Part of the reason why you’re struggling to grow wider lats is because you just can’t see them, which can make activating them quite difficult, but another big reason is because most of us just use the wrong ‘lat exercises’ to target them. Even a back exercise like the lat pulldown, surprisingly, actually doesn’t hit the lats very well and is more of an upper back and traps movement based on the way the lat fibers run. In this video, I’ll show you two best lat exercises that’ll enable you to get a wider back. After trying these two back exercises out in the gym, many of you will likely finally experience what a lat contraction actually feels like and start seeing noticeable results in your back width.
The lats are a big fan-like muscle that wraps around your back. It can be divided into 3 different regions – the upper, mid, and lower lats. The lat fibers get more horizontal at the top and more vertical at the bottom. Although during any “lats” exercise in general, all three regions of the lats will be involved, you can slightly favour certain regions over the other by better matching the exercise with the direction in which the fibers run. Knowing their basic anatomy and fibre direction will help you better execute the following two lat exercises in the gym.
To emphasize the upper and mid lats a little more we’ll use a lat focused row, a move I first came across from Coach Kassem, creator of N1 training. To make your cable rows more lat-focused so you grow wider lats, first, tuck your elbows in to your sides and keep them there as you row rather than flaring them out. Next, stop the row once your elbows reach your torso rather than extending beyond this. Lastly, as you pull, you want to limit how much you extend and arch your upper back. Instead, incorporate a slight hinge forward at your hips better line up the lats with the line of pull and to increase their range of motion. Keep your abs engaged and ensure there’s no rounding of your lower back.
To get a wider back from this exercise, initiate the movement by thinking about pulling your elbow down by using your lats. Then, as you pull, continue thinking about bringing your elbow down and in. Visualize a rope attaching to your upper arm and pulling down, back, and in towards your spine. That’s essentially what your lat is doing and is helpful to visualize. Lastly, ideally you’d want to use a neutral grip wider handle to best bias the lats. And if you currently don’t have access to a cable row, then you can apply most of these tips and cues to something like a dumbbell row in order to make it more lat focused, or just replace the cable with a band.
The remaining of the best lat exercises: the single arm pull down, which biases the lower lats a little more by incorporating a more vertical pulling angle. Here, we’ll want to use a half kneeling stance and grab a handle with a neutral grip such that your arm is positioned at roughly a 45 degree angle in front of your body and cable positioned such that it’s in line with your forearm. Brace your abs, keep a neutral spine, and then drive the elbow down to your side. As you pull, you’ll want to keep your elbow as close as possible to your torso, and think about driving the elbow down and then in towards your spine at the bottom position. In the end position, you can even slightly bend your torso sideways towards the pulling arm to get an even greater contraction. If you don’t have access to cables, then an easy alternative is to use a band with the same setup and execution.
As for programming these lat exercises into your routine, if your lats are currently lagging, feel free to swap some of your horizontal and vertical pulling with these. As mentioned earlier, traditional back movements are great for overall back development, but tend to bias the upper back moreso than the lats which is where most people need to focus on if they’d like to add more width to their back.
All in all, hopefully you were able to see that in order to maximize your gains in any muscle, you need to pay close attention to the exercises you’re using and even closer attention to how you go about performing them. That’s what makes all the difference. For a step-by-step program that shows you exactly how to train week after week with in depth tutorials in order to maximize your gains, then take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:
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