Latissimus dorsi translates from Latin as the ‘broadest muscle of the back’, and indeed it is. Your lats contribute mightily to the V-shaped back ideal you are probably pursuing. It is the larger, flat, dorso-lats, latissimus dorsi, back muscles, muscles of the back, back anatomy, back workout, developing wide latslateral (back-side) muscle on the trunk, and behind (posterior to) the arm. The trapezius, another large back muscle that is essential to a well-developed back, partially covers the lat. And as you’ll see,  a number of other muscles are needed to let the lats do their most important job – making you look good!

The Role of the Lats in a Workout

In workouts, the latissimus dorsi is primarily responsible for pulling a weight toward the torso or for pulling your body toward a chinning bar (this pulling in toward the torso is known as “adduction,” and uses concentric contractions). And for controlling the weight as you allow it to pull away from the torso (“extension,” using eccentric contractions). It can do this at a variety of angles, such as you’d find in seated cable rows, lat pulldowns, T Bar rowing, bent over rows, chins, etc.

There’s no such thing as working just your lats. As you can see from the picture on the left, the lats are part of the very complicated muscle system that makes up the back. During the course of your back workout, other muscles in the back and shoulders invariably become involved. Most good lat workouts make demands of the teres major, your rear delts, the long head of the triceps brachii, and a number of other stabilizing muscles. Your traps (trapezius major) are frequently called into play as well.

Since you’re bending and unbending your elbow during many of these movements, your biceps muscle will also be called into action. And the muscles of the hand and forearm are also involved simply to keep the weight from slipping from your fingers. (This is where Big Back Grips come in!!) The lats also have a role in the internal rotationcon demetriou, demetrious, con demetrious IFBB pro, con the destroyer of the shoulder joint, and a synergistic role in extension and lateral flexion of the lumbar spine.

Training the Lats

“Lats. You gotta work your lats,” a trainer we is fond of saying in his heavy Brooklyn accent. Although reactions certainly vary among individual lifters, lats a have a reputation for responding well to exercise. The following back exercises can increase the power and size of your lat muscles. We will note that it is extremely important to vary the exercises you use for the richly muscled structure that is the back. Change angles, vary the width and style of lat handles you use, try to find new exercises or machines that seem to hit an angle that other machines might not. The following is a good overview of exercises that work the lats and more. We’re not necessarily suggesting you do all of these exercises every time you work out.

  • Deadlifts
  • Chin-ups and pull-ups (Wide grip and narrow grip.)
  • Pull downs (Vary the style of the lat handles you use.)
  • Seated cable rows (vary the style of the lat handles you use. Don’t be afraid of wide grip handles here.)
  • Bent over rows
  • Barbell pullovers or dumbbell pullovers (Many prefer dumbbells.)
  • Dumbbell rows
  • T Bar rows (Ideally, with a foot platform slanted back and choice of hand positions.)


No part of your workout is impacted more by your ability to firmly grip a barbell than your back workout. Here are some things that can really kill a back workout:

  • Pain in your hands
  • Torn calluses
  • Diamond-cut metal on lat handles digging into your palms
  • Smooth metal slipping from your sweaty palms
  • Wrist straps digging into your wrists and cutting circulation

All these will divert your full attention from you lats and compromise your workout. That is one of the most important reasons to use Big Back Grips. You can focus fully on your lats as you move through back workout and do more reps, more weight and get a better pump.