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.

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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.

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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.

If you are looking for a step-by-step training program that will take your workouts to the next level, be sure to head over to athleanx.com and find the workout program that matches your goals.

For more videos on how to get bigger, wider lats and the best exercises to do just that, make sure you subscribe to this channel here on YouTube and remember to turn on your notifications so that you never miss a new video when it’s published.

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37 thoughts on “The ONLY 2 Lat Exercises You Need (NO, SERIOUSLY!)”
  1. *VIEWER GIVEAWAY* – I’m giving away my brand new complete 90 Day Beaxst PPL program to 40 lucky clickers within the first hour this video is published! Remember, this is NOT THE FIRST 40, but those randomly selected within the first hour the video is published. Click the link to see if you’ve won. No strings attached! Clicking twice does nothing. Only one entry per video. Remember to watch to the end for more workouts.
    https://giveaway.athleanx.com/ytg/only-2-lat-exercises

    If you don’t win, no worries, you’re not going away empty handed. Just be sure you have your notifications turned on so you can get to my next video quickly and try again. Good luck and thanks for being a loyal subscriber…

    1. This is why I don’t play the lottery Jeff! For years I have tried this damn contest. Atleast a couple hundred times and nada!

  2. We love Jeff, don’t we? Yeah, we kinda do. He’s like the friend we wish we had, and the trainer we know we’ve always really wanted.

    1. Iv trained since my late teens and I’m in my 50s now been following Jeff since before the lockdowns! I can testify he is the man when it comes to results without injury

    2. @Ben bear Without injury is key. I’ve suffered many injuries when I was an amateur bodybuilder. I worked hard, but rarely smart.

    3. I agree so much! Jeff is the best coach ever even only with the youtube videos and the results are there! (and I’ll look soon at his programs). 5 months ago, my sister introduced me to Jeff’s channel… We are twin girls (like very very weak even for girls. The most ridiculous gym beginners you can imagine not able to do a push up, pull up, dip etc.) Our goal is to age well since we’ll be 35 soon and I don’t want to end up weak, full of osteoporosis and break a bone If I fall in a few decades. I train hard… Mostly at my home gym at night when I arrive from my evening shifts. At first, I have adapted for my needs many of Jeff’s exercices or did the easier versions. I wanted efficiency, serious advice, methods, explanation and not just to jump in the air with 2 pound dumbells and latin music. I NEVER EVER thought I could do the tought things. Even my boyfriend admitted he was very sceptical but didn’t want to tell me. Now, I can do 1 unassisted pull up, 2 chin ups, many dips and push ups are on their way… I have visible abs even if not perfect and I am quite riped. Maybe not a great activement for most people but a very nice one for me who is so weak to stat with. I’ll keep pushing this further everyday! I didn’t hire a coach, I only follow religiously Jeff’s videos and never give up despite how “not talented nor strong” I am. Not to mention than with everything going up in prices for the middle class, training and learning things with youtube are among the last accessible exciting things and hobbies we can do… It’s so precious to remain happy. Thank you so much from two twin fans in Canada! 🙂

    4. @An Roy What a wonderful testimonial! I completely agree. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Appreciate the Only 2 Series – gives me options to change up my daily routines

  4. Thanks for clarifying effectiveness variation of supinated and pronated grip, I always thought the supinated grip offered the most stretch & contraction. Also thanks for the reminder about the chest supported BB row, at my age I need that !!

    1. @DomThaGreat if you’re in calisthenics I don’t think it’s a great idea to do inverted rows for lats, you should reserve that for your rear delts and traps. You can just take your basic pull up and do a harder variation (like L-Sit or archer pull ups) or you can add weight. Doing front levers is also a good idea since they are another unique stimulus for the shoulder extensors.

  5. Can we just appreciate for a second how insanely shredded JC is? When he describes how the exercise should work and then performs the exercise, you can literally see every muscle fiber firing exactly as he describes it should. Truly remarkable.

    1. @Pollux Chung +he doesn’t have the genetic abilitty to store fat, unlike an person who is prone to be overweight.

  6. I have been doing that single arm pull down for a couple years now. I love it. I try and think of trying to get my elbow to touch my other butt cheek. You can really feel it tighten up and burn.

  7. Hitting 50! I am glad going to see your channel again. All you are doing just make sense to me! It keeps me to get gym right and leave the ego behind! Thanks Jeff! Cheers…

  8. I can confirm I am struggling to build a wide back and was in dire need of this advice❤️

  9. I love these “X exercises you only need” videos as I focus on Pilates and use weights as a supplement. These are perfect for me to ensure I’m hitting these on my weight days. Thanks!

  10. I just started doing barbell rows and I had no idea how good they were. For the past year I’ve struggled to engage my lats on pretty much every exercise, but this lights them up like I’ve never used them before. Definitely a permanent addition to my routine.

  11. I have a bench press and a few dumbbells at home and I find myself limited to work on my lats or back. After seeing you demonstrate the Chest Supporting Row now I have access to a back exercise with the option of upping the weight unlike the row I’m not too familiar with. The equipment I already have is enough to target even the unthinkable muscles; thank you!

  12. Tried these two in the gym today and I’m sooooo worked right now! Thanks Jeff! That tip on locking the angle helped a lot.

  13. Hey Jeff, what’s your take on this ? :
    Front squats actually alleviated/healed my shoulder pain (pain due to relaxing the shoulder during pec flies)

  14. You taught us everything we needed to know in 5 minutes that’s the work of a true professional

    1. @Alex Porco Yes your right, all of the exercises look like they target the back but you should be telling him not me

  15. Great Jeff, thx very much! I really appreciate your work. And the „Only 2“-series is great. More of them please. Traps, core, quads, hams,…

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