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What are the Different Latissimus Dorsi Exercises?

By Amy Hunter
Updated May 17, 2024
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Deadlifts, rows, pull-downs, and pull-ups are all latissimus dorsi exercises. The latissimus dorsi is the broadest muscle in the back, and runs from below the shoulder and armpit down the back, on either side of the spine. In addition to lifting weights to strengthen the latissimus dorsi, it is important to stretch thoroughly. Tightness in this muscle can lead to chronic back and shoulder pain.

To perform the deadlift, stand behind a loaded barbell. Bend at the knees, grip the barbell, and stand up. Bodyweight remains evenly distributed over the feet, without allowing the weight of the barbell to pull oneself forward. Keep the shoulders back and straight while standing. Bend at the knees and lower the weight back to the ground. Allow the barbell to touch the ground to complete the repetition. Deadlifts are one of the most grueling latissimus dorsi exercises, and work the hamstrings, hips, and nearly every other muscle group in the body.

Rows can be performed with dumb bells, barbells, or on gym equipment specifically made to work the middle back muscles. Hold the weight in front of you, bend at the waist, and bring the weight up to the center of the chest. Slowly lower the weight until your arms are straight, perpendicular to the ground to complete the repetition.

Pull-downs require a specific piece of workout equipment. Sitting on the exercise machine, grasp a weighted bar that is at eye level. Bend the arms to pull the bar down, either in front of or behind the head.

Pull-ups are one of the most effective latissimus dorsi exercises. This exercise requires a pull-up bar, and uses bodyweight. Grasp the pull-up bar with both hands and bend your arms, pulling your head above the bar. When you hold the bar in an overhanded grip, the elbows bend to the sides of the body. Using an underhanded grip puts your arms in front of you as they bend. An underhanded grip is slightly easier as this position recruits the biceps for help.

Performing latissimus dorsi exercises by themselves can lead to pain and tension if the larger latissimus dorsi muscle becomes more developed than the other muscles of the back. Perform exercises that strengthen the trapezius and rhomboid muscles, or upper back, and the erector spinae, or lower back, as well. In addition, choose from a variety of exercises when working the back muscles so that you strengthen them from all angles. This reduces the risk of developing back, shoulder, or neck pain.

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Discussion Comments

By jennythelib — On Jan 17, 2012

@Kat919 - I like to use the band for lats, too, because I'm so short that I have trouble reaching the bar for the lat pull-down! And I'm just not the kind to use free weights; for one thing; I don't have a spotter.

You can also do rows with the band, of course. Either standing or sitting on a bench or exercise ball, you just need something sturdy to wrap the band around and then you pull it back towards you.

I think not everyone realizes that just because that bands have handles, doesn't mean you have to use them. If you're using the bands for exercises for the latissumus dorsi especially, you'll probably be holding on the tube itself.

By Kat919 — On Jan 17, 2012

I'm sure these are great latissimus dorsi strengthening exercises, but there are other, gentler options for people who are pregnant, recovering from injury, or under other activity restrictions.

My favorite is to do a pull-down with an exercise tube instead of the heavy bar. During my pregnancy, I didn't feel comfortable working with heavy weights and I switched to a mostly resistance band-based routine.

You can use either the kind with handles or the physical therapy kind that's just a piece of plastic. Either way, you start by holding the band in both hands over your head with your arms about shoulder-width apart. Lower and widen your hands until they are about even with your shoulders and you're in about the position you would be in if you were doing a lat pull-down (hands in *front,* not behind). Raise your arms and repeat. Really works the whole muscle!

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