The Best Exercise to Increase Lat Size

Man on the Lat Pull-Down Machine

Developing wide, thick lats is a goal every bodybuilder aspires to achieve. Great lats enhance the "V" frame shape that typifies the bodybuilder physique. Several effective exercises exist that will stimulate remarkable growth in the lats, and many target the muscle from different angles and cause it to grow in different ways. Furthermore, some back exercises develop the back muscles around the lats — which, when developed, help to push the lats out into a position where they look larger. Notwithstanding, while there is no study-proven best exercise for developing the lats, pulldowns and bent-over rows are the two primary exercises with which bodybuilders have had the best success.

Lat Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns are the most popular and isolated exercise for developing the latissimus dorsi. To perform this exercise, attach a long bar to the pulldown machine, set the seat height so that your knees fit snugly beneath the cushion, and set the weight according to your ability and fitness goals. Grab the bar with both hands, which should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Holding the bar, sit down on the seat and wedge your knees under the cushion. Now you are ready to begin. Pull your shoulders back and pull the bar toward your collarbones. Concentrate on drawing your elbows down and behind your back to focus the stress on the lats. Once the bar is touching your collarbones, pause briefly, and then slowly return to the starting position.

Barbell Bent Rows

Bent rows are another highly productive exercise for developing the lats. Load a barbell with an amount of weight heavy enough to challenge your ability to perform 10 reps, but not so heavy that it could easily injure your lower back. Stand with the balls of your feet under the bar, spaced shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees and hips enough so that you can reach and grip the bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be spaced slightly wider than your hips. Keeping your back straight, brace your core and pull the bar toward the top of your abdomen. Once the bar touches your abdomen, slowly lower it until your arms are fully extended. Repeat for eight to 12 reps.

Single-arm Dumbbell Rows

Single-arm dumbbell rows are a variation of the bent-over row. For this form of the exercise, stand beside a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand. Rest your left shin on the bench and post your left hand near the front of the bench. Let your right arm hang straight down while holding the dumbbell. Your back should be flat. Brace your core and pull the dumbbell toward straight up, concentrating on drawing your elbow toward the ceiling. When your elbow has cleared your back, pause briefly and then slowly lower the weight back down. Repeat for three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.


Pullups, while not usually thought of as a mass-building exercise, are considered by many bodybuilders to be a fundamental component of any bodybuilders training regimen. To perform a pull-up, grasp a pullup bar with both hands, with your hands pronated and spaced at shoulder width. Let your body and legs hang straight down. Pull the upper part of your chest toward the bar. Concentrate on pulling your elbows down toward your buttocks to focus the tension on the lats. When your chest touches the bar, pause briefly and slowly lower your body down to a dead hang. Repeat for sets of eight to 12 repetitions.