The latissimus dorsi (/ləˈtɪsɪməs ˈdɔːrsaɪ/) is a large, flat muscle on the back that stretches to the sides, behind the arm, and is partly covered by the trapezius on the back near the midline. The word latissimus dorsi (plural: latissimi dorsi) comes from Latin and means "broadest [muscle] of the back", from "latissimus" (Latin: broadest)' and "dorsum" (Latin: back). The pair of muscles are commonly known as "lats", especially among bodybuilders. The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle in the upper body.
The classic barbell deadlift is often thought of as a hamstring and glute developer, but it’ll smoke your lats too. Think about it: Whether you’re lifting or lowering that barbell with a heavy weight, it’s hanging from your arms, and your back muscles have to pull. Don’t underrate this move as a foundation of a solid back.
Fixed moves with both arms can maximize the amount of weight that can move. This move is a staple in most bodybuilders, athletes, and probably your routine by this point.
The great thing about the barbell row is, due to required stability in the spine and core muscles (keeping a neutral spine) and isometric hamstring activity (hinging the hips in a bent position), the action becomes a global pull exercise," says athlete performance and development specialist Curtis Shannon, C.S.C.S. "I personally love programming this exercise due to all the benefits the rows have on the posterior chain, as well as the added benefits of improvement of strength and hypertrophy."
The movement is versatile, too. "You can program this as a primary or accessory movement or add as a superset exercise," Shannon continues. "Depending on the weight and readiness of the athlete, avoid keeping moderate to heavy lifts under ten reps. Being bent over moving the weight can put added pressure on the lower back, especially if we are already, or begin to, fatigue."
This is one of the first variations novice lifters learn. You simply hinge forward, place one arm on a bench or rack for balance, and grasp a dumbbell in the other arm. Keep your torso steady as you bend your elbow and use your back muscles to pull the dumbbell up toward your ribcage. Dumbbell rows involve a host of back muscles, but if you want to focus on your lats here, aim to get a good stretch at the bottom of the motion.
Pullups and Chinups.
The pull-up and the chin-up are well-known moves, and staples for lat development. Both moves are simple: You hang from a bar, with an overhand grip (pull-ups) or an underhand grip (chin-ups), and pull your chest to the bar. To really hit your lats, avoid the so-called “kip,” a Crossfit idea that has you explosively swinging your hips to create momentum that drives your chest to the bar. Work up to 3 sets of 10.
The lat pulldown is a cousin of pullups and chinups, and it definitely seems similar. But we’re giving it its own spot here because of how it lets you focus in on your lats. Freed of grip concerns and the need to manage your lower body perfectly, you can really focus in on your lats and finish off every rep with a good squeeze.
The landmine row has a lot in common with the barbell row, except the angle of your pull is slightly different. The landmine row, with the barbell anchored behind you, lets you get more of a squeeze with your lats. And because it’s anchored, you cheat less and squeeze a little bit more.
The dumbbell pullover is viewed as a chest exercise by some, and it’ll hit your abs considerably too. But as you pull the weight back above your torso, your upper arms mimic a row motion. And the best part comes before that: your lats wind up getting a great stretch as you lower the weight.
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