats.
The lats, or latissimus dorsi muscles, connect the thoracolumbar fascia to the humerus. The lats play a critical role in any effective weight lifting workout regime, helping to avoid injury and promote the development of an ideal physique.
Your lats are shaped similarly to wings, they start at the beginning of your humerus, wrapping down under your armpits and lower toward your hips.
They work alongside the serratus muscle and trapezius muscle; they connect to the ribs, spine, the top of your arms and the scapula.
You are probably wondering what a good lat workout will look like, but don’t worry – keep reading, we’ll get there.
What are the functions of the lats muscles?
Your lat muscles play a big role in your upper body and activities that involve lifting. They control and regulate a multitude of movement patterns in the body based on their location, contributing to rotation and pulling movement patterns.
The lats are first and foremost, a pulling muscle.
This is based on the fact they are able to insert into the bicipital space of the humerus. Thus, when the humerus shifts further behind as in the concentric part of a row – the part where your lats are contracted – or the eccentric part of a bench press – the part where the bar lowers to your chest – the humerus has to be pushed to bring it back in line.
The lat pull down and bent over rows for lats aren’t the only good lat exercises, in fact, most exercises need a foundational level of lat strength. When you have strong lats, you are helping to support any movement pattern performed in the gym, or in life.
Thus, as a result, lat strength is one of the key determinants of how you support yourself during workouts, particularly when doing heavy compound lifts like deadlifts, bench press, and squats.
The lats and aesthetics
The lats play a key role in the aesthetics of a physique. It’s kind of an unspoken rule in the bodybuilding and fitness world that the perfect physique forms a V taper.
This involves the upper back being wider than the waist to create a superior shape, reflective of hard work and strength.
However, unless you’re born with a naturally wide back, you’ve got to lift weights to build the size of your lats to sculpt your physique. For many men, looking athletic and strong is a must, and so training lats regularly should be a key part of your training routine.
This doesn’t just apply to men, lat workouts for women have also increased in popularity. This is because when women add size and width to their lats, it gives the illusion of a smaller waist and wider hips, creating the desired hourglass shape.
There is no difference in training lats for men and for women, however typically a lat training routine for men involves training more frequently focusing on lat hypertrophy workouts to add size and mass efficiently.
Women on the other hand, may only train lats sporadically – depending on their goals – to ensure toned, sculpted lats rather than solely focusing on adding mass.
Benefits of training your lats
Engaging in regular lat workouts can help you strengthen your body to prevent injury, chronic pain and muscle weakening and stiffening that is common as we age. Thus, when you ignore your lats in your workout routine, you are as a result, preventing your body from getting the core strength it requires to perform optimally.
Your posture and balance is dependent on how your lat muscles are formed and worked. When your lat muscles are strong and well developed, you likely perform well in sports which demand throwing or lifting.
Nothing is more rewarding than knowing that you have trained your body in a way that directly correlates to a better physical performance.
If you have been routinely neglecting your lats, it’s important to start to pay attention to them after years of building your chest and arms.
This training is geared at teaching you how to exercise your latissimus dorsi muscle and develop a back with proper proportions. It’s important to add that training requires effort and consistently.
Like most workouts for bodybuilding and muscle building, lat training needs you to stretch yourself and go hard until you begin to see the results you need.
From dumbbell lats to other wide back exercises, training to build your lats is the way to go. So, how do you get started? Focusing on your lats and identifying the best lat exercises that bring quick and sustainable results.
Generally, the lats have higher growth potentials and should be worked on, whether you choose chin-ups or deadlifts.
It’s important to remember that during a lat workout, you should try to keep your arms still. Instead squeeze your lats and feel the contraction.
If you don’t feel any contraction, you may only have succeeded in working your arms and building bigger biceps. But haven’t you had enough of that already?
Here’s the deal: your lumbar spine gets support from your lats and the exercises you do shouldn’t focus on parts other than your upper body.
Paying attention to the humeral extension, adduction, and rotation helps you to build your upper body and push your arms outward rather than inward.
The pressure which comes from pressing hard against your pelvic strengthens the lats muscle and prepares it to deal with activities like swimming or rowing.
The rule: get stronger to get bigger! When you engage in exercises which make you stronger, your lats and other important back muscles like the teres major and minor, rhomboids and trapezius will form perfectly.
It is integral for all individuals to train lats, to keep them as healthy as possible. Think about all the times when you raise your hand above your head, lift something or even just extend your right hand for a handshake.
These body movements are possible, thanks to your lats. In short: healthy, well developed lats make things in your daily life easier.
Imaginary lat syndrome
Interestingly, a common situation among men and bodybuilders is the imaginary lat syndrome. The lat syndrome describes a situation where a man assumes that he is muscular whereas he has only imagined the muscles to be there.
Usually, such men raise both arms so high, raise their shoulders, and push their biceps out to give the impression that they have large lat muscles.
In the actual sense, such erroneous belief creates a misconception, since such men have committed much time to a gym routine. If you fit this description, then it is indeed possible for you to correct it. How?
Get on a new workout routine. When you train your lats regularly in an effective lat training routine, you are focusing specifically on the largest muscle in the back to look and feel better than ever.
Best exercises for your lats
Let’s get into the best exercises for your lats, according to science. Now that you know where your lats are and why it’s important that you build them, you should get started with training them!
When you deadlift, do lat pull downs, pull ups and rows you are exercising the lats.
When working out, be mindful of going too hard.
Strength is important, injuries should also be prevented. Lats muscle injuries can be extremely painful especially because the muscle is located in the middle of the back and it is the largest.
In the worst case, lats pain could cause severe pain to the shoulder blade, joints and the neck. Thus, we recommend that you follow a modest training routine which doesn’t leave your lats muscle feeling sore.
Below are workout tricks to include. And whether you’re interested in lats exercises at home or training with professionals, your focus should be on getting massive lats.
What does the research say?
According to a study published by ACE Fitness, in a group of 19 well trained participants aged between 18 to 25, the best exercises for activating the lats included:
- Lat pull downs
- Seated rows
- Bent over rows
- Inverted rows
- Pull ups
- Chin ups
- TRX row
- IYT raises
A lat exercise routine that combined the exercises was shown by the researchers to be the most effective method of increasing strength and size to the lats based on myoelectric activation.
Another study that was published in Dynamic Medicine performed an experimental trial to ascertain the best lat exercises.
They found that the wide grip pulldown and seated row were the best lat exercises at causing maximal myoelectric activation, particularly in the middle and lower lats.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research tested a group of untrained women to see how quickly the lats can be activated during a workout program.
The researchers found that untrained individuals can voluntarily increase the activation by combining compound exercises with lat isolation exercises to increase the mind to muscle connection.
So now we know what the research says, let’s get into this in more detail.
Rows are one of the most popular lats exercises and you can perform them in different positions. This workout plan focuses on your middle and upper back.
As you move backward, the lats on both sides of your back becomes firmer and stronger. In addition, rows can be performed in the following ways:
- Dumbbell rows
- Barbell rows
- One arm row
- Renegade row
- Bent over row with bands
- Power plank with rows
- And many more!
It all depends on how you fit them into your exercise routine. Regardless, rows for lats are integral.
Next to rows are pull-ups which are known as the toughest back exercises. Why? You practically lift yourself off the ground with your arms gripping a pull-up bar.
For newbies, this may be difficult. You may want to begin by placing a chair under your feet for support. Place your arms on the two sides of the bar with your shoulder in the middle and pull your weight up.
The more times you do this, the easier it becomes for you. And you can gradually shift the weight from your arm to your lats.
Remember, this isn’t about building biceps, but about building the largest muscle in your back. On these two main exercises rest other components of the lats training. Thus, feel free to watch videos on how to do the exercises right.
Well developed lats are one of the key stabilization muscles used when bench pressing. Firstly, well-developed lats offer a larger surface area, which is beneficial as you lay on the bench to lift the weights, as it stabilizes the concentric and eccentric movement effectively.
When you bench, your elbows are in towards your lights and your lats are contracted and activated, performing a push upwards.
Without strong lats, you would be unable to effectively move the barbell up from your chest.
All compound lifts require strong lats. For squats, the power and force generation comes predominantly from the quads, glutes and hamstrings, but the upper body – particularly the lats – plays a critical role to stabilize the force produced to ensure you don’t fall over, drop the weight or mess up your form.
To see this example in action, during the concentric part of the squat – the part where you lower down into the squat – the barbell is on your upper back or front, depending on your squat preference.
The resistance on your back needs to be maintained, otherwise you are putting yourself at risk for serious injury. To keep the weight there, your lats are contracted and activated
When you deadlift a weight from the floor to a standing position, your hands grip the barbell and your glutes drive forward to generate enough force to move the weight upwards.
As art of this movement, your lats are required to be contracted to contribute to the force transfer into moving the barbell.
Your lats are the most important multi-directional stabilizers of the lower spine. A strong, well stabilized lumbar spine is utterly necessary to weight lifting.
Without strong lats, you would not be able to control movement patterns and you’d likely injure yourself.
Increasing your lat strength and creating cues to activate and connect to your lats during exercises, like being able to contract them without weights will help you improve all of your lifts.
There are a multitude of ways in which you can strengthen and build your lats but the best piece of advice to bare in mind is that whatever your 1RM is for bench press – should be your 1RM for a bent over row. If you can’t do that, you are underutilizing your lats for strength.
In this post, we have discussed the basics of the lats. You now most likely agree that weightlifting is better when your lats muscles are well-built and bigger than that of the average Joe?
As mentioned, the best way to build strength and size in your lats is to get on an effective, regular training routine that involves lat isolation exercises two times per week and uses them in lat compound exercises at least three times per week.
This style of hypertrophy training will result in strength and size gains, to ensure your lats are allowing you to perform optimally in and outside the gym.
Another recommendation is to take supplements to support muscle growth, like Nitrocut.
These supplements will support muscle protein synthesis, the mechanism that underpins muscle growth and retention to keep increasing your strength and endurance with each workout that you do.
If you are looking for a supplement company to get on board with, get in touch with us for trusted and proven products.
Remember: Your lats are a key part of your physique and will dictate how well you perform. So train them regularly, focus on your recovery, keep pushing yourself and start taking the key supplements for muscle growth.