For most of us, bodybuilding and body toning is often a reference to training just the chest, arms, abs and shoulder muscles. This is simply because these muscles are easily visible and give an appearance of a picture-perfect physique. Unfortunately, there is an important aspect of the body that is often ignored or forgotten about. For that ripped, flawless physique, it is important to work on your back and develop the large muscles down the back called lats. While many people skip lat exercises in the gym, it is one of the most vital muscles for building strength, endurance and staying healthy.
What Are Lats?
Lats is short for the Latissimus Dorsi muscle. The term Latissimus Dorsi is a Latin phrase that means “broadest (muscle) of the back.” It comes from two words, latissimus and dorsum, which translates into broadest and back in English, respectively. It is a pair of the largest muscles in the upper body and is commonly known as lats, especially among the community of bodybuilders, fitness gurus, and trainers.
Why Lat Exercises Are Important?
There is no doubt that performing lat exercises contribute greatly to achieving the oh-so-desirable “V-Taper” look that is so flattering and pleasing. The first step to accomplishing such a superhero-like physique with sculpted wide shoulders, broad back, and narrow waist, is building the lats. Performing lats and traps exercises regularly can give you a back so wide and lats so strong that it almost looks like you have wings when extending your arms on the side. This is the reason why bodybuilders, actors, and athletes are seen practicing set after set of lat exercises with dumbbells, rowing machine, free weights, and more.
Besides, these muscles are vital to performing daily activities. They are involved in most of the upper body movements; for example raising and lowering arms, extending the shoulders, the internal rotation of the shoulder when we take the arm closer to the torso, and keeping the spine stable. These muscles have five different points where it meets the important parts of the body including spine, ribs, scapula, pelvis and upper arm. This is why these muscles are working constantly and have a lot of different functions to perform in daily routine. At the same time, sturdy lats are important for strength and weightlifting exercises. Weak lats can impact the performance of a weightlifter. Another reason why bodybuilders must focus on the best exercises to build big lats is because it is important for the performance of squats and deadlifts. While these two workouts are performed to strengthen the lower body, strong lats provide support and stability in the back. Ultimately, good lat exercises are an essential part of a good fitness routine because certain lat exercises contribute to burning calories and developing overall strength and endurance. It gives the body a balanced proportion and helps in keeping the posture elegant and graceful.
This article sheds light on some of the best lat exercises to perform at home, at the gym, with dumbbells, free weights, or just with your own body weight.
Effective Lat Exercises at Home/Without Equipment
Most of the lat exercises that one can perform at home are body weight lat exercises which do not require any equipment. These are muscle strengthening exercises that use body weight to create resistance against gravity.
Pull-ups: While we promised to give lats exercises without machines, this one does require a pull-up bar. Since this is one of the best lats exercises and it is easy and cheap to fix a pull-bar at home, we recommend you start with this exercise. You can even perform this workout in a nearby park where you can find a sturdy hanging bar.
Technique: Stand facing the bar, grab hold of it with both your arms wider than shoulder distance. Begin to bend your elbows and lift your body so much that your chin comes over the pull-up bar. Come back to the starting position, extending the elbows and shoulders.Superman: Superman is one of the best bodyweight lats exercises that one can practice for a stronger back.
Technique: All you have to do is lie down on your chest, facing the ground. Extend your arms and legs completely, pointing outwards. Then, contract your back and shoulder muscles and lift your legs and arms slightly off the ground. Try and hold this position for at least 20 seconds before returning to the starting position.
Reverse Snow Angel: Practicing a reverse snow angel is a great lats exercise for females and males both that can be performed at home without equipment. It is very effective and gives quick results if practiced regularly.
Technique: Again, find a comfortable position on the floor and lie face down. Extend your arms fully in front and keep your legs straight. Gradually, lift your arms, chest, and legs off the ground and move your arms to the side of the pelvis. Repeat this movement for at least 10 repetitions for 3 sets.
Kneeling Extension: This is an incredible muscle strengthening exercise for the core as well as lats. Additionally, it helps in relieving chronic backache and must be practiced by people with desk jobs.
Technique: This great lat muscles exercise begins in a kneeling position. Find yourself kneeling on all four limbs. Make sure you find the right balance before proceeding to the next movement. Palms must be firmly placed exactly shoulder-width apart and knees directly under the hips. Squeeze in the core muscles and cautiously begin lifting your right arm to the front and extend your left leg at the back. The limbs above the ground must be fully extended in order to achieve the correct posture for the workout. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds before switching to the other side.Planks: You may be surprised but planks are not only a great core exercise, but also an extremely effective lats exercise at home. It is important to ace the classic version of planks before taking it to the advanced level.
Technique: It is a high impact isometric movement that starts with lying down on the chest on a flat and smooth ground. Place your palms on the side of the chest, like you are about to do push-ups. Keep your toes on the ground firmly, engage your glutes and spine, and keep the back straight. Then lift your body off the ground. You can either practice full plank by extending your arms completely or restrict it to forearm plank wherein the elbows remain at a 90-degree angle.
Free Weights Lat Exercises
Back exercises with free weights include lat exercises with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or anything else that can be lifted off the ground and held in your hands. In these exercises, free weights work as the object of resistance against gravity. These objects are found easily in gyms and fitness clubs. It is advised to learn the right movements in order to work safely with these weights.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Row: It is one of the best lat exercises for beginners. This workout can be done with just a pair of dumbbells.
Technique: Grab hold of dumbbells in each hand. Choose the right weight of dumbbells in order to prevent injury. Engage your core and bend your knees slightly. Bring your upper body forward as you bend. Make sure your back is not hunching and it is absolutely straight. Keep your head up and look forward as you lift the dumbbells on your side, keeping the elbows close to the body. Hold this position for two seconds and go back to the starting position. In the beginning, you can even perform this workout with one dumbbell and change sides.
Barbell Rows: This is an advanced variation of rowing exercise that works wonders for strengthening back muscles, arms, cores, quads, and hamstrings. However, if you are a beginner, it is recommended to perform it under the supervision of an expert. This exercise is mostly performed by bodybuilders, weightlifters or athletes.
Technique: Place the barbell with the correct weight on the ground and stand with your mid-foot under the bar. Bend in a squatting position and come forward to grab hold of the bar. Slowly begin to lift the barbell to your stomach. Ensure your chest is lifted and your back is straight. Repeat the movement a few times and then bring the bar to the floor.
Deadlifts: It is one of the most powerful and important workouts for powerlifters, weightlifters, athletes, and fitness freaks. It is a perfect barbell lat exercise that allows you to build muscle, burn fat, and increase endurance power. However, expert supervision is recommended for the newbies. It is the ultimate total-body workout.
Technique: Load the barbell with the right weight for you and stand close to the bar. Keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Bend the knees, lift the hips and reach out for the bar. Lift the barbell from the ground and straighten the back like in a standing position. And then put the barbell down to the ground.
Renegade Row: This is a classic workout to train shoulders and lats, simultaneously. Expect to feel the impact on your core, too.
Technique: Place two dumbbells on the floor and get into push-up position with your hands on the dumbbells. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Do the classic push-up. While returning back to the starting position, lift one dumbbell and row it toward your pelvis and place it back on the ground. Come back to the push-up position and perform the same sequence of movements with the other dumbbell.
Lat Exercises with Machines
There is a huge variety of exercise equipment available in gyms, today. These machines allow us to work out in a creative and diverse manner. For lats, exercises with rowing machines are particularly popular. And some of the most practiced exercises include variations of the lat pulldown exercise, cable rowing, and lat tower exercises. Here are some of the popular variations one can try for effective results.
Seated Low-Cable Row: This particular exercise helps in developing back and forearm muscles. It is one of the best lat exercises with equipment for beginners. This workout is performed on a seated cable row equipment with a bench, foot plates and a cable rowing machine. It is advised to seek a professional’s help when beginning with this exercise. Start with light weight and learn the proper technique.
Lat Pull Down: This is a common lat pull exercise performed on a machine with a wide bar attached to a pulley and seating bench. This exercise is exclusively done to train the latissimus dorsi.
Apart from these, single-arm cable row, double cable reverse fly, one-arm cable lateral raise, cable front raise, lats pullover, and face pull are some of the excellent variations to work your lats. Incorporating these exercises will make your lats workout challenging and impactful.
Tips to Perform Best Lats Building Exercises
While performing lats exercises, experts recommend keeping the weights light. Instead of straining out the back muscles with heavy weights, it is beneficial to increase the number of reps performed with light weights. At the same time, slow down the reps to feel the impact on lats every time they contract while performing the routine. It is perfectly okay to train lats 2-3 times per week. However, it is important to allow the back muscles to recover before repeating the workout. Remember to warm up before beginning lats training and keep the body hydrated.
Disclaimer: All exercise should be performed under the supervision of certified professionals. If any medical condition exists, seek the advice of the physician to proceed before beginning the workout.