What would you say if I told you that there were only two lat exercises you need to do? In this video, I am going to show you the two lat exercises that should make up the bare minimum of your lat workouts. Not are these two exercises great for building big lats, but they will also make your back look thicker and wider.
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Some might tell you that you only need two exercises total in order to build a muscle group. I disagree. I don’t think anyone should be limited to picking just two exercises for a muscle group because each one often has multiple muscle heads as well as multiple functions that can be targeted individually through exercise selection.
The chest is a great example of this; it has three heads well as two separate functions. Some might tell you that all you need is a flat bench press and an incline bench press. You are only hitting two of the three heads of the chest with this selection and while you are pressing, you are not getting adduction – another function of the chest.
In the case of the lat muscle, you needs to understand the anatomy of the muscle in order to understand how best to target it with your exercise selection. The latissimus dorsi is a fan-like muscle in the upper body, specifically the back, that attaches to the upper humerus, the pelvis, and along the spine. The lat muscle being the largest in the back will require exercises that take it through its full range of motion and increasing the stretch on the lats, as well as needing an opportunity for overload since we know that this is one of the main drivers of hypertrophy.
In the case of the lats, this is simply the foundation of what your lat training should include. Not every lat workout needs to include both of these exercises, but a complete training plan for your back will at least build off them or include them at some point.
The first lat exercise up in the only two lat exercises that you need is the kneeling one-arm cable pulldown. Now, you might already being doing lat pulldowns, but this specific variation is the one that you NEED to be including in your back workouts if you want to target your lats. The trick here is to take the lats through their full range of motion and that is getting the insertion point of the lat muscle on the upper humerus and the origin point on the pelvis to be as far from each other and then as close to each other as possible.
In the starting position of this lat exercises, getting your arm overhead and in front of your torso will put the lat muscle on loaded stretch, another way to induce hypertrophy. But taking the lats through their full range of motion will require you to bring your elbow as far back and down behind your body as possible. The range of motion you experience in this lat exercise is more than you would experience on a traditional lat pulldown, where the bar will be the limiting factor in the range of motion of the lats.
The second lat exercise for building big lats is the standard barbell row. If you remember the anatomy of the lats and end up following the fibers, you will notice that they don’t only go up and down, they fan into the spine itself, meaning the upper arm will have to travel back towards the midline of your back. You want to take a narrow grip as opposed to a wide grip when holding the bar because the wider your hands are, the more perpendicular to the spine your upper arms will be.
When building big lats with the barbell row, you want your elbows to be a little bit closer to your sides as this will give you better opportunity to get your elbows back behind your body, meaning more lat activation. If you your elbows are high and way, you will take the stress off the lats and shift the focus towards the muscles of the upper back.
If you have low back problems that prevent you from performing a traditional lat exercise such as the barbell row, then you have the option of performing the chest supported barbell row. This will take the stress of the lower back and allow you to focus on overloading the lats with the row.
Now, if you want to take your lat training to the next level that hits every function of the lats as well as targets the muscle from different angles, there are many exercises to choose from. I don’t think we should ever be limited to just two exercises for a muscle group, the lats included. But you should at least start with these two exercises to build the foundation of your lats growth.
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