The lat muscles are key for shoulder health. Here are 4 of the best lat exercises that I like, and I’ll cover common technique errors that I routinely correct in the clinic.
The Best Lat Exercises
#1 Best Lat Exercise: Pull ups
The pinnacle of upper body strength. If you can perform ONE strict pull up and get your chest to the bar from a dead hang without any momentum, you’re already ahead of the pack.
Pull ups (and any body weight training exercise) are SPECIFIC, meaning to get good AND stay good at them, you have to do a lot of volume WITHOUT a lot of muscle failure.
The best way to perform these is using the 60%/80% method.
- Find your max
- Perform 3-5 sets of 60% of your max 2-3 days/week. Add 1 set to each workout, and do this for 4-5 workouts
- Perform sets of 80% in a similar fashion
- Don’t let the TOTAL number of pulls up of your 80% session EXCEED the total of your 60% days.
The purpose of alternating 60% and 80% is to not to develop an overuse injury, usually of the elbow or bicep. Watch the video from Mark Wildman here.
#1B Pull downs
Pull downs are if you don’t have the strength to do pull ups. I like to use a variety of grips, as well as single arm.
- Overhand (standard)
- Close grip
- Single Arm
This will help develop complete pulling strength and shoulder mobility. I prefer higher reps for these, so 10-15.
#2 DB row
One of my favorite exercises and a great accessory movement that supports really everything else. To perform correctly be sure to:
- Have the upper body parallel to the ground
- Pull your elbow to your hips more so that just straight up
These can be done for any rep range (5-30) depending on your goals. Cables work for this too and you can just do them standing, but a 3-point row helps handle more weight.
I use cable rows in a more upright stance, and I use higher reps for that (10-15) since its more difficult to go heavier.
#3 Motorcycle Row
Another great variation that not only helps with your mid back/muscles that control the shoulder blades, but you can also use it go get a great stretch. The lats need to be strongt, but ALSO long, so shoulder mobility is key.
I stick to the 10-15 rep range with these.
#4 Actually USING the Lats in your Exercises
Here’s the main point of this article. Training your back is easy. You pick a variation that makes you pull:
- horizontally (rows)
- vertically (Pull up, pull downs)
- 1-arm or 2-arm
But most important is USE your lats. What often happens is people default to just squeezing the shoulder blades together, which doesn’t give you the stimulus you want and not how the shoulder blades actually work during functional tasks.
Here’s how to make sure you are using your lats
The lats are integral to shoulder function but often trained poorly. They need to be strong, but also long, so be sure to work them through a full range of motion and avoid compensations. At a minimum select 1 of each variation (vertical, horizontal), and if you wan to be spicy, do a 2 handed and 1 handed variation of each.
Tried everything, but still battling shoulder pain?