Location and Function
The Latissimus dorsi is Latin for “broadest muscle of the back,” Latissimus meaning “broadest,” and dorsum meaning “the back.” The lats are one of the biggest muscles of the back and are responsible for scapular retraction, internal rotation of the shoulder joint, extension, adduction, and transverse extension. The lats are a large, flat triangular muscle that attaches at the spine (from mid back all the way down to hip area) and run underneath the armpit, attaching to the humerus.
The lats are the biggest and most powerful muscles of the back, and the primary muscle responsible for a wide, V-shaped back. But how do we transform our chicken wings into gigantic pterodactyl wings?
3 Best Exercises for Lat Development
Wide-Grip Pull-Up: This old-school exercise has been used for generations by some of the biggest, baddest men around. Wide-grip pull-ups are one of the best back exercises you can do, and they hit the lats especially hard. Grip the pull-up bar with an extra wide grip and hands pronated (palms facing out). As you do your pull-up, keep your elbows flared out, so you minimize biceps involvement and maximize lat activation.
As you get stronger in this movement, try adding weight with a pull-up belt. If you can’t do a pull up right now, don’t worry, there are variations you can do to work up the strength to do legit pull-ups. The assisted pull-up machine is not one of those variations because it helps you throughout the entire range of motion. The pull-up gets easier as your leverage improves toward the top of the movement, so we want to use a variation that takes this into account. That’s why band-assisted or partner-assisted pull-ups are a better option. With bands, or a competent partner, the assistance gets less and less as your leverage improves in the movement.
Bent-Over Barbell Row: This is a staple in any serious back workout regimen, but many lifters don’t do it right. A lot of times this movement turns into some kind of bastardized biceps workout. When performing the bent-over barbell row, concentrate on lifting the weight with the lats and back and think of the arms as mere appendages that transfer force from your contracting back muscles to the bar.
In a bent-over position (knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart) grab the bar using the same grip position as your bench press. Pull the bar off the floor and to the bottom of the breastbone. Return the bar to the floor, pause, and continue. Make sure to consciously think about using your lats to pull the bar up and then squeeze your scapulae together at the top.
Straight-Arm Lat Pull-Down: To perform this lift, stand facing the weight stack at a lat pull-down station with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grab the straight bar or lat pull down attachment with both hands, palms facing the floor. Push your hands down in a sweeping arc motion, taking care to really emphasize the lats doing the work. This is a great lat isolation exercise and one that is not too taxing on the rest of the body.