Top Lat Workouts

Top Lat Workouts

Lats, short for latissimus dorsi, are the large muscles on the side of your back that connect your arms to your spine and control many of the movements of your shoulder joint. When well-developed, these muscles can resemble muscular wings. Your lats control several movements of your shoulder including adduction or pulling your arm into your ribs from above and shoulder extension. Your lats are best thought of as pulling muscles and any good lat exercise will involve pulling your arms inward or downward against resistance.

Bodyweight Lat Exercises
Bodyweight training allows you to exercise your muscles anywhere and at any time. There are three very effective bodyweight lat exercises; pull-ups, chin-ups and body rows. Pull-ups and chin-ups involve pulling yourself up to a bar using your arms. Pull-ups use a palms-away grip while chin-ups use a palms-facing grip. Both are effective lat exercises although where pull-ups use more of an adduction-type movement where the arms are drawn into the midline of the body, chin-ups involve more shoulder extension.

Body rows are similar except you lie beneath a waist-high bar and keep your feet on the ground; imagine a upside down push-up. Body rows are considerably easier than pull-ups and chin-ups are provide a good stepping stone to the more demanding the exercises.

Free Weight Lat Exercises
Free Weights include barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells and you can even use logs, sealed water containers and big rocks if you have no gym equipment available. Bent over rows using one or both hands are the most common way to work your lats with free weights. Pull the weight into your abdomen and not your chest to really work your lats. In addition, you can also perform pullovers using a barbell or dumbbell but this exercise also works your chest muscles.

Resistance Machine Exercises
There are several resistance training machines you can use to target your lats. The lateral or lat pulldown uses a similar action to pull-ups and is an ideal substitute if you aren't strong enough to perform the more demanding bodyweight exercise. Assisted chin-up machines counterbalance a percentage of your bodyweight and allow you to do pull-ups and chin-ups more easily. Seated rows replicate bent over rows and there are also machines that simulate doing dumbbell pullovers. There are also lat machines, usually plate loaded and that use levers, that involve pulling handles down to your front at an angle which provide an effective if unusual way to work your lats.

Resistance machines are very convenient to use as adjusting the weight and therefore the difficulty of your workout is simply a matter of moving a loading pin up or down a weight stack.

Cardiovascular Exercises
Some cardiovascular exercises have a impact on your lats. Rowing is an effective total body workout that has a strong lat involvement and swimming requires and develops strong lats as you pull yourself through the water. Cross trainers that involve an arm action also work your lats.