Your lats are the biggest muscles in your back, and the strongest too. They're the most commonly sought-after back muscles because of their power and size. So, how do you decide which moves to include in your workouts that will make sure you’re getting the most out of them? Well, we’ve picked what we think are the 5 best exercises you can do for them, so take a look.

Wide Grip Lateral Pulldown

person doing a wide grip lat pulldown exercise

The most famous exercise in the list is the lat pulldown, and it’s famous for a reason. Tried and tested, it’s very difficult to argue with the results this exercise offers. That’s what we need here. From a seated position, the idea is to pull the bar above you down to almost chest level as you lean backwards, and then release it slowly back upwards over a set. The pulldown from a general point of view lets you use whatever equipment works best for you, from close to wide grip, and this means that you can really go to town on the overload you want.

We’re recommending the wide grip for the most activation of the lats and the best overload without using your biceps too much. Just make sure that you don’t build up momentum and that you keep your torso stationary rather than moving with the weights. If not, you’re using your lower back too and putting yourself at risk without seeing the reward. Your technique with the lat pulldown is easy to get wrong after all.

Straight Arm Pulldown

The main component of this exercise remains the lats, but different supporting muscles are used. That means that you can keep your lats in the game even after you’ve overworked other supporting muscles like your traps or biceps, especially during rows. That's just what you need for overload.

Keep your arms straight as you pull downwards from your starting position, palms forward and extend as far as you can. Keep a slight bend in your arm that doesn’t change or else you’re going to be exerting your triceps too and that is not what we want for this exercise. Let the bar return upwards and repeat for your set.

Seated Rows

person performing a seated row

Another champion of the back workout, the seated row is a safe and solid lat exercise that is indisputable. The idea is reasonably similar to the pulldown but hits the lats from a completely different angle altogether. That's done by pulling the weight towards you instead of downwards, which is what we really need in your back workouts to maximise your growth.

You can use a bar or handles of your chose, but we would suggest a wider grip, again to optimise the angles your using. It stops the temptation to use your biceps more than you need to too. Don’t sway or build momentum and squeeze your shoulder blades together upon contraction for the best results. Take our word for it.

Incline Dumbbell Rows

Incline dumbbell rows are great due to the removal of almost any other muscles from the equation apart from the bare essentials. You can do single arm or double arm variations to affect your lats how you need to and perform however works best for you! It's all in your preference, and it's all a recipe for an awesome lat exercise

Ensure you’re using a neutral grip with the dumbbells for comfort and motion range for safety and good form. Other than that, it’s fairly safe as you can release the weights to the floor if you need to if things get tough and you fail. Plus, you can change the angle of the incline that you are on, making the situation completely customisable as much so as you need to do your best.

Pull up

two people doing pull-ups

Last on the list, and possibly the best lat exercise out there is the pull-up. The pull-up is a great compound exercise for the upper body and a great feat of strength. The movement range is reasonably natural, and the exercise is safe as a whole, especially with a tower. It's incredible for building your back and your lats in particularly. This may be one of the harder exercises on the list because of how tough it can be, but it's definitely more effective than others (even the pull down...).

There are a lot of pull up variations to choose from, but it's the winner for lat exercises. Sticking with the theme we already have going, wide grip really is your friend for hitting your lats hard, despite likely being more difficult because of less arm activation. Build up to it, stick with it, and when/if you need to, you can always add weighted equipment to up the game. Just make sure that you perfect your form first.

All of these lat exercises will do you a service. If your lats need some serious attention, or you just want to make the most of your time on back day, this is the article for you. Train smart, WARM UP and push hard. Your lats are capable of more than you might think.

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Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.