11 Lat Exercises To Build A Strong Back

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Lats are one of the most dominant muscles in the upper body and are more than just a visual statement.


If you’ve clicked on my article, you must be willing to invest your time and build solid back muscles and explore some fantastic lat strengthening workouts that you can add to your everyday routine. 


By the end of this article, you will know exactly what muscles make up your back, their role in your everyday life, and, of course, the lat exercises you can incorporate into your routine.


Let’s get started!


Latissimus Dorsi Muscle Anatomy

lats dorsi

If you want to build a solid back, learning about back muscle anatomy is essential for practical latissimus dorsi training.


This will help you visualize and know precisely which muscles you will target during your workouts.  


Latissimus dorsi or lats are one of the most dominant muscles that many fitness enthusiasts take interest in when it comes to upper body sculpting.


These V-shaped muscles are located behind your back — they start from the top of the hips and spread through the middle and lower back like wings, connecting to the upper arms or the humerus with muscle fibers running in different directions.


The latissimus dorsi muscles get their blood supply from certain spine levels and are controlled by your spinal cord nerves. Due to the anatomy of lats in the body, they play a crucial role in hand and shoulder movements that perform various everyday activities.


What Do Latissimus Dorsi Do?

Reading the anatomy of the lats, you must be wondering how these muscles are involved in your day-to-day activity.


Here are a few of the primary functions that your latissimus dorsi perform:


Shoulder Adduction 

The action of raising your arm and bringing it back to your torso is called shoulder adduction. The latissimus dorsi is the primary muscle that moves your upper arm away from the body and pulls it back to your torso. When performing shoulder adduction and engaging your lats, you can perform pull-ups, chin-up, rows, etc.

Shoulder Extension 

The act of moving your hand backward is called shoulder extension. When swimming, throwing, lifting something heavy, or trying to reach behind your back, you push your arms backward, performing shoulder extension and engaging your lats. 

Spinal Stabilization 

Your latissimus dorsi is the most important muscle when it comes to your spinal stabilization. With a stabilized spine, you can maintain the correct posture, prevent injuries, and reduce stress on your lower back muscles.

deadlift - lat pulldown- lat exercises

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Benefits Of Building A Strong Back

So we have seen how so many responsibilities lie on your latissimus dorsi, so when you start training these muscles, here are the benefits you will be able to see;

Enhanced Posture

Building strong lats can do wonders for you if you are one of the many people stuck to their desks and laptops for long hours and suffer back problems due to poor posture.


Back muscle development can help you release the pressure on your spine, preventing poor postures and reducing the risks of back pain.

Boosted Upper Body Strength 

As I already stated, the lats are one of the most essential muscles in your upper body and comprise most of your back. When you train your lats muscles, you strengthen your upper body, which will help you perform better in tasks like pull-ups, rows, hanging from a bar, etc.

Improved Aesthetics

Did you know that having solid lats can make your waist look slimmer? That is true; when you train your lat muscles, you develop solid back muscles that sculpt your body in a V shape. Well-defined, V-shaped latissimus dorsi makes your upper back area broader and muscular while giving an illusion of a smaller waistline – adding to your aesthetics and a more proportionate physique.

Improved Sports Performance

When it comes to pulling, pushing, lifting, etc., you primarily engage your latissimus dorsi. These muscles are solely responsible for moving your upper arms backward and forward while stabilizing your spine. 


Moreover, the lats are also important when performing activities like throwing, running, punching, etc., as your lats help you drive the energy from your legs to your upper body for greater strength and speed.

Shoulder Stability 

One of the many places that lats are involved in is the shoulders. When lats are correctly engaged, and you squeeze your shoulder blades, lats can help create a pocket for the humerus to get in, allowing you to lift things more smoothly.

Lat Building And Myths Around It

Before I start listing out some of the most effective lat workouts, I am obliged to bust one of the biggest myths about lat exercises


The misconception regarding lat training that has been doing rounds and scamming your growth is that you can isolate your upper, middle, and lower lats and train them separately. I hate to burst this bubble, but this statement is as wrong as it gets. 


Lats or latissimus dorsi are a pair of large muscles lying on either side of your middle and lower back. Therefore, when moving your arms and shoulders or any other exercise that engages your lats in a primary or supporting role, you will use the entire latissimus dorsi, not just some parts.


Your lats are not just two separate muscles; they are one unit that works together to help you function. That’s why functional back training exercises target your entire latissimus dorsi, ensuring all parts are worked.


Safety And Precautions

One last lat muscle growth tip is to take precautions when training your muscles. Regardless of how well-trained and expert you are at the gym, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. 


Since these exercises require different movements using weights, etc., you must take precautions. Look out for muscle soreness, and if you feel your muscles are hurting more than usual, you must stop immidiately or get expert guidance.


Stay moderate with lifting weights and start slowly, specifically if you are doing the workout for the first time. It is always better to complete the reps and engage your muscles instead of leaving the reps halfway, losing yourself in the momentum, and not engaging your muscles.


11 Ultimate Exercises For Strong Lats

I have curated a step-by-step guide of the 11 ultimate exercises that can give you a solid back.


But, to achieve strong lats, you must achieve core and back synergy while performing exercises that isolate your lats – all of which you can achieve by following every instruction in the guide below


Let’s get training!


#1 One Arm Row On One Leg

One arm row on one leg is a dynamic workout that engages your core and lats and tests your balance, coordination, and strength.


Here is a step-by-step guide for you on how to perform one arm row on one leg while engaging your lats


  • Hold dumbbells in both your hands and keep your hands on your side


  • Put your body weight on your right leg


  • Tip forward and raise your left leg behind, keeping knee and ankle aligned 


  • Keep your torso parallel to the floor – hold on to the wall with one hand if needed


  • Now, pull the dumbbell up to your chest, pushing your upper arm behind you


  • Lower down your arm in a controlled manner – letting the weight hang below


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#2 Lat Pulls With Bands

While there are many variations for Lat-Pull downs, this one is the most effective when training your lats, regardless of your fitness level.


Adding these exercises to your routine challenges your strength and can help you build a strong and sculpted upper body with solid lats muscles and enhance your posture. 


  • Open up your arms wide and hold onto a exercise band above your head


  • Maintain the tension in the band and your arms by keeping the band stretched


  • Pull down your elbows in front of you till your rib cage


  • Slowly let your arms go back up


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#3 Barbell Rows

If you are serious about building a strong back with solid lat muscles, barbell rows should be a staple exercise.


Barbell rows are an excellent workout for lats that helps you challenge your lats and other upper body muscles, allowing you to sculpt the perfect V-shaped physique.


  • Hold the desired weight of the barbell with your palms facing your body


  • Tip forward to maintain your torso at a 45-degree with the floor


  • Keeping your stance hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly 


  • Pull the bar upwards to your belly and hold it for 2 seconds


  • Slowly, start lowering the barbell in a controlled manner


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#4 Dumbbell Pullovers 

Dumbbell pullovers are great for challenging various muscles – lats, chest, tricep, core, and lower body.


You can modify the exercise according to your fitness level and start by lying flat on a bench. Once you have mastered the posture, you can challenge yourself by doing it on a ball or lying halfway on a bench.


  • Grab onto a single dumbbell and sit in front of a bench placed horizontally


  • Place your shoulders on the bench and lift your hips from the floor


  • Keep your torso engaged, knees bent at 90-degree, and feet firm on the ground


  • Ask a helper to give you the dumbbell and hold it with both hands


  • Straighten your arms and elbows behind at your head level


  • Squeezing your shoulders, bring the dumbbell over your chest and slowly return to the starting position


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#5 Barbell Deadlift

Deadlift exercises are considered the most effective workout for your glutes and hamstrings.


But did you know they are also an excellent workout for targeting your lats? Yes, it is true. When you perform a deadlift, lift the heavy barbell with your hands, suspending the arms mid-air as you stand straight.


This means you are engaging your lats in the movement.


  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.


  • Bend your knees to a 90-degree and grab the bar with arms open more than shoulder width apart and palms facing your body.


  • Pretend you are bending the bar to open your chest while engaging your lats and neutralizing your spine.


  • Keep the shins vertical and hips pushed back.


  • Keep your feet firmly on the ground, drive the energy from your lower body to your upper body, and lift the barbell upwards.


  • Position the barbell as close to the body as possible and stand straight.


  • Now, push your hips back and slowly lower the barbell. 


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#6 Pull-ups 

While pull-ups are considered to be one of the most challenging exercises for the back, they are great when specifically targeting your arms and lats and building upper body strength.


While I explain the basic pull-up variation, you should explore the various pull-up techniques to make the most out of your pull-up workout and strengthen your lats and arms how you’re supposed to.


  • Jump up and hold onto a pull-up bar, keeping your hands wider than shoulder-width apart


  • Pull your body upwards till your elbows come closer to your chest


  • Keep your legs bent at the knees behind you


  • Slowly lower yourself down and then go back up


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#7 Dumbbell Rows

Dumbbell rows are the most basic exercise everyone learns when training the upper back muscles.


Dumbbell rows target various muscles along with the back muscles, making them a perfect upper-body workout. Here is a step by step guide for you to follow.


  • Stand by the side of a bench, and a single dumbbell


  • Place your right knee and right palm on the bench and bend forward


  • Align your shoulders, back, and hips


  • Start lifting the dumbbell from your left hand, and pull your elbow backward


  • Bring the dumbbell to your rib cage and lower the elbow 


  • Keep the weight hanging straight – aligning the elbow, shoulder, and wrist


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#8 Push Ups

When building upper body strength with body weight, the best exercise you can do is doing a pushup.


It is one of the most effective workouts when it comes to building the upper body, developing strength, and improving your overall fitness.


Pushups are a basic exercise but challenge various muscles – lats, chest, triceps, shoulders, and core.


  • Get down on all fours, keeping your palms slightly wider than your shoulders


  • Straighten up while putting your weight on your palms and your toes 


  • Align your body from head to toe


  • Go all the way down till your chest nearly touches the floor


  • Graze your chest through the floor and push yourself up, straightening your elbows


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#9 Cable Rows

Cable rows are an excellent way to add variety and fun to your everyday workout routine.


This exercise helps you target your lats and arms while helping you improve your posture, increase your strength, and build a solid, well-defined back.


This compound workout will help you build symmetrical upper body muscles, giving you an aesthetically pleasing back.


  • Sit down on a cable row machine, adjust the weights accordingly, and press your feet firmly on the feet plates.


  • Bend your knees slightly, move your torso forward, and grab onto the handles


  • Push your feet in the plat and pull your arms back till your belly simultaneously 


  • Make sure not to move your torso or hips and pull using your elbows and shoulders


  • Slowly extend your arms forward again


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#10 Landmine Rows

Landmine rows may sound funny, but they are excellent when it comes to testing your muscles.


It is a great exercise that helps you build solid and well-rounded back muscles. It challenges your everyday routine and effectively targets your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, shoulders, and arms.


This is how you will perform the landmine rows effectively if you want to engage and train your latissimus dorsi.


  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart over the landmine


  • Face the weighted side and grab behind the weights with both hands


  • Hinge at your hips and bend forward by bending your knees


  • Once you are in position, maintain your stance


  • Start lifting the barbell towards your chest while engaging your shoulder blades. 


  • Pause for a few seconds and let the bar down without dropping it on the floor.


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


#11 Negative Pull-Ups

I understand how difficult it can be to achieve a fitness level where you can quickly go about your back workout routine, performing multiple pull-ups without assistance.


But believe it or not, everyone starts at some point, and negative pull-ups are an excellent way for you to embark upon a journey of unassisted pull-ups.


This exercise focuses on descending while targeting your arms and latissimus dorsi. It’s not as difficult as it sounds; it’s pretty simple to follow.


  • Place a stool under the pull-up bar, grab it, and hold it with a stance greater than shoulder width.


  • Once you have grabbed the bar and are standing with a steady stance on the stool, lift your body slightly


  • Slowly, in a controlled manner, start descending below towards the ground and letting your feet hang


  • Make sure to keep your torso tight and aligned


  • Take 3-6 seconds to lower yourself and then drop


  • Get back up on the stool and repeat the steps


  • If you have enough strength, skip the dropping on the floor part and pull yourself up to get back on the stool.


  • Repeat the mentioned steps for the desired number of reps and sets.


How To Create Your Own Lat Workout

Looking at these multiple exercises, you must be overwhelmed and wondering where to start. Don’t worry; I have got you covered!


Starting with bodyweight exercises, like negative pull-ups, push-ups, and lat pull-downs with bands, is always better if you’re a beginner. These exercises will help you build strength in your upper body before you start with challenging exercises.


Try and perform 1-2 sets of 12-16 repetitions each of whichever exercises you choose and set your mind to it.


If you’re an advanced-level fitness enthusiast and believe you can take up more strenuous workouts, start performing the landmine rows, one arm row on one leg, cable rows, etc., exercises.


Try a variety of moves with different equipment to challenge your muscles from various angles.


Perform solid 2-3 sets with 8-12 repetitions for each exercise, and add these workouts to your everyday lat-building routine to enjoy a V-shaped physique.



Latissimus dorsi is a pair of muscles located behind your upper body, making up your middle and lower back muscles.


They are responsible for all your upper arm and shoulder movements – if you move your arm away from your body, the latissimus dorsi or your lats muscle pulls back your arms to your body.


Building strong lats gives you a V-shaped physique and helps improve your posture, boost your upper body strength, increase shoulder stability, and enhance your sports performance.


Your body transfers energy from the lower body to the upper body’s lats muscles, allowing you to throw, swim, run, or catch. Moreover, a myth that revolved around latissimus dorsi training is that you can target the lats in your upper, middle, and lower back, which is untrue. 


Latissimus dorsi is a pair of muscles targeted as one that works in unity to help you function. Workouts like push-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, barbell rows, and many others mentioned above are excellent ways to enhance your back and build a well-defined physique.



What is the most effective lat exercise?

The most effective lat exercise varies based on individual goals and fitness levels. However, pull-ups are often considered a gold standard for targeting and strengthening the latissimus dorsi.

How do you work out your lats?

To work out your lats, incorporate exercises like pull-ups, lat pulldowns, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, and deadlifts into your routine. Ensure proper form and technique for maximum engagement.

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What are 2 strength-building exercises for lats?

Two potent strength-building exercises for lats are pull-ups and barbell rows. Both exercises engage the lats intensely and can be progressively overloaded for continuous strength gains.

How can I get big lats fast?

To build big lats quickly, focus on compound movements like pull-ups and rows, progressively increase weights, maintain a protein-rich diet, and ensure adequate rest and recovery between workouts.

Is it OK to train lats every day?

It’s not advisable to train lats every day as muscles need time to recover and grow. Overtraining can lead to injuries. A balanced routine with rest days or alternating muscle groups is more effective.

Are lats hard to grow?

Lats can be challenging to grow for some individuals due to genetics, training techniques, or nutrition. However, with consistent training, proper form, and a balanced diet, lats can be developed effectively.

How can I isolate my lats better?

To better isolate lats, focus on exercises like single-arm dumbbell rows, straight-arm lat pulldowns, and use mind-muscle connection to ensure the lats are engaged during the movement.

Are rows or pull-ups better for lats?

Both rows and pull-ups are excellent for lats. While pull-ups are more of a vertical pulling motion that heavily targets lats, rows are a horizontal pulling motion that also engages other back muscles. Incorporating both provides a well-rounded workout.

What machines hit lats?

Machines that target the lats include the lat pulldown machine, seated row machine, and the T-bar row machine. These machines allow for targeted and controlled movements to engage the lats.

What pull-up hits lats the most?

The wide-grip pull-up is often considered the best variation to target the lats most effectively. The wider grip emphasizes the latissimus dorsi more than the narrower grip variations.

How do you hit all three parts of lats?

The latissimus dorsi is a single muscle, but it’s large and covers a significant portion of the back. To target its full extent, incorporate a variety of exercises:


  • Upper portion: Wide-grip pull-ups or lat pulldowns.


  • Middle portion: T-bar rows or single-arm dumbbell rows.


  • Lower portion: Straight-arm pulldowns or decline dumbbell pullovers.


Why don't I feel my lats when doing pull-ups?

Not feeling the lats during pull-ups can be due to several reasons:


  • Improper form or technique.


  • Over-reliance on arm and shoulder muscles instead of engaging the back.


  • Lack of mind-muscle connection. Focusing on the lats and visualizing them contracting can help.


  • Starting with assisted pull-ups or lat pulldowns can help in building the initial connection and strength.


How many times should I hit lats?

For optimal growth and recovery, training lats 2-3 times a week is generally recommended. This allows for adequate stimulus while also providing enough recovery time. The exact frequency can vary based on individual goals, recovery rates, and training programs.

How long does it take to see results from lats?

Visible results from training lats can vary based on factors like genetics, training intensity, nutrition, and consistency. On average, with a dedicated and consistent training routine, noticeable changes can be seen in 6-12 weeks. However, significant muscle development might take several months to years.

How do bodybuilders get such big lats?

Bodybuilders achieve pronounced lats through:


  • Consistent and intense training focused on progressive overload.


  • Incorporating a variety of exercises to target the lats from different angles.


  • Following a protein-rich diet to support muscle growth.


  • Periodized training programs to ensure continuous growth and avoid plateaus.


  • Recovery strategies, including rest, stretching, and sometimes massage or physical therapy.


Do lats make you punch harder?

Yes, strong lats can contribute to a harder punch. While the power of a punch originates from the legs and hips, the lats play a crucial role in transferring that power through the torso and into the fist. A strong latissimus dorsi provides stability and generates force, aiding in a more powerful and stable punch.


  • Jeno, Susan H., and Matthew Varacallo. ‘Anatomy, Back, Latissimus Dorsi’. StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2023. PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448120/

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