The Best Latissimus Dorsi Workout

The latissimus dorsi is a broad muscle in the middle and lower part of your back that extends from your thoracic spine into your upper pelvis, third and fourth ribs, and the lower part of your scapula. It works with other muscles in your torso and shoulders to pull your scapulae together and apart and rotate your shoulder joints. Thus, the best workout should incorporate other muscle groups to move with the latissimus dorsi.


Standing Lat Pulldown

This exercise emphasizes the latissimus dorsi, trapezius and other arm and back muscles while stabilizing your body in the standing position. It helps you get larger muscle mass if that is your goal. Set the height of the handle of the cable column machine to the highest level, and hook a rope handle to the attachment point. Grab each end of the rope with each hand, and stand back until the weight stack is slightly off of its resting place. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width distance apart, and extend your arms in front of you. Exhale and pull the rope toward your body with your hands near your armpits. Hold the scapular contraction for one second, and slowly extend your arms in front of you. Keep your elbows close to your body. Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps.


This exercise helps you develop strength and stability to lift your body weight up. Grab a pullup bar with both hands facing either away or toward you about shoulder-width distance apart. Exhale and pull yourself up until your head clears the bar without sticking your neck forward. Pull your shoulder blades together. Inhale and lower your body until your arms are fully extended. Perform three sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Ball Lat Stretch

This exercise stretches your latissimus dorsi and other muscles and tissues in your shoulders and back. Kneel in front of a stability ball with your hands on top of the ball and your thumbs pointing up. Sit back onto your heels and push the ball away from you at the same time. Your spine and arms should be parallel to the ground. Hold this stretch for five to six deep breaths. Repeat this exercise two more times.

Expert Insight

Physical therapist Gray Cook, author of "Athletic Body in Balance," recommends that you perform a pushing exercise, such as a pushup or a cable chest press, to complement the pulling movement. For example, perform a set of pullups and pushups without rest between exercises. Rest for 30 seconds between sets and repeat the pattern two more times. You can perform this method with any pulling and pushing exercises.

  • "NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training"; Michael Clark; 2007
  • "Athletic Body in Balance"; Gray Cook; 2003

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or