Why You Should be Training Lats?
The prime muscle of the back, the Latissimus Dorsi, known as the Lats, is one of the most important muscle groups to focus on when it comes to developing a great body. This is what strength and conditioning coaches will tell you.
If they are correct, then let’s find out why Lats have that much importance and maybe we can find other ways to train them.
First, the Lats play an important role in postural stability. Now that is a big deal, as good postural stability is a way to reduce the risk of injury, and this is especially important for bodybuilders.
The Lats are also important when it comes to movement of the shoulder joint. They can help you lower your center of gravity, providing a more stable base of support for the hips.
Training the Lats is not easy, though. It takes time, skill and a lot of practice. There is a lot of advice and tips on how to train Lats, and it could get confusing really fast. Just trust the experts with proven results, and you might have your name on the wall of the gym with that big poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brad Pitt, or Bruce Willis.
What’s so Good About Lat Pulldowns?
Lats or latissimus dorsi, are the muscles that cover the sides of the upper back and contribute to the width of the shoulders.
When it comes to developing strength and muscle mass in the body, lats play an important role.
The primary exercises in building the lats are pull-ups and lat pull-downs in the gym.
Lat pull-downs are particularly highly valued for building the lats because it works on a large range of motion and it allows you to use a variety of positions and hand positions.
The one downfall to lat pull-downs in the gym is that it’s usually hard to get the most out of this exercise without a pull-down machine.
Below, you’ll find a few of my favorite exercises to get thick, muscular lats and a peaky upper back.
These exercises involve pulling down to the chest or to the upper abs. By varying the position and tension, you’ll be able to add variety to your lat routine and build up to harder pulling variations like what you can do on the lat pulldown machine.
Check out these three great pulldowns for lats.
Isolation and Strengthening of the Lats
You won’t get huge lats without first working your lats. Start by facing the machine with your back foot on a block and your knee slightly bent. The important part is to keep your lower back pressed into the seat (and stay away from the temptation to arch the lower back).
Begin by pulling the handle toward your midsection and maintain the contraction in the lats for 2 seconds after you’ve reached your peak. Then slowly return to the starting position.
Another great exercise is Supinated-Grip Pulldowns. If you don’t have access to a lat machine, you can perform this variation by grasping the weight with your palms up instead of facing down.
Adjust the seat height so that your arms are fully extended and the weight is at chest level when you’re pulling the bar down to your sternum.
Hold the bar with your hands facing upward throughout the exercise, and do not allow the bar to rest on the thighs. The arms should remain as straight as possible.
Strengthening of Muscles Surrounding the Lats
The muscles surrounding the latissimus dorsi play a vital role in maintaining correct posture. But you can add a lot of power and strength to that area just by working it a little differently than you normally do on the lat pulldown machine.
By changing the grip, the angle of the torso and overall body positioning during the exercise, you can achieve different benefits. This helps to fully target the muscles you wish to strengthen and work without the possibility of injury or damage to joint tissues.
Different Types of Lat Pulldown Variations
Neutral Grip: In this version of the exercise, you place your hands in a position perpendicular to the bar.
Supine Grip: This position places you in a face-up position against the machine. Your arms are turned slightly inward, and the bar sits perpendicular to your chest.
Wide Grip: These are similar to the neutral grips, only you’re gripping the bar farther apart with your hands.
Modified Wide Grip: In this variation, you lean away from the bar while keeping your hands in the same position. It’s a more intense position than the previous one.
Overhead Pull: This puts your body in a position similar to a lying front raise. Your arms are extended, and the weight is behind your head. This is a harder variation, so beginners should start slow.
One of the reasons why the Lat Pulldown is so popular amongst experienced weightlifters is because it’s a great way to build massive biceps. How? The movement is almost exclusively in the elbow joint, which places maximum focus on your biceps.
To add more variety to your workouts, perform the Latin Pulldown exercise. With this exercise, you’re using a rope, rather than a bar. The movement requires you to grip the rope so it’s palm-up.
The chest and shoulder muscles played a large role in holding the rope in place. By changing the degrees of this angle throughout the exercise, you can target different parts of the bicep.
By changing the shoulders’ position and angle, you’re actually also stimulating different parts of the lat muscles. You should feel your biceps working on additional exercises as well.
Lat Pulldown Alternative Exercises
Most gyms have a lat pulldown machine. It’s basically a vertical knee raise machine that allows you to do lats exercises. Some of us like to use this for building our lats because it’s convenient.
However, there are many other great and efficient ways to build your lats and we’re going to show you them.
Bent-Over Barbell Rows
Bent-over barbell rows are a good alternative to pulldowns for those who find pulldowns uncomfortable or difficult. Bent-over rows are a compound exercise that targets the lower-mid back (rhomboids and middle trapezius), the upper back (medial and lateral deltoids), and the core stabilizers. Bent-over rows also help to increase your deadlift.
To perform this exercise, set up an empty barbell on a rack so that it’s easy to grab. Grab the bar at a shoulder-width grip, making sure that your hands are turned slightly out so that it’s easy to keep your elbows close to your body.
Keeping your back straight, lean forward at the hips. This movement engages your core stabilizers to keep your spine safe and stable.
From this position, breathe out and pull the bar towards your stomach. Focus on pulling the bar to your belly button, not your chest.
Once you’ve reached your belly button, breathe in and push the bar back to the original starting position. Make sure that you’re working through a full range of motion for the most benefit from this exercise.
Standing Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows
This exercise can be done anywhere with an accommodating dumbbell rack. The instructions below are for one dumbbell, but you can easily adjust for multiple dumbbells.
Stand with your left side to the dumbbell rack (if you’re left-handed, switch sides).
Grab a dumbbell with your right hand and, holding the dumbbell at your side, stand with your feet just wider than your hips, toes facing forward, and your right knee and elbow slightly bent.
Lean forward just enough that you feel your abs engage.
Pull the dumbbell up to your upper chest and then lower to complete the rep.
Perform the desired number of reps, then switch sides.
Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Rows
One exercise that can effectively target a variety of muscles in the upper body is the dumbbell bench row. As the name implies, this exercise targets your back muscles and can also work your biceps, chest, and shoulders.
Set up a bench for the row so that the end is about knee height. Grab the end of the bench with one hand and the dummbell with the other. Lift the dumbbell with a slight bend in your elbows and raise it towards your chest. Keep the elbow close to your body as you bring the dumbbell up. Bring the dumbbell back towards the bench and squeeze your back muscles at the peak of the lift. Alternate doing each arm.
Kroc rows are an excellent alternative to lat pulldowns because they allow you to more fully utilize your scapula muscles.
If you have ever seen a bodybuilder with huge back muscles, but only average arms, it is because they are able to take advantage of more of the back muscles with this exercise.
It is an excellent way to take your muscle building routine to the next level.
To perform them, climb onto a step that is 10 inches high, with your right foot.
With your legs spread wide and your back straight, grab a dumbbell with your left hand and lean forward until an angle of 30-degrees is formed between your upper and lower body.
Choose a weight that is light enough for you to pull up to your chin when using both sets of muscles at once.
Now, using your leg muscles to stay upright and your pulling muscles to pull yourself to your chin, pull the weight up directly in front of you.
As you row, bring the weight to your right shoulder, and then bring your left arm up and over, returning to the starting position.
Although pull-ups and lat pulldowns share some similarities, pull-ups are a little bit more challenging. The fact that you pull your own body weight down is enough to make them more difficult.
You can work on building your pull-up strength by doing negatives. Start by using a chair to help you get your chin over the bar. Remove the chair, and lower yourself as slowly as possible.
Using a wider grip, lower yourself so that your chin is about to touch the bar. As soon as you reach that point, pull yourself back up and start over.
Remember to start over again in this position each time you pull yourself back up to the top.
You’ll also get a great lat workout by using a towel to grab the bar. This is an easy way to build up strength to ultimately do a pull-up.
You’ll find that many gyms have a pull-up bar with a lever that allows you to adjust it to varying heights. You can adjust it so that you can grasp the bar and hang there as long as possible.
This may not work for a few weeks as your arms and back get used to the exercise. But once you get to the top of the movement, you can lower yourself very slowly or just take a break.
Always start this exercise with your feet on the floor and your knees slightly bent.
Decline Dumbbell Pullovers
This exercise is an alternative to the lat pulldown, the chest exercise. The one thing that makes it different from this similar exercise is the angle.
This is an exercise that targets the pectoralis major, the same muscle as the bench press.
Because you will be using the pectoralis major to bring the weight up, you’re going to need to start at the bottom of your push-up rep but start in a more reclined push-up position.
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