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The 5 Best Lat Workouts

Looking to get stronger and look bigger and better? The key to both strength and size lies first and foremost with large muscles groups. For the upper body, that means your chest, shoulders and lats (back). We wrote about how to build bulging pecs here, and we’ll cover shoulders soon. Today we take a look at the best ways to develop your lat muscles.

Large lats are responsible for giving you that ‘V’ shape upper body look. In addition, lat muscles are heavily involved in many sports and activities, as they are the main driver behind the extremely common pulling motion. And that’s the motion that forms the core of good lat exercises. Here are our top 5.

1. Dumbbell Rows

Dumbbell rows are a great easy to do mass building exercise that also helps develop lat symmetry. In addition to being an intense and direct lat workout given the pulling nature of the exercise, dumbbell rows also stress smaller muscles such as the biceps, triceps, forearms, and shoulders. To avoid your grip being the source of failure as you move up in weight, consider using wrist straps.

2. Lat Pull downs

The lat muscle is activated not only by pulling from in front of the body as with dumbbell rows, but also by pulling from above. Lat pull downs allow you to easily stress the lat muscle while altering resistance levels to get into a desire repetition range. It’s also easy to control your movement and there are variations that allow you to isolate each arm individually.

2a Weighted Pull ups

Similar to the lat pull down, pull ups, with added weight if necessary, accomplish much of the same goals. Avoid kipping (using your legs to help you come up) and focus on the motion starting from a complete fully extended arm hang to force your lats to do most of the work.

3. Barbell Deadlifts

The barbell deadlift is a major mass builder that, in addition to a heavy lower body focus, involves the back muscles as well. While not as isolated a lat workout as lat pull downs or dumbbell rows, deadlifts have the benefit of activating pretty much the entire posterior chain and will still build serious back muscle mass.

4. Barbell Row

Similar to the dumbbell row, the barbell row is a more brutish feeling lift which focuses heavily on the lats. It’s harder to isolate each side of the body individually, but the advantage of barbell rows over dumbbell rows is the greater coordination of a multitude of muscle groups which helps develop the central nervous system.

5. Seated Cable rows

Rowing motions are the name of the game when it comes to large lat muscles. Seated cable rows are one of the best ways to isolate the lat muscle. You can perform them one arm at a time or both at once, depending on your goals, and unlike many other back exercises, it’s unlikely your grip will be a limiting factor–that’s good news, because to build your back most efficiently, you want your back muscles to be the first to give way.

When it comes to working our your back, there are plenty of options. We gave you our five favorite, but there are plenty more that are similarly effective. T-bar rows come to mind, as do dumbbell pull-overs, and all the variations of the exercises we covered. Anything that involves a pulling motion with resistance will do the trick. So, if you want that V-shape taper, start pulling heavy things.

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