How to get bigger lats

by Caleb Lee on August 1, 2008

People are impressed by big, ripped lats (short for Latissimus Dorsi, in case you were wondering if I paid attention in Latin class), especially those of us in the bodybuilding community.

Heck, a big, barn-yard wide back is impressive no matter where someone sees you. You can’t always be rolling up your sleeves to show people your biceps, but if you have a big V-shaped back, then EVERYONE knows you workout (and you look strong and manly too!)

There are few sights, even at a bodybuilding competition which are more dramatic than when the contestants turn around to show off these impressively defined muscles. There are often gasps of admiration from the crowd and a little applause.

Although not everyone wants to build competition quality lats, many of us wouldn’t mind at all having a little more definition from our back muscles. In this article, I’ll give you a few exercises to get you started…

Dumbbell Rows:

  1. You will need a bench for this one.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in one hand, take your free hand and hold onto the bench for balance. You can also place your knee on the bench for extra support.
  3. Your arm holding the dumbbell should be reaching all the way to the floor.
  4. Slowly, pull the dumbbell up to your side letting the lats and elbow do all the work. You don’t want the bicep or the momentum of the weight to do the work, just your elbow, which should remain against your body throughout the exercise.
  5. Pull the weight up to your hip and hold for a moment, getting the maximum benefit from the contraction.
  6. Lower slowly to starting position.
  7. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps before to switching to the other side.

You are doing it right, when it looks like the image below (image credit: ExRx.net):

Close-Grip Front Pulldowns:

You’ll need a cable pulley machine to do this next one. If you don’t have one at home, try this one next time you hit the gym. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grip the handlebar firmly with both hands.
  2. While slowly pulling the weight down towards your body, push your chest forward and arch your back lightly.
  3. The key to this exercise is to use your elbows, not your biceps, to pull the weight.
  4. Pulling the weight to your chin, hold for a moment then slowly allow the weight to return upwards. This gives you a good stretch in the arms.
  5. This exercise is a sure-fire back builder, as long as you remember to work with your elbows and not biceps (not that working out your biceps is bad, but today we’re taking lats!).

You’ll know you’re doing it right when it looks like the image below (image credit: ExRx.net):

These exercises will get you started on the way to building the lats you want-whether for competition or just a little more defined. Keep working and you will achieve it!

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