Lat Exercises and Workout Guide

It’s common for many new – and even experienced – lifters to focus on the muscles they can see in front of them in the mirror. Certain compound lifts will develop your back without you meaning to, while focusing on others. If you’re starting to look behind you for gains and wanting to build your overall upper body strength, it’s time to give your lats their dues.

Where are Your Lats and What are the Benefits of Developing Them?

The lats – or latissimus dorsi – are the broadest muscles on your back. Their shape sort of resemble folded wings. When your lats are well developed you can see them from the front, bulging out from behind and below your armpits. If you’re a mass muscle builder, working on your lats is essential in crafting a ripped back and V-shape.

Lats exercises make for the foundation for a stronger back and core, from which you will benefit in other areas of lifting.

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What Do Lats Do?

The lats job is to adduct (move a body part towards the midline of the body, or towards another body part), extend and internally rotate the arm. The latissimus dorsi supports various different movements of the shoulder. It pulls the humerus towards the torso (adduction) and behind your back (retroversion).

Exercising Your Lats

We’ve split these up so you can better compartmentalise your workout.

When it comes to mass muscle building, compound lifts are widely considered the best. These are lifts that hit larger muscle groups at the same time. Many of the following will also depend on working with your other muscles.

It’s important that you bear in mind how fatigued these other muscles are before planning a lats workout. For example, if the day before you’ve worked on your biceps, they will not be at their best to help the heavy loads and rigorous plans you have for these back exercises. Our advice is to plan your workout week ahead and consider which muscles will need to have had a full day of rest before going ahead.

As said, the following exercises are split up to make it easier to see which you can work on and when. Make the heavier weight-lifting exercises a priority, with the higher-rep, lower weight sets saved for after.

For the following, aim for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps with a focus on increasing the amount you lift. Begin at 40-60 percent of your overall one-rep-max and increase the amount you lift by five percent each week.

  • Seated rows
  • Bent-over rows
  • Deadlift
  • Elevated cable rows

The following may be performed with lower reps and heavier weights, but are well-suited to exhaustive resistance training. Aim for 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps at a moderate weight. If you’re trying to pump up your arms – on a somewhat temporary basis – perform the seat a lower weight and higher reps.

  • Pull-ups
  • Supinated pulldown
  • Wide-grip pulldowns behind the neck
  • One-arm cable row
  • Supinated pulldowns
  • Inclined cable pushdown

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What Else Helps to Develop Your Lats?

If you’re mass muscle-gaining then nutrition plays as big a part as the effort you’re putting in at the gym.

A gradual increase in your consumption of calories will arm you with the energy resources required to make gains. Protein intake is essential before and immediately after your workout. Protein shakes are highly recommended for seeing that you get the protein you need. Whey isolates help the protein quickly absorbed following a workout, while casein is slowly broken down over long periods – perfect for taking before sleep.

If you’re not seeing the growth you want, rest may also be a factor. Your muscles need time to recover and the growing is done while you rest. Take a second look at your workout plans and make sure your back is getting a day’s rest after a session.

If you are seeing results that quickly deflate and you’re struggling to add on extra weight with each lift, this is when you need to look at lowering the reps you are performing and make adding weight the focus of each session above the number of reps.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile organisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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