Building Big Lats — Wider, Thicker, and Longer
Want To Build Big Lats? Here's How
Big lats are a necessity on a well-rounded, symmetrical physique. Building the latissimus dorsi muscles, rhomboids, trapezius, and other supporting muscles of the back. There are only a few movements that you need to perform to build the muscles of the back.
The king of all lat work is the bent-over barbell row. Using an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, bend slightly at the knees and bend at the waist with your torso slightly above parallel. Pull the bar to your lower ribcage, trying to use your hands and arms as “hooks” only, to maximize the effect on the lats. If you pull the bar higher up on the torso, like to the chest, you'll involve the upper lats, rhomboids, and trapezius more. Pull to the waist, and you're building primarily the lower lats as they taper into the waistline.
Follow the bent-over rows with lat pull-downs. Again, you can influence which area of the latissimus that you effect simply by pulling the par to that area. For example, if you're trying to develop the lower lats, pull the bar down to your belly button. These are great for building thickness in the upper- to mid-back.
The trick to doing this exercise most effectively, is to lean back a bit so that your body is about 30-40 degrees from vertical. In effect, you're doing a variation on the bent-over row you just performed, but you're putting your lower back in a more advantageous position. Plus, you can use a lot more weight, especially if you use the part of the exercise machine that secures your knees, disallowing the weight to pull up your body.
You can also vary your hand position to effect a different part of the back. A wider grip will work on width, whereas a narrower grip will work on thickness.
A variation of the bent-over row is the dumbbell row. Doing these one arm at a time, you can really focus on feeling the muscles work, rather than focusing on getting the weight up. Let your shoulders drop as you extend your arm, and really pull back on the shoulder blades as you raise your arm.
An auxillary exercise you do, most often when trying to build the chest, is the bent-arm pullover. You may not realize this, but the muscles worked with this movement are the lats!
Couple the bent-arm pullover with the bent-over rows in a pre-exhaust superset. The pullovers fatigue the lats, and the rows blast them into oblivion! Repeat this superset 3-5 times, and you've gone a long way to building big lats.