If you’ve ever looked at an extremely well developed guy before and seen the curious way in which his arms no longer seem to be able to touch his sides, that’s because of extreme lat development. The lats are a back muscle which more than any other, are responsible for giving the desired V shape.
A lot of people seem to have trouble developing their lats, and in this article I’ll share with you an exercise – along with an easier variation – and some other tips to help you get started with your latissimus dorsi development, or lats, for short.
Probably the biggest problem people have when trying to develop their lats is they just don’t have any real feel for how the muscle works. This mind-to-muscle connection people always talk about, it’s not a load of mumbo jumbo, it’s about being able to control your muscles at will. Without having some kind of feel or control over your muscles, you’ll have a hard time developing them.
How do you develop this feel? That’s easy – by contracting them, and contracting them hard and holding them contracted for periods of time. Once you’ve mastered this, you will have a much greater chance of developing extremely good lats.
Now for the exercises – bent over rows, named after the ‘rowing’ motion they mimic, almost as if the lifter is trying to row away from the floor. There are a few ways to do rows, and I’ll give you two of them, starting with the regular barbell variety.
Load up a barbell, and position your shins against the bar, with feet around shoulder width apart, toes slightly outwards. Bend at the knees enough to enable you to reach down with straight arms to grip the barbell with a wide overhand grip. Now, keeping your back parallel to the floor as much as possible – and crucially, maintaining this position throughout – pull the barbell up to your upper waist area, and lower to the floor. Repeat for reps.
Unlike many dumbbell exercises which mimic the barbell variety, dumbbell rows are done quite differently. Position yourself so you are kneeling with one knee on a bench, with the same-side hand supporting your upper body – which should be parallel with the bench/floor. Position your other foot back a little, but in a position which you are comfortable lifting from. Now, in this position, take hold of a dumbbell with your free hand, palms turned inwards, and row as far upwards as you can go, and return to the floor. Repeat for reps.
For beginners looking to find their ‘rowing feet’ I would recommend they start out with dumbbell rows so they can develop a feel for pulling with the lats.