Do you ever notice an especially buff athlete and how their back forms a V shape? That’s largely thanks to their lats. The latissimus dorsi muscles help to connect your arms to your vertebrae. They also protect and stabilize your spine (thus encouraging correct posture), in addition to supporting your shoulders and back. Strong lats are important not just for your strength but also in improving mobility and preventing injury.
Your lats will likely grow over time without you even dedicating time to them. However, sprinkling in lat-focused accessory workout throughout your weekly programming is always a smart idea. Keep scrolling for five lat exercises that’ll help you build lats of steel.
5 Lat Exercises
It’s hard to come by exercises that solely isolate your lats. Most of these can be considered compound exercises. That just means you get more bang for your buck!
1. Wide-Grip Pull-Ups
As is, pull-ups are going to train your lats. However, one slight adjustment can target them even more: Simply widen your grip so that your hands are further outside your shoulders. Even if you mimic a wide-grip pull-up without doing the movement on the pull-up bar, you’re going to notice how they more specifically engage your lats. Remember that in this case, your elbows will be flared out. Here’s what it looks like:
2. Lat Pull-Downs
This sort of mimics a wide-grip pull-up. But it makes an especially nice alternative if you don’t have a pull-up bar!
Be mindful of not using momentum to pull the bar down. Some athletes will try to cheat this by leaning back so that their shoulders and arms have to do less work. This defeats the purpose!
You could also do a variation with a resistance band.
3. Dumbbell Pullover
If you don’t have a bench, there is a standing variation of the dumbbell pullover.
If your wrists are having a hard time staying flexed, wrist wraps can help, too.
4. Renegade Row
The renegade row is a double whammy. You have to maintain a plank position the entire time, which is a full-body workout in and of itself. And the dumbbell row that completes the movement is when your lats will really start to burn.
5. Pendlay Row
The Pendlay row is unique for a few reasons. For starters, your torso is parallel to the floor. Oftentimes, when athletes do a barbell row, they’re not as folded at the hips. Plus, the movement starts from the floor, from a complete stop. Other variations of the barbell row (where you’re not as bent over) end when your arms hit full extension, which often means the barbell is somewhere around your knees.
The changes are tiny but turn this into quite a different stimulus.
You’re going to notice that these lat exercises give you a more defined upper body in general — not just your lats. We call that a win. Grab your gear and get to work!