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Are you looking for a way to strengthen and tone your upper body?
Side lat exercises are an effective way to target the muscles in your lats, arms, and core.
Some of these exercises can be done at home, making them ideal for anyone who wants to get fit without leaving their house.
In this article, we’ll look at 10 of the best exercises that’ll promote growth in your lats, core, and shoulder muscles, while toning up your biceps too.
So let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What Are the Lat Muscles?
The lats, or latissimus dorsi, are a pair of large muscles located on the sides of the back.
They originate at the shoulder blades and attach to the spine near the hips.
The lats play an important role in upper body movement and help stabilize the torso when lifting heavy objects.
They are also assistors for internal rotation of the shoulder joint and extension of the arms.
Top 10 Exercises for Your Side Lats
1. Reverse Grip Bent Over Row
The Reverse grip bent over row is a great exercise for targeting the lats, as well as many other muscles in your back, arms, and shoulders.
It’s an effective way to strengthen your upper body, improve posture, and increase stability throughout the back.
This exercise requires minimal equipment.
All you need is a barbell with weight plates.
To perform the exercise correctly and safely:
- Keep your chest up and core engaged while taking an underhand shoulder-width grip on the barbell.
- Hinge at your hips to bend over with your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart, while maintaining a neutral spine.
- Initiate the movement by pulling your elbows up and back until your hands reach your sides.
- Control the weight on the way down to maintain tension in your lats before starting another repetition.
To make the bent-over row easier, you can use a smith machine.
To make the exercise harder, increase your range of motion by standing on an elevated surface, or slow down the movement for a greater challenge.
Additionally, you can add isometric holds at the top of each rep to further challenge your muscles and boost strength gains.
When To Use It
Doing the reverse grip bent-over row near the beginning of your workout can help you get the most out of it.
When you do this exercise early on in your session, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights with proper form.
As you’ll still have more energy at that point.
This way, you can maximize your potential for strength gains and muscle growth from this particular move.
2. One Arm Dumbbell Row
One-arm dumbbell rows are an invaluable exercise when it comes to targeting and fixing muscular imbalances in your lats.
This is because the exercise relies upon unilateral contraction, allowing you to work one side at a time.
Thus leading to even more strength gains over time.
Having imbalances in your lats can lead to poor shoulder girdle stabilization and increase the likelihood of shoulder injury.
It will also unbalance your posture, leading to back pain and improper body mechanics.
To do this row you’ll need a single dumbbell or kettlebell and a flat, stable surface to set your free hand on.
You can do it both at the gym or in your own home.
Depending on what weight you use, you may also want to make sure that your surface is solid enough to support it.
- Grasp the dumbbell with your left hand using a neutral grip.
- Place your right hand and knee on the bench.
- Keep your head and back neutral.
- Now, drive the weight up to your side using your elbow.
- Squeeze at the top then reverse the motion until your arm is extended.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps before switching to the other arm.
To make the one-arm dumbbell row harder, you can add pauses during the concentric phase of the movement.
To make it easier, use a lighter weight and focus on performing the eccentric portion of the movement slowly and with control.
You can also do one-arm bench-supported dumbbell rows, where you lay facing down on an incline bench.
This will add additional support for your lower back.
When To Use It
It is typically best to do the dumbbell row at the beginning of a workout.
This will help ensure that you are able to use maximum intensity, as your body is still fresh and well-rested.
For more advanced athletes, it can also be beneficial to incorporate into supersets after other higher-intensity exercises such as pull-ups or deadlifts.
3. Seated Cable Row
The seated cable row is a great exercise for targeting the lats as well as other muscles in the back such as the rhomboids and rear deltoids.
It uses a cable machine, which consists of a pulley system with a v-bar or handles attached that allows you to pull at various angles.
To perform this exercise:
- Sit on the bench with your feet firmly planted against the footplate and grasp the handles of the cable machine with a neutral grip.
- Keep your shoulders down and back as you slowly pull towards your torso.
- Squeezing your shoulder blades together until your arms are bent at 90 degrees or more.
- Slowly return to the starting position so that your arms are fully extended.
- Repeat for 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Make sure to keep a good posture throughout the entire exercise.
To further target the lats, you can attach a d-handle to the cable machine.
This allows you to focus on one side of your body at a time, which can help improve symmetry and alleviate any imbalances.
To perform this variation of the seated cable row, hold the d-handle with one hand as you sit in the same starting position.
Slowly pull towards your torso, ensuring that your elbow remains close to your body and is angled slightly outward.
Equally transition between each side for maximum benefit.
When To Use It
The seated cable row can be used as both a warm-up and cool-down exercise.
For warming up your lats, use light weights with high reps to get your muscles warm.
When using this move at the end of a workout, slowly and gently stretch out your lats during the eccentric phase.
This will help you increase flexibility and reduce any post-workout soreness.
4. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
The wide-grip lat pulldown is an exercise that puts more emphasis on the lats than the regular lat pulldown, as it requires a wider grip on the handlebars.
This helps to target both your lower and upper lats, as well as other muscles in the back.
All you need is a bar attachment with a cable machine or resistance bands to do it.
To perform the wide-grip lat pulldown:
- First, sit down on the machine with your back straight and feet flat on the floor.
- Grip the handlebar with a wide, 2x shoulder-width overhand grip, and make sure your elbows are slightly bent.
- Pull the bar down towards your chest in a slow, controlled motion while keeping your elbows in line with your body.
- At the bottom of the movement, squeeze your lats before releasing, to return to the starting position.
- Repeat this movement for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Modifying the wide-grip lat pulldown by doing it standing up can be beneficial in targeting different parts of your lats, rear delts, and traps.
To do this, begin by gripping the bar with a wide grip and step back.
Stand up straight while keeping your elbows slightly bent throughout the entire movement.
Pull the bar down into your chest while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Hold for a second, then slowly return to starting position, exhaling as you do so.
When To Use It
Wide grip pull-downs are best when performed with other lat-focused exercises such as rows.
It can also be used at the end of your back workout as a way to stretch your lats.
5. Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
Reverse grip pulldowns emphasize the lower lats and biceps.
They require a pull-down machine with a bar and adjustable weight stacks.
To properly perform them:
- Start by sitting in front of the pull-down machine and gripping the handle with your palms facing you at roughly shoulder width.
- Make sure to keep your lower back straight and draw your shoulder blades down towards your spine.
- Then, exhale as you drive the bar down towards your thighs keeping your elbows close to your sides.
- Stop once the bar reaches your lower chest.
- Inhale as you release and return back up in a controlled manner.
- Repeat this anywhere between 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions.
You can also perform the reverse grip lat pulldown with a resistance band.
Anchor the band in a secure place such as the top of a door or higher up on a pull-up bar.
Grip each end of the band firmly and lean back slightly at an angle.
The goal is to create tension in the band which will help to target your lower lats.
Another variation is using a d-handle and rotating your hand inwards as you pull down.
This still works the lower lats while allowing you to target one side at a time.
When To Use It
The reverse grip lat pulldown can be added after compound exercises, such as deadlifts.
You can also use them beforehand for warming up.
Try to incorporate pulldowns into your training program twice a week for maximum results.
6. Cable Pull-Over
The cable pullover is excellent for isolating the lats, while indirectly engaging the triceps.
Isolation exercises focus in on one muscle group, making them ideal for developing muscular strength and growth.
When performing a cable pullover, you need to use a pulley system and use either a rope or straight bar attachment.
This provides better control over the movement, allowing you to keep constant tension on your lats.
Here’s how to do it:
- Set the pulley to roughly shoulder height.
- Grasp the rope handle with a neutral grip with the bottom of your hands against the large butts.
- Step back a few feet to add tension to the cable.
- Maintain a slight bend in your knees with your feet hip-width apart and lean your upper body forward at roughly 45 degrees.
- With your lats flexed, shoulder blades retracted, and arms straight, begin pulling the rope downwards towards your waist.
- Go down until your hands are by your sides then slowly return to the starting position.
- Stop once your arms are parallel to the floor.
- Repeat the entire motion for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.
You can modify the cable pullover by using different attachments on the pulley system.
For example, you could use a rope, a straight bar, an E-Z bar, or even d-handles attached to the machine.
You can also change the angle of your body relative to the pulley system to target different areas more precisely.
When To Use It
The cable pullover is best incorporated into a workout routine at the end of the session.
Additionally, because isolation exercises often require lighter weights, they can be done relatively quickly.
This allows you to spend more time focusing on larger muscle groups earlier in your session.
7. Renegade Rows
Renegade rows focus on strengthening the back, upper arm, rear deltoid, rotator cuff, and core muscles all at once.
Making it one of the best exercises on this list for overall body strength and toning.
This exercise requires two lightweight dumbbells and can easily be done in a home gym or even in the living room with minimal space.
- Grabbing two dumbbells with a neutral grip.
- Get into a push-up position with the dumbbells in your hands and your feet wider than shoulder width.
- Breathe in, then row one dumbbell up to your side while exhaling out and simultaneously retracting your shoulder blade.
- Lower the dumbbell back to the ground and do the same motion with your other arm.
- Continue alternating sides for 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps.
If you are a beginner, start out by performing this exercise with no weight and focus on perfecting your form.
You can also add mountain climbers between each row to further target your legs and abs.
When To Use It
This exercise is versatile and requires minimal equipment, making it easy to perform wherever you go.
It can also be done quickly and efficiently, making it a great choice when you’re tight on time and need a full-body workout.
8. Dumbbell Pull-Over
The dumbbell pull-over is effective for stretching and building muscle in the lats and chest.
It also engages the triceps and serratus while improving shoulder mobility.
The serratus muscle also assists in arm motions such as throwing and pushing, making it a key component for stabilization and control.
Furthermore, this multi-purpose exercise involves you laying on your back while holding a dumbbell with both hands.
You then extend your arms out over your head, allowing you to perform a controlled extension motion with the weight.
This range of motion helps to stretch out your chest and lats while giving them a workout simultaneously.
As you pull the weight back towards your torso, make sure to engage your core for added stability.
There are several modifications that can be made to make the dumbbell pullover easier or more difficult.
For beginners, you can modify the range of motion by keeping the weight just behind your head instead of bringing it all the way back.
For a more advanced challenge, you can bring the weight further back behind your shoulders.
You can also add a pause behind your head to increase time under tension and achieve a deeper stretch.
When To Use It
Doing the dumbbell pullover at the end of a back or chest workout lengthens the muscles and provides an opportunity for recovery.
9. One Arm Half Kneeling Lat Pulldown
The one-arm half-kneeling lat pulldown works well for priming the lats before doing heavier compound movements and helps correct any imbalances.
The only equipment you need is a d-handle and pulley machine.
- Set the cable pulley to the top setting.
- Grab the d-handle with your right arm and kneel down on your right knee with your toes dug into the floor.
- Engage your glutes and lean forward slightly.
- Now pull the weight towards the middle of your torso while keeping your elbow tucked in.
- Hold this position for 1-3 seconds before re-extending your arm.
- Stop once your body is once again leaning forward slightly and your arm is straight.
- Be sure to keep your elbow slightly bent and allow your lat to stretch at the top.
- Perform 8-12 reps before switching arms.
There are several modifications you can make to the half-kneeling pulldown.
You can use a different angle of pull by adjusting your body in relation to the cable.
You can also use banded pulldowns or try slowing down your tempo for an additional challenge.
When To Use It
This exercise is a great way to start your back workout to get your blood flowing.
This way it can help improve your mind-to-muscle connection before lifting heavier weights, which will promote proper form to prevent injury.
10. Side Plank
The side plank is an isometric bodyweight exercise that targets the lats, obliques, thighs, hips, and deltoid muscles.
It is low-impact by nature and helps to strengthen these muscles without putting too much strain on the joints.
This makes it ideal for elderly people or anyone who suffers from lower back pain since it strengthens the surrounding muscles.
To get into the side plank position:
- Start by lying on your side with one elbow beneath your shoulder and the other arm above your head or resting on your hip.
- Lift your hips off the ground and align them into a straight line with your shoulders and feet.
- Make sure to keep your abs engaged and hold the position for 10-30 seconds.
- Lower back down to the ground and switch sides before repeating.
To make the side plank more challenging, you can add a leg raise motion by lifting one leg in the air while keeping it straight.
This helps to work the legs and core even further.
Alternatively, you can hold a dumbbell in the air or on your hip for additional resistance.
When To Use It
As a bodyweight exercise, it is ideal for adding to warm-up or cool-down routines.
It can also be added to a superset as a way to add an extra challenge and burn more calories.
Should You Perform These Exercises?
Whether you are a weightlifter, a bodybuilder, or just looking to get your side lats in shape, chances are you’ve heard of the exercises that target this often-overlooked area of the body.
But should you perform them?
They assist in the stabilization of your spine during activities that require you to twist, turn or bend your torso.
When these muscles are improperly trained and underdeveloped, it can lead to poor posture, decreased range of motion, and injuries.
However, by properly training these muscles they will be better able to handle the force of such movements.
Additionally, having stronger lats can reduce the strain placed on your joints which can decrease pain in the lower back area.
FAQs for Lat and Shoulder Exercises
How Do You Work Your Side Lats?
To work your side lats, try exercises such as one-arm dumbbell rows, reverse grip rows, and cable pullovers.
How Do I Make My Side Lats Bigger?
For larger side lats, focus on exercises such as cable rows, wide grip pull-ups, pulldowns, and barbell rows.
Aim to do 6 to 12 reps of these movements in each set and complete 3-5 sets per exercise.
Increase the intensity by using heavier weights or incorporating supersets and drop sets.
Additionally, ensure you are eating a nutrient-dense diet with plenty of protein to support muscle growth.
How Do You Build Outer Lats?
Building your outer lats requires focusing on specific exercises.
These should include pull-ups, chin-ups, bent-over rows, cable rows, and pullovers.
Additionally, use a wide grip when doing pull-ups and chin-ups to ensure you’re targeting the outer lats.
Lastly, doing unilateral movements (exercises that involve moving with one arm at a time) will help further develop the outer lats.
How Do You Get the V Body Shape?
The V body shape is attained through a combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
It involves exercising specific muscle groups (chest, lats, deltoids, and abs) to strengthen and build them, as well as focusing on a healthy balanced diet.
Additionally, regular cardio sessions and stretching can help you achieve your desired body shape.
How Do You Hit a Lateral Deltoid?
To hit the lateral deltoids, you can incorporate shoulder abduction movements like standing dumbbell lateral raises, cable lateral raises, and seated Arnold press.
What Exercise Works the Lateral Deltoid?
To work the lateral or side deltoid muscle even more, you can include exercises such as the:
– Barbell upright row
– Overhead press
– Seated dumbbell lateral raise
Closing Thoughts on Side Lat Exercises
Overall, adding a side lat exercise to your workout routine is an effective way to build a wider back.
Not only will it improve the width of your lats but also help increase strength and stability in other areas such as shoulders and core muscles.
By regularly performing a few sets of one or two of these exercises with proper form, you can achieve great results over time that are sure to make heads turn when you take off your shirt!
So what are you waiting for?
Start building those wide lats today and unlock the secret of having powerful wings!