Building Wider Lats: Latissimus Dorsi Workout

This article is designed to help you develop your latissimus dorsi musclesThis article is designed to help you develop your latissimus dorsi muscles


Benefits of Lats Workout

The latissimus dorsi, or the lats, are the largest back muscles that are also called “wings”, because they look like the folded wings of a great bird when they are well developed. The importance of training this muscle group can be described through the functions it performs:

  1. Shoulder adduction.
  2. Extension of both arms backward.
  3. Shifting of the midline towards inside.

For better understanding: in ancient times, the lats helped our ancestors climb trees and pull something towards the body. They play a very important role, and the nature has provided more than a half of the back of a person for these muscles. From this comes the strength that can be developed by the wings.

The following picture shows their location on the back:


Sports Equipment Needed

You can work this muscle group both at the gym and at home. Standard sports equipment for development of the wings include barbells, dumbbells, benches, kettlebells, and special exercise machines. You are likely to have none of that at home, but that’s no matter. You can perform one of the most effective exercises on a street or home pull up bar – wide-grip pull-ups. Dumbbells can be replaced by plastic bottles filled with water or sand. Also, you can use chairs or stools instead of a bench.

Let’s proceed to the review of the effective exercises designed to help you work out your lats at home.

Collection of the Best Exercises

Bent Over Barbell Row

To perform this exercise, you need to purchase a barbell with a set of weight plates of different weights or borrow it from your friends. Before you begin, you should get into proper position: place your feet at shoulder width apart and slightly bend your knees.

You should grab the barbell with a regular overhand grip with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Grasp the barbell with your arms outstretched and straighten up.

Pay attention to the position of the athlete’s backPay attention to the position of the athlete’s back

Before performance of the exercise, pay attention to the following points:

  • you should slightly arch your lower back;
  • the torso bends forward, and the incline angle should be at least 30 degrees;
  • keep your head up and place the barbell before your shins;
  • your lower back should be tensed throughout the exercise.

Fully extend your arms down. On the exhale, pull the bar towards your stomach. Raise your elbows as high as you can, be sure they move on a straight-line trajectory, and do not let them flare to the side. Only your back and shoulder muscles should work as you perform the barbell row, your arms should be minimally involved.

Inhale as you lower the barbell back to the starting position. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lift the bar and spread them apart as you lower it. Adjust the weight so that your body does not swing during all sets.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Grasp the dumbbell with a neutral grip, your palm facing your thigh. Position yourself to the left of the bench if you hold the dumbbell in your right hand, and while performing the exercise with your left arm, stand to the right of the bench accordingly.

Bend your upper body forward until it is parallel to the floor, slightly arching your lower back. The arm holding the dumbbell should be extended and fully relaxed.

As well as in the previous exercise, you need to maintain proper back position while performing the rowAs well as in the previous exercise, you need to maintain proper back position while performing the row

Exercise technique:

  • on the exhale, begin to move the dumbbell strictly upward;
  • lift the dumbbell as high as you can;
  • involve your shoulder as your elbow reaches the shoulder level – at this moment the “wings” are maximally contracted;
  • pause the dumbbell at the highest point for a few seconds;
  • now you can slowly lower the weight to the bottom, inhaling throughout the movement;
  • the exercise is performed with the left arm in the same manner.

Kettlebell Option

If you have neither a barbell, nor dumbbells at home, but you have a kettlebell, then don’t get upset. You can work your lats with this sports equipment as well. You can perform the exercise by leaning on a bench or any steady object that is close to the level of your waist or a little bit higher. For example, you can use a desk, a bedside table, and similar furniture for this purpose.

But before you start, you should properly warm up not only your back, but also your wrists, because the use of a kettlebell involves and strains your forearms a lot. Usually it is done by lowering and relaxing the arm with the kettlebell to the bottom and turning the wrist in different directions. You should do it slowly to avoid sprains or injuries.

The starting position is the same as it is for One-Arm Dumbbell Row. If you used to do this exercise with a dumbbell, then at first it can be unusual for you to perform the raw because of another grip and piece of equipment. In time you won’t feel any great difference. The only disadvantage is that kettlebells are of standard weight, and you cannot add extra weight for each set. Kettlebells come in a range of different weights – 8, 16, 32, 64 kg.

If you have neither a kettlebell, nor dumbbells at home, you can make weights out of bags filled with sand, or use bricks wrapped in medical bandage. You can use other materials as well, it all depends on your imagination. However, remember that the weight of your equipment should not be too heavy nor should it be too light.

Using a Pull-Up Bar

Pull-ups are a classic exercise for developing the back muscles. Ideally, you should touch your chest to the bar as you pull yourself up. Also, you should vary the grip. At first, place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Every week, you should increase the distance between your hands to the greatest possible extent. The wide grip maximally activates the latissimus dorsi muscles.

It is important to perform pull-ups in a smooth motion and without sudden movements. Before pulling your body up, you should hang down from the bar for a few seconds to let your body and arms stretch a little. At the top point of the amplitude of the movement, pause for 1–2 seconds.

Rear Pull-Ups, or the so called “Behind-the-Neck Pull-Ups” are also effective in developing the “wings”. They are performed with an overhand grip, i.e. palms facing down. Use a wider-than-shoulder-width grip for this exercise, tuck your head under the bar, and pull yourself up until the back of your neck or shoulders touch the pullup bar.

To make the exercise more difficult, you can use additional weights or ask your partner to incline your body to an angle of no more than 45 degrees. Such technique can help you achieve the best results in building your lat muscles on a pull-up bar much faster.

Another option of pull-ups on the bar is adjusting the body to the horizontal position. You should do it slowly because the main load shifts to the shoulder joints that have to rotate by more than 100 degrees. The beginner won't be able to perform this exercise at once with a perfect form, therefore, at first it will be enough to raise the body to an angle of 30 degrees. It is important to keep the arms straight throughout the exercise.

Sample Workout Plan

You can use the following training program for building lat width and the so-called “V-taper”:

Exercise, number of sets, description
1 Warm up: 5 minutes of warm-up and stretching exercises for joints and muscles.
2 Wide-Grip Pull-Ups: 5–6 sets of 10–12 reps. To increase the load, add extra weights.
3 Bent-Over Kettlebell Row: 3–4 sets of 10–12 reps. A kettlebell can be replaced with a dumbbell or any heavy object, for example, 5-liter bottle of water with a comfortable handle.

Tips to Improve Performance

Mental Approach to Training

Before performing any exercises, you need to mentally prepare yourself for a workout. Building the lats is a hard work that requires a lot of time and effort. To achieve your goal, you should overcome laziness that is typical for every person, to varying degrees. It takes a few months of constant training to get the desired result, however, you will see the first visible results just in a month of regular workouts on a pull-up bar and at home.


Besides discipline, diligence, and self-control, you need to increase the volume of the food you eat. Any athlete interested in building muscle should consume much more food than an ordinary person does. Considering the fact that protein is the main building block of muscle tissue, you can use protein shakes to supplement your diet. Also, do not forget about carbohydrates, because they provide your body with energy. Therefore, feel free to visit your kitchen more often.


For unknown reasons, some beginners think that push-ups can help them build the lats – it is a fallacy. Push-ups are ineffective for developing the back muscles. Remember the functions of the “wings” described in the beginning of the article, and you will understand that they are not involved in the elbow extension at all.


  • The latissimus dorsi muscles serve for: extension of the arms backward, shifting of the midline towards inside, shoulder adduction.
  • This muscle group occupies the lower half of the back and plays a significant role in improving of the athlete’s physical indicators. It is worth paying much attention to working out this area, otherwise it will be impossible to build a beautiful and harmonious physique.
  • It is more convenient to train the lats at the gym, because various sports equipment is used for that, however, if you have no opportunity to visit the gym, you can perform the exercises at home as well. The equipment needed are dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, a bench, various exercise machines, and a pull-up bar.
  • It is not obligatory to use all the equipment. Most items can be replaced by improvised objects: bottles filled with water or sand, chairs, etc..
  • You should warm up properly before each workout. It is important to warm up your entire body, not just the targeted muscle group you are going to train today.
  • The most effective and doable exercises are as follows: Bent-Over Barbell Row, One-Arm Dumbbell Row, Alternating Bent-Over Kettlebell Row, Pull-Ups on a pull-bar, adjusting the body to the horizontal position on a pull-up bar.
  • The use of proper exercise technique allows you to make progress faster and avoid injuries.
  • While performing the exercises, try to isolate your back muscles and minimize the involvement of other body parts.
  • Do not use too heavy weights. It is much more effective to perform the exercises with lighter weights using a proper form.
  • You can vary the position of your hands on a pull-up bar and the width of the grip – it will allow you to involve different muscles.
  • Once it gets easy for you to do 10–12 reps, you should increase the weight of equipment or attach additional weight to your dip belt to perform weighted pull-ups.
  • You need to increase your protein and carbohydrate intake to activate muscle mass growth. It would be useful to take supplements in the form of mass gainer or protein shakes.
  • Push-ups do not help develop the latissimus dorsi muscles.

Before working out, you should create a positive mental attitude. You must understand that only hard work can lead you to success. You will enjoy visible results in a month of regular training.

Shesternenko Alexander
Fitness trainer, group instructor, dietitian
  • Counsels and educates on proper nutrition principles, body weight correction, and adjustment of individual diets and diets during pregnancy;
  • Develops meal plans that meet nutrition goals and dietary needs for obese and underweight people;
  • Specializes in modern functional testing techniques in sports, athletic recovery, sports supplementation, pharmacological support, and actual women's problems in sports;
  • On the website, provides analysis of different dietary schemes, reviews modern training techniques and effective exercises.


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