Pretty much any lifter who wants a strong back or to improve their v-taper is always looking for better ways to build lats. There are so many different exercises and variations out there, it can be hard to stay focused and find a few to stick to. While some big strength movements like deadlifts are a good way to indirectly build lats, you’re better off sticking with specific movements to that target the back. Read below to find five exercises you should be doing in your lat workouts.
Chins (a pullup with your palms facing you) are some of the best lat builders you can do. These work better than pullups because they incorporate your biceps more, which allows you to do more reps and add more external weight. Both of these then allow for greater lat stimulation. At the same time, one of the purposes of the lats is to rotate the upper arm around the shoulder socket. Doing chins instead of pullups does this, allowing for an increased range of motion, therefore more muscular activation.
You’ll want to do only the negative portion of the movement so as be able to add even more external resistance. Hang weight from your waist using a dip belt, then step onto a box or bench to get yourself into the top position of a chin. Lower yourself slow and controlled – make each negative last 3-5 seconds. Do 3-4 sets of 4-6 negatives.
Your next exercise to build lats should provide an excellent muscular stretch. Stiff arm pullovers not only fit this bill quite nicely, but again target the movement pattern of rotating the upper arm around the shoulder socket. Lie your shoulders across a bench such that your body is perpendicular to it. Hold a dumbbell above you at arms length, lowering until you feel a good stretch in the lats (your arms will be at or just below horizontal). Return to the starting position. Do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.
Six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates was known for a lot of things in his bodybuilding career, and having superb back development was chief among them. One of his favorite movements to build lats (especially the lower lats) was the reverse grip barbell row. In fact, he was such a proponent of these, that they’re now often called “Yates Rows”.
Standing with your feet at about shoulder-width, grab a barbell with a reverse (curl) grip. Keep a slight bend in the knees, and get into bent over row position with your torso a little bit above horizontal and your lower back braced. Leading with the elbows, pull the barbell into your lower abdomen. If using a straight bar puts undue strain on your wrists and/or elbows, you can use an EZ curl bar, instead. Do 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.
It’s time to get another good stretch through the lats, so low pulley rows are up next. Using a narrow, parallel grip handle, pull into your lower abdomen with more moderate of a weight. Don’t be afraid to lean forward in the extended position to emphasize the stretch through the lats. Just be wary to not put too much strain on, or transfer the focus to your lower back. Do 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps.
Created by Matt “Kroc” Kroczaleski (now known as Janae Marie Kroc), powerlifters and strength athletes everywhere swear by the strength and upper back development Kroc rows can provide. To perform Kroc rows, grab as heavy as a dumbbell as you can row with good form.
Brace your non-working hand and knee, grab the dumbbell (use straps if you like), and perform as many reps as you can. The goal here is heavy weight + high reps, so your target is to grind out 15-20 reps or more per side. Since one set is all you need, this a great way to end your workout.
If you’re looking to build lats, try these lat exercises on for size. You’ll be properly overloading the muscle, engaging it in its best movement pattern/range of motion, and ensuring a good stretch throughout the workout. A few weeks on this program should be all you need to see new gains.