Latissimus dorsi comes from the Latin word latum, meaning broad. This is fitting because the lats are the largest, broadest muscles of the back (see image above). Lats are responsible for extension, flexion and abduction of the shoulder joins (among other functions). So what are the best lat exercises?
What Are the Best Lat Exercises?
One study tested muscle activation levels in participants for the lattisiumus dori. Electrodes were placed on participants as they performed the following exercises:
- Lat pulldowns to the sternum with a narrow, reverse grip (palms facing your body). The back was inclined backward to a 135 degree angle (PS1).
- Lat pulldowns to the neck with a wide, overhand grip (palms facing away from the body) with an upright back (PN).
- Dumbbell bent over rows with a reverse grip (palms facing out) and arms close to the torso (DB1).
- Lat pulldowns to the sternum with a wide, overhand grip (palms facing away from the body). The back was inclined backward to a 135 degree angle (PS2).
- Dumbbell bent over rows with a neutral grip (palms facing your body) (DB2).
- Lat pulldowns to the sternum with a wide, overhand grip (palms facing away from the body) and an upright back (PS3).
- Seated cable rows (CR)
The researchers found the following results:
As you can see, the top lat exercise is the lat pulldown to the sternum with a reverse grip and an inclined back. Here’s a video demonstration:
But what if you prefer to do bodyweight exercises instead? You can, of course, substitute the lat pulldown with pull-ups instead. Perhaps surprisingly though, the results are somewhat different for pull-ups.
The results above are relative to wide overhand (palms facing away from the body) pull-ups to the neck, which are the best bodyweight lat exercise. The exercises in the chart are all pull-ups to the sternum.
So, a wide grip lat pull down with a reverse grip and an inclined back is the best lat exercise. If you prefer bodyweight exercises, go for a wide grip, overhand pull-up to the neck. Good luck.
Boeckh-Behrens, Wend-Uwe, and Wolfgang Buskies. “Fitness-Krafttraining.”Reinbek bei Hamburg 20013 (2000).