The first thing you should know about the lat is that it is a
very large muscle that really behaves almost as if it were
The so-called inboard lats, or spinal erectors, which run
along-side of the spine primary function is to arch the back.
The outboard lats run from the armpit down to the small of the
back. They are used to pull the shoulders downward; they also
assist in pulling the elbows in towards the sides
Finally, the upper lats which run from the armpit to the spine—in
the areaunder the shoulders—are used to pull the shoulders back
and also to swing the elbows outward.
Widening the lats ideally involves thickening both the upper
lats and the outboard lats.
You see, in general intelligently training the upper lats will
enhance your width, while training the outboard lats will enhance
your fullness. In reality, if you train your upper lats intensely,
then you really can't help but hit the outboard lats somewhat,
Too many beginner and intermediate level trainers do the upper-lat
work forthe width but neglect the equally effective work for the
outboard lats. Because of this, they develop good thickness up top,
but the mass and quality of the lats falls off well before the small
of the back. Ideally, you want the balanced, extended look of full
Basically, wide-grip movements will primarily hit the upper lats.
This is also pretty much the case with bent rowing (barbell or
dumbbell) or seated rowing.
On the other hand, close-grip overhead work will primarily hit
the outboard lats; this is particularly true when you use an
undergrip or palms up grip. Dips also hit the outboard lats directly.
The trouble with dips, of course, is that the secondary muscles
(particularly triceps) will often fail before you fully train the
Here’s a basic mass-building Lat Routine for beginner and
intermediate level trainers.
3 Supersets of Scapular Rows and Close Grip Pulldowns
2 Sets Bent Over Rows
2 Sets Wide Grip Pulldowns to the Chest
This exercise is a great way to pre-fatigue the lats. Begin by
holding the lat pulldown bar in a seated position; I prefer a
slightly less than shoulder width grip, but I vary this up
quite a bit.
Now lean back a bit and pull the bar down using only the lats. If
anything, your elbows should bend just slightly at the very end
of the motion. You only want to move the bar about 4-6 inches.
Scapular Rows are a lot like doing the very beginning of a lat
pulldown. The difference is you stop completely before the biceps
have a chance to kick in. Remember, you’re pulling down with only
your lats. You want to and should be able to use fairly heavy
weights with this exercise.
Close Grip Pulldowns
I like to do these with a small straight bar or a V-shaped
handle on the pulldown cable machine. When I use a straight-bar,
I'll alternate between overhand and underhand grips (though I
prefer underhand because I really can isolate the lats without
my biceps failing).
Start with your hands directly overhead. Concentrate on pulling
down using only the back and lats. As you pull down lean back
lightly so that at the end of the pulldown you are at about a 45
degree angle with the bar hitting at or just below the pecs. You
basically want to stick your chest out and arch your back
while doing the movement.
Bent Over Rows
I like to do Bent Over Rows freeform with a barbell—sometimes
I might use a rowing stand for variation, but I tend not to.
In terms of form, I always try to maintain an arch in my back
during the movement. Sometimes this means that I have to cut
down on total poundage a bit, but I'd rather sacrifice a bit
of weight for good, effective form that really isolates the
With Bent Over Rows, you want to remember that the spot to
which you pull the bar somewhat affects the exact portion of
the lat that this exercise will hit. In other words, the
higher the spot you pull too, the higher in the lat you’re
hitting. It’s a general rule, but one that’s worth
You can grip the bar with either an overhand or underhand
grip (I vary it up). Be very careful with heavy weights on
this exercise, especially if you’re using an underhand grip.
Just ask Dorian Yates (as some of you know, he popped his
biceps doing this exercise—watched it roll up his arm like
a window shade—and it really hasn't been the same since. Of
course, he was lifting a ridiculous amount of weight at
Use the wide pulldown bar on the lat machine. Be sure to
arch your back so that your chest is forward.
Also focus on keeping your head up throughout the movement.
If you bring the head and shoulders forward you'll be take
the stress off the lats. I prefer to pull the bar down in
front of my body to the mid-chest area. I've always found
the behind the neck version of the lat pulldown to be
unnatural and restricted.
Begin the movement by pulling down with just your lats. As
you reach the completion point, lean back slightly and
really concentrate on pushing your shoulder blades
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